Congress Approves Temporary Funding Measure, Continues to Work on Final FY 2016 Budget

Earlier today, Congress approved a short-term continuing resolution (CR) keeping the Federal government funded through December 11. The CR includes no spending cuts to any domestic programs and, instead, funds all programs at FY 2015 levels as leaders negotiate a final deal.

While the CR easily passed both chambers of Congress, it will be extremely difficult to pass a year-long bill before the end of the year. The most notable reason is the departure of House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH), who announced his resignation late last week. Speaker Boehner’s last day in Congress is October 30.

Boehner’s replacement, who will likely be House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), will be under the same intense pressure from the base of the House Republican caucus to keep the discretionary spending caps in place for FY 2016. Additionally, the new speaker will have to hold another vote to raise DSC08585the debt ceiling in November, as well as address the extension of a number of tax breaks set to expire on December 31.

While there is a great deal of uncertainty in the House, there has been growing bi-partisan support in the Senate for raising the spending caps to allow for more discretionary funding for domestic, non-defense programs. In fact, Senator Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has publicly acknowledged that negotiations on lifting the caps will happen soon with the President and congressional Democrats.

There also have been ongoing discussions of the possibility of a “grand bargain,” where the FY 2016 budget would be rolled into a multi-year extension of the Highway Trust Fund, along with a tax bill addressing the current provisions set to expire at the end of the year.

President Obama has maintained his commitment to vetoing any spending bill that does not lift the current discretionary caps. However, if House and Senate leaders are nowhere near a deal in early December, the likelihood of a year-long CR being enacted increases dramatically. If that were to happen, it’s possible that a deal could be struck to lift the caps to add some new funding for discretionary.

It’s also possible we could have another government shutdown in December.

We will provide updates and opportunities to advocate for early childhood funding.

BREAKING: President Obama Announces Landmark Child Care Proposal

Fresh off the State of the Union, President Obama announced a landmark proposal to help all working families with young children afford child care.

The full Fact Sheet from the White House on the new child care proposal is copied below:

FACT SHEET: Helping All Working Families with Young Children Afford Child Care

“In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

– President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015

Helping working Americans meet the needs of their jobs and their families is a key part of the President’s plan to bolster and expand the middle class. Access to high-quality child care and early education not only promotes a child’s development, but it also helps support parents who are struggling to balance work and family obligations. A safe, nurturing environment that enriches children’s development is critical to working families and is one of the best investments we can make in our economy. Yet today, a year of child care costs more than a year of in-state tuition at most colleges – putting a significant strain on parents.

Ensuring that children have access to high quality and affordable early childhood programs can help children prepare for school and succeed in later life while strengthening parents’ ability to go to work, advance their career, and increase their earning potential. Research shows that money spent on young children is an effective investment, yielding benefits immediately to parents and for many decades to come for the children. For example, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors’ report on the Economics of Early Childhood indicate that investments in high-quality early education generate economic returns of over  $8 for every $1 spent.

Today, President Obama outlined his plan to make affordable, quality child care available to every working and middle-class family with young children. His plan includes:

  • Making a landmark investment in the Child Care and Development Fund that helps every eligible family with young children afford high-quality child care.
  • Tripling the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 per young child.
  • Creating a new innovation fund to help states design programs that better serve families that face unique challenges in finding quality care, such as those in rural areas or working non-traditional hours.

Two years ago, the President called for a continuum of high-quality early learning for America’s children – including support for children and their parents beginning prenatally with evidence-based home visitation for young children and new and expecting parents and continuing through high-quality preschool for America’s 4-year olds. Over the past two years, the federal government, states, philanthropists, and business leaders have invested nearly $3 billion in high-quality preschool and early education. Today’s announcement builds on these continuing efforts to make high-quality early education and child care available for all. These investments to expand and strengthen child care and early education programs complement the Administration’s other efforts to help working families, including offering workers the opportunity to earn paid sick and family leave, a higher minimum wage, and equal pay for women.

To read more about the proposal, check out the full fact sheet at:



CCDBG Moving Forward – Helpful Resources on the New Law

teaserWith the signing of S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 into law, now the focus will shift to ensuring that those across the country which these changes will directly impact, are aware of when and how this law will affect them.  In order to assist states and child care resource and referral agencies across America, Child Care Aware of America will be providing resources to help provide a better understanding of what’s in the law and what changes are going to be necessary to be made.

In addition to our four-part CCDBG Moving Forward Webinar Series, which focused on implementation and concluded in early-November, Child Care Aware of America is excited to share new resources on CCDBG, including:

NEW RESOURCES for Implementation of new CCDBG Law:

CCDBG Moving Forward Resources:

One-Pagers/Subject Briefs:

Summary and Background
Timeline for Implementation
Impact on Child Care Resource and Referral Services
The Quality Set-Aside
Quality Rating and Improvement Systems
Health, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention

CCDBG Moving Foward Webinar Series Slides:

The history and current status of S.1086
What S.1086 means for families & child care providers
What S.1086 means for quality set aside and QRIS
Funding, appropriations, & timelines for implementation

To view any of the recorded webinars, check out our Youtube page:

and much more to come!

Coming Soon!

  • Information on Funding and Appropriations
  • One-pager on Emergency Preparedness and Response
  • Answers to Frequently Asked Question about the New Law
  • White Papers on implementation and challenges

5 Tips for Recess SUCCESS!

It’s that time of year again–August recess! Congress has adjourned for the month of August and will not be back in session until September 9. During their month-long recess, many Members take the opportunity to re-engage with their community and the constituents they serve. This is a perfect opportunity for you to foster and cultivate those very important relationships with your Senators and Representative, as well as their key staff. You want them to know who you are and what issues you care about –early learning, child care, resource and referral services, etc., and how those issues are affecting your local community and your state.

In order to ensure you get the most out of your elected officials this August, we put together our top 5 tips for recess success:

1. Schedule a visit/meeting.  Go to our congressional directory to look up the contact information for your Member’s district office(s).  Call the office or send an email requesting a meeting, and be sure to briefly mention the purpose of the meeting.

2. Do your research before your meeting.  You can make the most of your meeting time by being prepared and knowing your audience.  Learn about your Member of Congress: is she/he a Democrat or a Republican? Is your Member on Facebook or Twitter? What committees is she/he on? Do those committees work on child care issues?  You should also know whether the Member supports an increased investment in child care and early learning (and has voted accordingly). Visit the Core Issues page to get background on the issues.

capitolnick3. Invite your elected officials to your child care program. Reach out to district staff or ask during a meeting with staff or your Member if they would like to visit your child care program: if you’re representing a child care resource and referral agency, you may have a recommendation of a place to visit. This is a great way for Members to connect what you do with what children need, and why investments in child care and early learning programs are so important. Members and their staff get a firsthand look at why quality child care is a necessity for any thriving community.

4. Attend scheduled town halls. Another great way to engage with your elected officials during recess is to attend a town hall meeting (or two!).  Check your policymaker’s website to find out the date and location of any upcoming town hall meetings. In preparation for the meeting, write down–at most–two questions: you will not have a lot of time so make sure your questions are specific and straight to the point.  Read our town hall tips sheet for more information.

5. Follow up. If you were able to get a meeting, attend a town hall, and/or host a Member at your early learning program, send a thank you note to your Member and their staff.  Thank them for taking the time out to meet with you/have the town hall meeting/visit your program, and gently remind them why they should continue to support child care. Be sure to follow up on any requests you made at the meeting as well as any information they may have asked for.  A few words of appreciation will have a lasting impact on your relationship with your elected officials and your long term advocacy efforts.

Good luck and keep us posted on how your recess efforts are going.  Let us know how we can help. We have plenty of one pagers, background information and talking points to help you with your recess SUCCESS!

Child Care Aware of America Bids Farewell to 2013 Summer Policy Interns

This past week, Child Care Aware of America bid farewell to our two 2013 Summer Policy Interns, Lester Asamoah and Audrey Williams.  Lester and Audrey spent the past eight weeks working closely with our Policy team on a variety of issues and topics, while taking part in courses offered at George Mason University.  In addition to learning more about the importance of quality child care in early childhood development, Lester and Audrey took part in visits to Congressional offices, coalition meetings, and conducted research on legislative topics.

BQh3KIXCEAE87J9 Lester Asamoah

Lester is from the University of Oklahoma and is majoring in International Security and Arabic. He came to DC to take part in The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems. He has an interest in American politics, national security, Middle Eastern culture, Arabic, and global affairs.

On Thursday, Lester presented about the Dutch child care system.  It was a brief historical perspective, including some discussion of the quality of Dutch child care from 1995-2005.

557870_10151588588227810_380964255_nAudrey Williams

Audrey is a rising senior from Taylor University and is double majoring in Political Science and International Studies with a concentration in Peace, Reconciliation and Justice and a minor in History. She came to DC to take part in The Fund for American Studies’ Institute for Business and Government Affairs and has an interest in pursuing a law degree when she completes her undergraduate studies in December.

As part of her internship in the Policy Department at Child Care Aware of America, Audrey presented a research analysis on early childhood development in South Africa and how it relates to further developing the county. Child Care Aware of America has an interest in understanding the policy and function of child care internationally, so Audrey’s presentation helped the organization identify the current state of child care in South Africa, observe SA government spending related to early childhood development, note standards and concerns for child care in South Africa, as well as demonstrate the implementation of child care in various provinces within the country.

On behalf of Child Care Aware of America’s Policy Department, we want to thank Lester and Audrey for their hard work over the course of the summer and wish them the best in their future endeavors.

Florida On-Site Advocacy

Earlier this week, members of the Child Care Aware® of America Policy Team jumped ontampa a plane and went to Tampa for a one-day on-site Advocacy Training. They worked closely with the Children’s Forum in Tallahassee to put together a jam-packed agenda for each of the 60 attendees at the training.

The morning started off bright and early with an ice-breaker session where each attendee went around stating their name, organization and the name and location of their elementary school. Everyone in the room was quickly flooded with memories of early learning and the opportunity to better the quality of early education for today’s children.

Following the first session, the team jumped into the meaty information. There was a brief lay of the land presented by Phyllis Kalifeh of the Children’s Forum and Ted Granger from United Way. This was followed up by a presentation and conversation related to advocacy versus lobbying. Great discussion was had about where the line is drawn and how far organizations can go on the advocacy front.

At 10am, Shannon Rudisill, Director, Office of Child Care called into the training and gave a real-time overview of the new HHS Proposed Rule. We then discussed the new CCDBG bill, the President’s Early Learning Agenda and how Florida can weigh in on each of these opportunities.

The morning session wrapped up with a breakout where each team of 6-8 discussed current challenges, what they would do if they had a magic wand and what the reality looks like in the state of Florida.

 current challenges

After the breakout groups posted their ideas on the wall, the team began working on state advocacy over lunch. While enjoying salads, each attendee learned about parent and child care provider engagement and how to build a state advocacy day in the state of Florida. The discussion then jumped into how crucial social media is in today’s advocacy world, inspiring many attendees to jump on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

The day then wrapped up with a final breakout and team presentation of each group’s roadmap for the future. Each attendee then went around the room sharing takeaways, bright ideas, next steps and new information learned from peers. One idea learned during the session was to always bring someone to a training with you as you never know who will attend and become an early childhood advocate. One attendee even brought the mayor’s wife!

Overall, the day was full of information, resource sharing and network building. Everyone left the training with a renewed passion, ready to improve the quality of child care in the state of Florida.


Photo courtesy of The Children’s Forum

Read about our on-site training in Delaware here.

It Takes a Village – Rally4Babies Highlights Need to Invest in Early Childhood

PolicyBlog - Rally4Babies“The African saying, that it takes a village to raise a child is true, but the thing we need to remember all the time is that we are that village, it’s not somebody else, each one of us are part of the village and we have to daily say, what I can do to contribute to this, what can I do to help somebody further the life of a child,” stated Alma Powell, Chair of the Board at America’s Promise Alliance, discussing the importance of the advocacy community taking action on early childhood policies.

The first ever Rally4Babies took place on Monday, July 8th, sponsored by ZERO-TO-THREE, bringing together national leaders, celebrities, and citizens in support of early learning for babies and toddlers.   During the event, award-winning journalist and CEO of Starfish Media Group Soledad O’Brien asked questions to prominent speakers such as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Chair of the Board at America’s Promise Alliance Alma Powell about why early learning for infants and toddlers is critical.  Jennifer Garner, Actress and Save the Children Artist Ambassador, shared stories about why she is passionate about teaching moms how to support their babies’ early learning.  Finally, award-winning children’s musician Laurie Berkner did a live performance for rally participants.

In case you missed it, watch a YouTube recording of the rally and share the event with your friends and family.

The focus of the Rally4Babies was to emphasize the importance of a comprehensive early learning strategy and to rally Americans around early learning policies that focus specifically on babies and toddlers.  More than 6 million children younger than age 3 are in the care of someone other than their parents every week.  On average, children are in a child care setting for about 35 hours a week.  Forty-six percent of infants and toddlers under age 3 live in low-income families, and 24 percent live in poor families.  In 2010, 16.5 percent of infants and 24.2 percent of toddlers of employed mothers were in care in an organized facility (such as a child care center) and another 16.9 percent of infants and 16.3 percent of toddlers of employed mothers were in family child care homes.

Currently, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the law that allocates funds to states for child care, does not provide states with any guidance on how those funds are to be used to improve the quality of infant and toddler care. To ensure that children are in settings that are safe and promote healthy development, Child Care Aware® of America recommends that states are provided the flexibility of choosing from several effective options to improve program quality and to strengthen the workforce for infants and toddlers, including establishing statewide networks of family child care providers and infant and toddler specialists, as well as establishing other statewide initiatives.

It’s time to take action to ensure that we, as the village, are doing what’s right for infants and toddlers nationwide.  Take time to Sign the Petition and Send a Letter to Your Elected Officials urging them to Cosponsor S. 1086, a bill to reauthorize CCDBG.

Also, makes sure you check out our Executive Director’s blogpost on the Rally4Babies, which can be found here.

It’s Time to Fix Child Care – Reauthorization Bill Introduced in Senate

Last week, Senator Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Burr (R-NC), Senator Harkin (D-IA), and Senator Alexander (R-TN) introduced a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the primary federal grant program that provides child care assistance for families and funds child care quality initiative.  Child Care Aware® of America announced its support for the “Child Care Development and Block Grant Act of 2013” introduced today, which would reauthorize the program for the first time in over 17 years.

mikluskiCCDBG is administered to states in formula block grants. States use the grants to subsidize child care for working families earning low incomes. Most of this assistance is administered through vouchers or certificates, which can be used by parents for the provider or program of their choice. In addition, the law requires no less than 4 percent of CCDBG funding in each state to be used for activities to improve the overall quality of child care for all children within a community (for example, Child Care Resource & Referral services, training for child care providers, infant and toddler specialists, quality rating systems, etc.).

Over 20 years ago, Department of Defense (DoD) child care was not accountable, quality was poor, and the safety of children was compromised. Congress passed the Military Child Care Act in 1989 to ensure that funds would be spent in an accountable manner, that care would be of minimum quality, and that child care would be provided in an affordable manner for families. Child Care Aware® of America calls on Congress to use the lessons of the military to reauthorize and strengthen CCDBG so that civilian families have access to affordable, quality child care in all communities. Congress should also ensure that funding is sufficient so that eligible children are able to receive assistance.

Under S. 1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 states would be required to:

  • Conduct comprehensive background checks (state and federal fingerprint checks, sex offender registry check, and check of the child abuse and registry for all licensed, regulated, or registered providers that receive CCDBG funds.
  • Inspect programs at least once before licensing, and at least one unannounced inspection annually.  Reports of the inspections must also be posted electronically.
  • Include a set of workforce and competency standards for providers, developed in consultation with the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care, using evidence-based training frameworks, incorporating states early learning and development guidelines, developmentally appropriate practices for different age groups, English learners, and children with disabilities.
  • Training at a minimum would cover:
  • Child Abuse Recognition and Prevention
  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices
  • Early mathematics and early language and literacy development to support development in young children
  • Behavior management strategies
  • Supporting children with disabilities
  • Specialized care for infants and toddlers
  • Raise the eligibility period to 12-months, helping to ensure continuity of care for children and families.

This reauthorization bill is a huge step to move the nation forward ensuring children are safe and receiving the best early learning experiences while in child care. Children’s early years are proven to be the most impactful time to create strong learners. This bill sets the standard all families expect for their children.

CCDBG has not been reauthorized in 17 years. This bill includes a great deal of measures to improve the quality of child care and ensure that all children in child care settings are safe.  It is time to protect children in child care and promote their healthy development.

Click here to contact your Senator and urge them to cosponsor S. 1086 today!

Policies that Work for Working Families

Each week, nearly 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care setting for an average of 35 hours.

blogIt’s a statistic that gets mentioned often in conversations about the importance of child care in every community across the United States, and with good reason.  Working families understand the need to not only have their children in a child care setting that will keep them safe and out of harm’s way, but also to ensure that in the years where the most critical development occurs that they are in a setting that promotes early learning.

With so many families looking for safe, but affordable child care, one thing is certain; Families need effective and efficient policies that work for working families.

The good news is that Washington is paying attention.  In mid-February, in front of classrooms of pre-school children, the President announced a plan that would create public pre-k programs in every state, or help support the 39 states that already have pre-k programs.  In May, the Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule that would positively impact the quality of children in all child care settings, including special focus on health and safety measures.  And just this week, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the primary federal grant program that provides child care assistance for families and funds child care quality initiative, with enhanced health and safety standards to keep children safe in child care.

Click below to learn more about any of these policies:

For more information on the President’s Early Learning Proposal, click here.

For more information on the HHS Proposed Rule, click here.

For more information on the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013, click here.

When Congress and the Administration are taking notice of the need for quality programs for children, from birth through age five, and taking action to make policies work better for the families that need them most, it’s important to make sure that we are supportive of all policies that work to support working families.  Whether those policies create and expand public pre-k programs, or assist in the development and expansion of partnerships between child care programs and Early Head Start programs, or require comprehensive background checks of all providers receiving federal funds to care for children, or even making it easier for parents to find and sort through information to learn more about the available options for quality child care in their area, the simple truth is that all of these policies benefit families and children.

Today is the National Early Learning Day of Action and advocates across the country are talking about why it’s critical to invest in young children.  Every child in every community across America deserves a fair shot at high quality and safe early learning opportunities that positively impact their development in the years when it’s most crucial.  Working families are the foundation for the entire country.  It’s time to make sure policies that work for working families, especially those that enhance their children’s early learning opportunities, are at the forefront of any policy discussion.

Learning from the Military Child Care System

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and a time to celebrate and remember those who died in service to our country – over a million men and women who have died since the Civil War protecting our people and democratic values – not “democratic” as in political party, but the big “D” – Democracy – a government in which power is vested in the people – a representative democracy with free elections to affect nationwide policies.

We have so much to learn from the military and how they take care of their families. Just one example, out of many, can be seen in the system of child care for children in military families compared to the system of child care for children in non-military families.

Last month, Child Care Aware® of America released “We Can Do Better: 2013 Update,” the 7th in a series of licensing reports scoring and ranking the states based on state child care center licensing policies and oversight.  According to the report, states averaged a score of 92 out of 150, a grade of 61 percent – very close to a failing grade. The Department of Defense (DoD) child care system was scored and ranked as well, since it is a system analogous to a state system serving many children throughout the country. The DoD child care system topped the list, outscoring all the state systems, with a strong framework based on safety and child development. How did the remainder of the states fare? The top 10 states earned a “C”, another 21 earned a “D,” and the remaining 20 states failed.

A U.S. Senate Committee hearing in 2011 compared the Military Child Care Act (MCCA), which governs the child care policies set by DOD with the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – however, individual state policies vary greatly.  Both acts have parental choice in child care settings as a centerpiece. Both acts were passed by Congress to respond to an increase in working women and a greater need to make child care more affordable for working families. But, that is about all the two laws have in common.

The Department of Defense has developed a system of quality child care. Nearly 100 percent of child care centers overseen by the military are nationally accredited compared to less than 8 percent of child care centers in civilian communities.  The military child care system has minimum protections for children, parents can choose from an array of settings that all meet these minimum protections, and there is accountability for how DoD child care funds are spent.

In contrast, CCDBG has led to a patchwork array of child care settings under different laws in every state. There is no system. There are no minimum protections for children. Parents can choose licensed or unlicensed care. There is little accountability for how public dollars are spent.

The MCCA requires a comprehensive background check (fingerprints against criminal records) for child care providers. In contrast, CCDBG does not require a background check. Do background checks matter? Read the story of Child Care Aware® of America parent leader, Elly Lafkin, whose baby died in a child care program a year ago. A police investigation revealed a history of criminal offenses, which the provider had committed under various aliases, but Elly and her husband didn’t know because Virginia doesn’t require a fingerprint check so parents aren’t aware of offenses an individual with various aliases has committed.

The MCCA requires the Secretary of Defense to establish a uniform training program for child care providers. The act requires, at a minimum, that training shall cover:

  • Early childhood development
  • Activities and disciplinary techniques appropriate to children of different ages
  • Child abuse prevention and detection
  • CPR and other emergency medical procedures

As a result, DoD policy establishes a minimum requirement of 40 hours of initial training either before a provider cares for children or early on once hired. Also, DoD requires 24 hours of annual training as follow-up and to reinforce initial learning.

In contrast, CCDBG has no minimum training requirement. State requirements vary greatly.  For child care centers,

  • Only 21 states require staff training in child development.
  • Only 34 states have safe sleep requirements for infants.
  • Only 9 states require all staff to learn CPR.
  • Only 15 states meet each of the 10 health and safety policies recommended by pediatric experts.

Think a requirement for provider training in safe sleep doesn’t matter? Read the story of Child Care Aware® of America parent leader, Nathan Salomonis, whose baby died in a licensed child care center in California where there is no safe sleep requirement to protect infants.

The MCCA requires regular unannounced inspections of child care programs. In contrast, CCDBG has no inspection requirement.  Nine states conduct inspections of child care centers less often than once a year.  About half the states conduct inspections of family child care homes less frequently than once per year.

Think inspections don’t matter? Read the story of Child Care Aware® of America parent leader, Vicky Dougherty, whose toddler son died in a defective crib in a child care program where potentially an inspection may have noted the problem and save her son’s life. But, in Pennsylvania, family child care homes are inspected only once every six years.

There are quality child care programs throughout the country. But, licensing laws vary greatly by state and CCDBG – the federal framework for state laws, contains no requirements for background checks or training for providers and no requirement for regular inspections.

CCDBG has not been reauthorized in 17 years.  Earlier this month, HHS Secretary Sebelius announced new proposed rules for child care to better promote the safety and healthy development of children through existing regulatory authority.  If you think it’s time to provide minimum protections for children in child care, comment today on the  web page.  If you think it’s time for Congress to reauthorize CCDBG and better protect children in child care and promote quality child care programs, let your Members of Congress know by clicking here.

It is great news that our Democracy created child care systems for military and non-military children. But, now it’s time to fix the system for non-military children.  A Democratic society can and should do better for our families.