The fight for quality child care continues in November (CCDBG Reauthorization Update)

Friday, September 12, 2014, House and Senate leaders reached a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act. Negotiated by Representatives John Kline (R-MN), George Miller (D-CA), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and David Loebsack (D-IA), and Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Richard Burr (R-NC), the agreement will enhance transparency, strengthen health and safety protections, and improve the quality of care.

After the original bill was introduced in the Senate on June 3, 2013, the Senate voted to pass S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG) of 2014 on March 13th, 2014 by a vote of 96-2 and the House passed the amended version of the bill on September 15, 2014.

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Timeline of S.1086 in Congress:

June 3, 2013: Senator Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Burr (R-NC), Senator Harkin (D-IA), and Senator Alexander (R- TN) Introduce S.1086, a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Continue reading

Guest Blog: An Intern Bids Farewell

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By: Amanda Cappelletti

As summer draws to end, so does my health policy internship with Child Care Aware of America. Reflecting on the past ten weeks, it is hard to believe how much I have learned and how much I have done. I went from stopping to think “Child Care and Development Block Grant” before saying “CCDBG” to it rolling off my tongue. I attended webinars and subcommittee calls, in the office, and got out of the office for briefings on the Hill.

                The first few days I was at the office, my head was buried in books and various publications and presentations about the child care sphere. My third day, I attended a CCDBG briefing on the in Hill in the morning and sat through a webinar in the afternoon. It did not take long for my calendar to fill up with subcommittee calls, webinars and briefings:  attend this, take notes on that. I quickly became well-versed with the current legal state of early care and education as well as becoming well-versed with the health initiatives and policies.

                One of the first subcommittee calls I sat in on was Farm to Preschool (F2P). I remember someone saying that family child care homes and small centers have a hard time participating in the program because they simply lacked the buying power to make it economical or to entice farmers to work with them. This one comment inspired my research for the summer. I was determined to figure out how to use already existing infrastructure to make F2P economical for family child care homes and small centers, and enticing for farmers to work with them. Now, I am writing a policy paper suggesting how Pennsylvania might leverage its resources so that F2P can be a success.

                My research connected me with professionals, all across the nation (and some who teach at Temple University, which I am currently attending!), dedicated to improving health and wellness policies in early care and education. They provided guidance and materials to help with my research. Hopefully, those have also become life long career connections.

                My research also led me to other webinars and briefings that I was encouraged to attend. There are two that stand out for me. The first is a TEDMED talk, Great Challenges:  A Candid Conversation About Childhood Obesity. This particular talk stands out because Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), spoke and answered questions. RWJF is a leading contributor to researching childhood obesity, and supporting health and wellness initiatives in early care and education. This talk also stood out because Don Schwarz, the former Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity in Philadelphia, spoke. Under his commission, childhood obesity in the city, declined nearly 5 percent! Not only did I feel a sense of pride, being from that area of Pennsylvania, it gave me hope; if Philadelphia can do it, so can other towns, cities, and states!

                I was also able to attend a briefing at the Senate Building, Improving Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Early Care and Education:  Commitments, Challenges and Accomplishments, my exact topic of choice! At this event, two individuals running food and nutrition policies in child care centers spoke about how they have succeeded in implementing healthy menus. Two other experts, Debbie Chang of Nemours and Dr. William Dietz from George Washington University, spoke about the prevalence of obesity and the need for children to eat healthy meals and snacks. This talk reminded me, that although there is hope, there is still a long way to go.

                And it is a long way back to Philadelphia. It is hard to believe I am returning to classes in the upcoming weeks. However, thanks to my time at Child Care Aware of America, I return to classes, remembering why I decided to go back to school. I return refueled with passion for children’s health and wellness policies.

Nevada On-Site Advocacy Trainings

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3Recently, Child Care Aware of America had the great pleasure of traversing to Nevada for not one, but two advocacy trainings.  Starting off with a training in Reno, hosted by the Children’s Cabinet and finishing with a training in Las Vegas, hosted at United Way of Southern Nevada, Child Care Aware® of America’s policy staff had a great opportunity to meet and work with a lot of great early childhood advocates in Nevada.

Nick Vucic, Government Affairs Associate, and Sara Miller, Communications and Public Affairs Specialist, led the trainings.

The trainings started off with a round of icebreakers and a great introduction into the history of early childhood policy and status of programs in Nevada.  Next, Nick kicked off with an overview of advocacy vs. lobbying, then transitioned into updates from the federal level. The topics included CCDBG Reuathorization, the Proposed Rule from HHS, the Government Shutdown, Sequester, and more.

image4After a short break, participants were separated into groups, at which point they discussed goals and barriers in Nevada, as well as at the federal level.  Following presentation by all the groups in both Reno and Las Vegas, Sara started her presentation by pointing out resources and ways that the organization is here to help members in the states and parent engagement, which was a great way to transition into a discussion about social media.

image1Sara went over many social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and how to make all forms of social media help advocacy efforts.  Many advocates in both Reno and Las Vegas were chomping at the bit to learn more, as many had used social media for personal use, but not necessarily for their organizations and advocacy efforts.

Both trainings ended with the advocates in the room going around and providing their bright ideas, takeaways, next steps, and potential partnerships.  Click here to read about our advocacy trips to New Jersey, Florida, and Montana.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Moves Onward

Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 out of Committee. A lot has changed in the past two decades and it’s been 17 years since the last reauthorization. This legislation places emphasis on promoting policies that will contribute to the safety and healthy development of millions of children who benefit from the federal child care program. The bill will now go to the full SenateHelpSenate for consideration.

Here’s what a few of the Senators said about the bill:

“As a mom and former preschool teacher, I know how import high-quality child care options are for parents, and this bill works to ensure the best possible care  “I am especially glad this bill includes new provisions to help more homeless families access child care. I’m also pleased that this legislation authorizes a national toll-free hotline and website for families seeking safe, affordable, quality child care in their community.” – Sen. Patty Murray from WA

“This legislation meets the compelling needs of children.” – Sen. Barbara Mikulski from MD

“Access to quality child care can make all the difference in a child’s early years, and this program has helped nearly 30,000 Tennessee families not only afford to enroll their children in child care, but be able to choose the type of care that’s best for their family,” – Sen. Lamar Alexander from TN

 “To quote a periodical I read about the bill, ‘This is an honest to goodness bipartisan bill’” – Sen. Richard Burr from NC

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 will:

  • Raise the health and safety of child care settings.
  • Require child care providers to undergo a comprehensive background check.
  • Require child care programs to be inspected at least once every year to ensure they are safe and appropriate settings for children.
  • Improve program quality, while simultaneously ensuring federal funds support low-income and at-risk children and families.
  • Promote continuity of care to minimize disruption in children’s development.

More about the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013, can be found here.

Join Senator Mikulski — Any Budget Deal Should Put Children First!

Congressional leaders are currently negotiating a new budget framework to avoid the fiscal cliff (i.e, the across-the-board cuts scheduled to occur on January 2 combined with the expiration of a number of tax breaks scheduled to expire later this month).  

At issue are efforts to avoid an across-the-board cut that is scheduled to occur as a result of Congress’ past failure to reduce the deficit in line with targets set up in a deficit reduction deal passed more than a year ago.  Another issue that is complicating the matter is that a number of previously passed tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the month. This means that everyone’s taxes will rise if Congress takes no action.

The Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would extend the tax cuts for all but the wealthiest in this country – those individuals who earn over $200,000 and families who earn over $250,000.  Estimates are that 98 percent of Americans earn under those thresholds and would not be affected.

It is unclear what will happen.  Will there be a new budget deal or framework under which a budget bill/deficit reduction bill is developed?  Or, will the country go over the fiscal cliff – an across-the-board budget cut will occur and everyone’s taxes will rise?

The budget framework under negotiation is important because it will provide a roadmap for Congressional priorities over the next year and over the next decade.  Senator Mikulski (D-MD) is circulating a children’s budget letter for other Senators to sign, which she intends to send to the Congressional leadership. The Mikulski children’s budget letter urges the negotiators to put children first – as part of the underlying framework, not merely an after-thought once the framework has been decided. As Senator Mikulski says, “It is time to both protect and invest in those who are the most vulnerable in our country – not leave them to chance.”

According to data from 2011:

  • One in five children – 16 million – in the United States live in poverty, including one in four children under age 5. Half of children under age 6 in the U.S. live in low-income families.
  •  More than 8.5 million children in the U.S. lived in food insecure households.
  •  Children are not getting the early learning they need to succeed in school. Only 29 percent of eligible 3-5 year old children in the U.S. are enrolled in Head Start. Just 4.5 percent of eligible children are enrolled in Early Head Start. Only one in six eligible children receive a child care subsidy, but the quality of care many of those children are in (as well as the care children not receiving a subsidy are in) is relatively poor.
  • Half of U.S. 4th grade students eligible for free or reduced price lunch fail to read at grade level.
  • 40 percent of U.S. families with a substantiated child abuse report received no services in 2010.
  • More than 1,500 children in the U.S. died due to abuse and neglect (47.7 percent were children under the age of one).
  • Fifteen years after the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, 10 percent of children in the U.S. still do not have health insurance.

We think Senator Mikulski is right.  In any budget framework that is agreed to, children ought to come first.  Children are the future of our country. To see a copy of Senator Mikulski’s children’s budget letter that is circulating in the Senate, click here.

It’s time for Congress to make children a priority.  Please contact your Senators today and urge them to sign on to Senator Mikulski’s children’s budget letter.  The deadline is Wednesday, December 12, C.O.B.  The bottom line? No bad budget deal for kids!  The final budgetary framework will be a reflection of our nation’s priorities – join Senator Mikulski in urging budget negotiators to put children first!

Click here to visit our action center to send an email to your Senators. The deadline for signing Senator Mikulski’s children’s budget letter is Wednesday evening (December 12), so don’t wait!