Congress took important steps this week to create much-needed health and safety standards for publicly subsidized child care programs by reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant, or CCDBG. This child care subsidy system was last updated 16 years ago during the Clinton administration. These changes represent a critical first move toward the development of a high-quality child care system that works for low-income, working families. When President Barack Obama signs the bill, standards that have long been accepted in other industries will finally be applied to the child care system in three key areas: background checks, training, and licensing and inspections.
Each week, 11 million children under age 5 spend time in the care of someone other than a parent.Among children under age 6, 65 percent have either a single parent or two parents in the labor force, making child care the daily reality for most families. For low-income, working families, finding accessible, high-quality, affordable child care can be a near-impossible task. These families are offered a vital opportunity through CCDBG, which gives states between $3 billion and $4 billion to subsidize child care expenses for low-income families. Although CCDBG has helped lower costs and improve access, the quality of child care has always lagged behind, largely due to a lack of funding, oversight, and incentives for states to invest funds in high-quality child care providers.
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