It took a pandemic to really help enough Members of Congress understand that the way child care currently works in America doesn’t work for anyone. NAFCC heard from our members that our policy advocacy priorities in 2020 and 2021 needed to be child care relief funds, equity in that recovery, and then a much better way forward that invests in and values family child care.
So here we are, with an opportunity like nothing we’ve ever seen: a chance to invest significant dollars—more than we have ever had available to the early childhood field–so that families and the child care workforce can thrive. Our advocacy continues to be about:
- making sure Congress plays its important role in helping to solve child care,
- getting the details right for family child care.
Recap of the action since August:
Congress approved moving major investments in children and families in August, setting in motion the detail work of legislation in Committees. 150 national, state, and local organizations came together to urge those Committees to get the details in place to support family child care. And family child care providers across the country stood up – and continue to stand up – to be seen and to share what “Solve Child Care” means to you.
Negotiations in Congress have not been easy, and they continue to take steps forward and back. Still, child care and preschool have maintained their place as a priority – thanks to the clear advocacy of thousands and thousands in family child care, centers, and partners around the country.
On October 28, a framework was released on a package much smaller than what was approved in August. But child care and preschool were maintained. NAFCC has been reviewing the bill text that became available on October 28, which is different from what the House approved in September and changed again this week. This is an ongoing and ever-changing situation.
What does Build Back Better mean for Child Care and Preschool?
The important details are not final. But the concept is this:
- make more families eligible for support to access child care, ensure those families get that support, and invest in the people and the work of child care at the same time so that we move from a system that works for no one, to a system that works for everyone who needs it.
- make preK for 3- and 4-year-olds universal and invest in child care centers, family child care homes, Head Start and schools to make this possible. Mixed delivery in this vision doesn’t start with the schools or end with the schools; it is built on equitable distribution across eligible providers, including family child care.
Here’s what the child care portion of Build Back Better is about, in general:
- Congress is creating a new funding stream. This legislation is not a change to CCDBG law. CCDBG law will continue to exist.
- Congress is creating a new entitlement – entitlement means it will be there for the families that are eligible.
- This new effort, for families with children younger than age 6, will mean far more families are eligible and not only eligible, but served.
- This is a huge expansion that will be meaningful to far more families. The new eligibility rules will mean some 9 out of 10 children will be served over the next 6 years, instead of the 1 out of 6 served now in subsidy.
- Right now, for instance, you might be in a state where lots of families are eligible for subsidy, but hundreds or thousands of them are on a subsidy waiting list managed by your state or county. This new bill says: if a family with a child under 6 is eligible for support, they will receive that support.
- This is a whole new way of thinking about how we pay for the work of child care in this country: The idea is the family pays a portion (up to 7 percent of their income—maximum—but much less for many families) and we could think about this like a co-pay; and the state pays the child care provider (including family child care providers) based on actual operating costs – costs of your operations, your quality efforts, and paying yourself. Not, as is the norm now, on the “market rate” or a made-up amount.
- Eligible providers are in a “tiered system for measuring quality” (tons more on this to follow) and specifically includes family child care providers with acknowledgement of mixed ages and setting types, and this may mean your state will need to revise an existing quality rating and improvement system.
- There’s more attention for child care licensing than we’ve ever seen too – a call to create appropriate standards and pathways to succeed in those regulations too.
- Families getting support to access child care will need somewhere to go. There isn’t enough regulated child care today. The supply-building funding includes start-up funding, facilities funding (including for family child care), and supports to improve or sustain quality.
- States must choose whether to participate in this new investment.
- If the Governor chooses to participate, CCDBG law will still be in place but with a different focus of the funding: children 6 and up.
- If the Governor chooses to not participate, three things will be there: existing CCDBG law, new/additional Head Start funding, and the option for a locality to apply to be a part of this.
Here’s what the preK portion of Build Back Better is about, in general:
- Congress is creating a new funding stream, which would be administered at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Families will not have an income eligibility requirement.
- Eligible preK providers are school districts, Head Start, licensed child care centers, licensed family child care homes, family child care networks, or consortiums of these eligible providers.
- The bill calls for states to “distribute new preschool slots equitably among child care (including family child care) providers, Head Start agencies, and schools within the state.”
- The bill requires states to assure that the preK investments and implementation do not disrupt child care options for infants and toddlers.
- The funding would be in the form of grants to the provider, to cover the full costs of operations for at least 3 years.
- The legislation calls for preK teachers, regardless of setting, to have a BA with six years’ time to get it. Importantly, the authors know to value the strengths of the existing workforce and note that if a teacher at an eligible provider (including family child care – including the family child care provider) has been in the field for 3 of the last 5 years and has the “necessary content knowledge and teaching skills for early childhood educators,” they will not be required to meet the BA requirement.
- States can choose whether to participate in this new investment.
- If the Governor chooses to participate, and your state has state-funded preK already, the state will need to work toward making the existing program meet these new expectations of inclusivity of families, providers, and quality.
- If the Governor chooses to not participate, there will be new/additional Head Start funding, and the option for a locality to apply to be a part of this.
We have many questions and we know you do too. Your experiences drive our advocacy at NAFCC. We are working to ensure those concerns are heard and your crucial role is named and recognized as we build back better, together.
On November 2, national advocates came together to host a webinar to share about the legislation and the path forward. Jerletha McDonald, Senior Manager of Membership and Volunteer Affairs, represented NAFCC and the field of family child care on this call. Her remarks and the recordings of the session can be found here.