Last week, the United States Senate advanced a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary source of federal funding for child care assistance. CCDBG funds are important because they help ensure that kids are safe so parents can work. If the bill is passed by the House of Representatives and becomes law, it will be the first update of this law since 1996.
Since that time, there are two important things to consider. One is that the number of young children with all available parents in the workforce has continued to climb — from 60% nationwide in 2000 to 65% in 2012. This means that a growing majority of our young children spend their early years in the care of someone other than a parent. Our policies and systems haven’t quite caught up with the reality of working families.
Since 1996, our understanding of child development has also increased. We now know that those years between 0-5 and the experiences that children have in those years are more important than ever.
In short, we know that more of our children are in child care settings and that the quality of those settings plays a critical role in child development. These two factors increase the importance of paying attention to child care programs and policies. The CCDBG bill passed by the Senate acknowledges both the importance of child care for working families and the importance of those early years for kids.
One important change of the bill is to establish 12 month continuous eligibility for child care assistance and only require eligibility to be reevaluated on an annual basis. This would help ensure stability in child care which is so important for both parents and children. The bill would also increase the amount of funds that states are required to spend on improving child care quality as well as empower parents to better understand child care options by requiring more information on child care centers to be made publicly available.
This bill is an important step forward in recognizing the critical importance of child care for both parents and families and we hope that the House of Representatives will follow the lead of the Senate in making progress on this important issue.