Eligibility and Access in the CCDF Program



Dear Colleague:

As we begin a new year, it’s natural to take stock of our priorities as we move forward. Fortunately, the recognition of the importance of child care to child development and family economic stability continues to grow.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act was updated and reauthorized with bipartisan support by Congress in 2014 to better meet these dual goals. A report issued last month provides information on the reach of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program, the Nation’s largest funding source for child care assistance to help parents who are working or in education/training to pay for child care and to improve the quality of care for all children. States, Territories, and Tribes use CCDF funds to serve their unique populations and to have some flexibility in setting specific policies that govern the everyday experiences of over 1 million children, their families, and the early childhood workforce that nurtures them, and our collective future, each day.

The CCDBG Act of 2014 required the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the extent of participation in the CCDF program across States. The resulting report, Access to Subsidies and Strategies to Manage Demand Vary Across States, found that approximately 14.2 million children under age 13 were in families estimated to be eligible for CCDF subsidies in an average month. These figures are based on the Federal limit on eligibility, which allows States, Territories, and Tribes to set maximum income eligibility no higher than 85% of State Median Income (SMI) and which requires families to qualify based on their participation in work or education/training. According to the Census Bureau, nationally, 85% of SMI translates to a family income of roughly $45,000 per year.Statesmay set the threshold lower and add other eligibility criteria. The GAO found the total number eligible when these criteria are applied is 8.6 million. Of those, GAO found that 1.5 million children in eligible families received child care subsidies in the years for which the data were reviewed (2011 and 2012). That number translates into just 11% of federally eligible children receiving CCDF subsidies. Please view the chart on page 10 of the report for a graphic illustrating these results.

Before, we typically used the figure of 15% of children federally eligible for CCDF who could access the program, based on an analysis published by the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation in 2015. Now, GAO’s calculations show just 11% benefit from access to this important support that helps families choose child care so that they can work or attend school. This current situation is a lost opportunity to strengthen American families and children’s prospects for their future.

Over three-quarters (77%) of children receiving a subsidy lived in families with income under 150% of the Federal poverty level, with 60% below poverty. Poverty wages meant earnings less than $23,000 for a family of four in 2012, the most recent year of data that GAO analyzed. The average price of child care for an infant care in a center is over $10,000 a year, although it varies depending on the cost of living in different areas.

When more families ask for a subsidy than a State can serve, it leads to difficult choices. GAO asked 32 States questions about how they manage the demand for child care subsidies. States mentioned using wait lists, prioritization criteria, and closing intake.

With the birth of a new year, like the birth of a child, comes new potential and promise. Thank you to all who will be a part of realizing that potential and promise for children, families, and the early childhood workforce in 2017.


Rachel Schumacher

Child care workers aren’t paid enough to make ends meet 


By Elise Gould

Child care workers play an important role in the U.S. economy by allowing parents of young children to pursue employment outside the home and providing children a stimulating and nurturing environment in which to learn and grow.

In recent decades families have increasingly had to rely on child care because spending more time at work has become an economic necessity for many. Over the last 35 years, most American workers have endured stagnant wages—a reality that has led many two-parent households to work significantly longer hours to cover their rising expenses (Mishel et al. 2012).

Despite the crucial nature of their work, child care workers’ job quality does not seem to be valued in today’s economy. They are among the country’s lowest-paid workers, and seldom receive job-based benefits such as health insurance and pensions. As with any other industry or occupation, paying decent wages and providing necessary benefits is essential to attract and retain the best workers.

Source: Economic Policy Institute

Available at: http://www.epi.org/publication/child-care-workers-arent-paid-enough-to-make-ends-meet/

Determinants of Subsidy Stability and Child Care Continuity. Final Report for the Illinois–New York Child Care Research Partnership 


This mixed-methods multiyear (2010–14) study, the Illinois–New York Child Care Research Partnership Study: Phase 1, analyzed the experiences of a new cohort of child care subsidy clients residing in four sites in Illinois and New York. The study used longitudinal state administrative data from child care payment records in combination with newly collected telephone survey and qualitative interview data from subsidy clients to identify patterns of program use and to examine factors that predict exits from the subsidy program and from subsidized providers. This research report discusses findings from the administrative data analysis and telephone survey.

Source: The Illinois/New York Child Care Research Partnership Study

Available at: https://ssascholars.uchicago.edu/ccrp/news/determinants-subsidy-stability-and-child-care-continuity-final-report-illinois%E2%80%93new-york

Meeting the Child Care Needs of Homeless Families: How Do States Stack Up?


Without safe and reliable care for their children, homeless parents cannot search for or sustain employment or access the job training, education, and other services essential to resolving their homelessness. Federal and state subsidized child care, designed to support low-income families’ self-sufficiency, should be a resource for these families. Yet, ICPH’s analysis of each state’s Child Care and Development Fund plan for federal Fiscal Years 2014–15 found that the majority of states do not have policies in place that ease and encourage homeless families’ use of child care subsidies.

Source: Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness

Available at: http://www.icphusa.org/index.asp?page=16&report=124

Researchers Summarize Mounting Evidence on Early Education


Drawing heavily from a Society of Research on Child Development report that FPG senior scientist Margaret R. Burchinal co-authored last year, researchers have distilled the scientific evidence mounting in support of investment in early education and care. Designed as an open letter to indicate to policy makers and others the extent of the consensus within the scientific community, “Research Strongly Supports Investment in Early Childhood Education” covers findings in several key areas from the considerable body of research on early care and education:

Quality early childhood education can reduce the achievement gap

 “Access to quality early childhood education is essential…

“Develop the whole child with quality programs…

“Quality programs include health and home…

“Quality programs can be brought to scale…

“Quality programs produce quality life outcomes…

“Quality early childhood education benefits children from diverse family backgrounds and circumstances…

“Investing in quality early childhood education pays off…

Read “Research Strongly Supports Investment in Early Childhood Education”

Read more on the 2013 SRCD report “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education”

Source: FPG Child Development Institute

Available at: http://fpg.unc.edu/news/researchers-summarize-mounting-evidence-early-education

Childrens Budget 2014


The federal government makes more than 180 distinct investments in children. These include traditional “children’s” initiatives, like education and child abuse and neglect prevention. They also include other investments that improve the lives of kids, like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly Food Stamps.Children’s Budget 2014 offers a detailed guide to federal spending on children and an invaluable resource for those seeking to improve the lives of America’s youth. Download now or request your hard copy of Childrens Budget 2014.

Source: First Focus

Available at: http://www.firstfocus.net/cb2014

The Health and Well-Being of Early Childhood Educators: A Need for Compassion and Commitment


In a recent report, early childhood educators working in Pennsylvania Head Start programs reported chronic illnesses, such as obesity and headache, in significantly higher proportions than nationally representative cohorts of women of similar age and socioeconomic status. Notably, in this anonymous online survey, 24 percent of the over 2,000 Head Start staff surveyed reported clinically significant levels of depression.

Early childhood educators must be well to do well in their jobs. Current public and political attention to early childhood education and universal pre-K indicates a growing interest in ensuring that children have strong early childhood education that prepares them for future success. And research emphasizes that children need consistent, sensitive, caring, and stable relationships with adults in order to thrive. Adults who are well, physically and mentally, are likely to have an easier time engaging in such relationships than adults who are struggling with chronic illness, such as depression. Thus, it is critical that we pay attention to, invest in, and be compassionate about the well-being of the adults who provide early care and education.

Source: Child Trends

Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/the-health-and-well-being-of-early-childhood-educators-a-need-for-compassion-and-commitment/

Is a New Federal Early Learning Initiative Duplicative?


Pending legislation in Congress to expand access to preschool has led some to question whether a new federal investment in early childhood education would be duplicative of existing programs. For many reasons, the answer to this question is a resounding no. Current investments are not sufficient to provide access to high-quality early learning programs for low-income children. Less than one-third of low-income children currently have access to publicly funded or publicly subsidized child care and preschool programs. While the Strong Start for America’s Children Act would improve access to high-quality programs if fully funded, it would still leave 60 percent of low-income children under age 5 without access to any public program.

Source: Center for American Progress

Available at: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/report/2014/03/27/86537/is-a-new-federal-early-learning-initiative-duplicative/

Child Care Assistance Spending and Participation in 2012


New analysis from CLASP shows state spending on child care assistance, including funds from two federal programs—the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant—at a 10-year low and the number of children receiving CCDBG-funded assistance at a 14-year low.

Source: CLASP

Available at: http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/ccspending2012-Final.pdf

Let’s Talk Wages


By Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood
Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

For the last few weeks, we’ve been delving into the data in the first brief from the National Survey of Early Care and Education. In a previously blog, I talked about the good news areas of the survey in the first look – educational background of our early care and education workforce, the years of experience and the indication that public investments combined with policy directions have supported these efforts and have made a difference.

What the survey also provided was information on the wide range of salaries. The survey collected wages of center-based teachers and caregivers and found that their salaries were higher among teachers and caregivers for 3 – 5 year olds than infants and toddlers. This was something we thought was the case, and now we have the data to support this. We also know that center based teachers and caregivers with a BA or higher had hourly wages higher than those with AA degrees and some college or high school. That similarly aligns with other occupational studies.

A new piece of information from the study is that who sponsors the program matters in addition to education level. It is clear from the study that school-sponsored center-based programs paid the highest wages at leach level of education. Public pre-K and Head Start programs reported salaries lower than school-sponsored salaries but higher than all other early childhood education.

I want to note here that when I am talking about higher salaries, I am not talking about high salaries! The median hourly wage of center-based teachers and caregivers in school sponsored programs with a BA degree is $20.60. The median hourly wage of Head Start and Public Pre-K BA degree teachers was $15.90 and $16.20 respectively. The report pointed out that the Census data indicate that the average hourly wage across all occupations for workers with a BA degree is about $27.00 an hour. Even our highest paid teachers are behind the average.

The President’s Early Learning Initiative sets the bar high for early care and education teacher training. We anticipate that we will need over 100,000 new early care and education BA degree teachers for the Pre-K For All over 10 years and more than 26,000 new AA degrees for the Early Head Start/Child Care Partnerships. It’s an ambitious and exciting plan, and one that can change the landscape for thousands of young children and families and our early care and education workforce.

This plan is also our strategy for working with our field on our early childhood wage challenges. This plan will provide public financing to raise the education level and the salary level of our public pre-K workforce. When enacted, the plan requires that pre-K teachers be paid salary comparable to the elementary school teachers. Public pre-k will be able to recruit an educated workforce with these higher wages.

As four year olds are served with public pre-K funds, the current Head Start funding will support our birth through three teachers and caregivers, allowing programs to work on raising salaries, benefits and supports for those teachers and caregivers who take care of our youngest, most vulnerable infants and toddlers.

There are lots of reasons to be a fan of the President’s Early Learning Plan. Developing a financing strategy beginning with four year old pre-K teachers that will support an extremely large workforce is just one of them.