Build Back Better Plan Frequently Asked Questions

The Build Back Better Plan is legislation being considered in Congress, that among other things seeks to transform the way we experience child care in this country.

It started as a proposal from the Administration that was called the American Families Plan. But truly, it started with you, and with families across the U.S. who were struggling with real challenges: not enough child care choices, a declining availability of family child care, child care costing more than housing or college for too many families, and the need to invest in the child care workforce so that you can thrive.

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 include child care relief funds, equity in that recovery, and then a much better way forward that invests in and values family child care.

Negotiations in Congress have not been easy. The details of the vision are crucial, and also the drafts of legislation continue to change!

The legislation is sometimes not as detailed as we might want, and this is sometimes because of the process that they’re using (called Reconciliation).

This is an ever-changing situation. Our summaries and this Q&A are based on our analysis and on the understanding of the intent of the writers of the legislation.

1. What on earth is this?

The new idea 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.

2. Why is NAFCC supporting this?

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:

NAFCC is a private, nonpartisan organization. We advocate for the field of family child care, led by the membership and their priorities and experiences. National polling reveals that the work to change the way child care works in this country has bipartisan support among voters. Partisanship runs strong in Washington, D.C. but NAFCC advocates for the field with leaders regardless of their party. We want all decision-makers to do their part for the success of family child care.

3. Is this additional dollars to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)?

This is not funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) law. This also does not change the CCDBG law. The CCDBG law will continue to exist and be carried out in each state.

4. Is the federal government going to tell me how to run my program? 

No.

The Build Back Better plan calls for big changes to the way child care can happen in this country. There are many questions and ideas to sort out – and some myths going around too. Check out this piece addressing some of those myths, including the idea of the government’s role inside your child care programs (also a myth!)

Five Myths About Child Care

5. They’re saying parents won’t pay more than 7% of their income on child care. But I set my rates?

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% of their income — maximum — but much less for many families) and we could think about this like a co-pay. 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.

6. Will I have to meet standards? Will those standards be right for family child care? 

Eligible providers in the child care entitlement are licensed and in a “tiered system for measuring quality,” specifically including family child care providers with acknowledgment of mixed ages and setting types. This may mean your state will need to revise an existing quality rating and improvement system. Lots more on this coming soon!

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.

The preK investments will come with an expectation of meeting standards as well, aligned to the Early Learning Standards used in Head Start.

Every day, family child care providers are carrying out policies set at the local, state and federal level. We have lots of questions too, and there are lots of opportunities to keep shaping this even outside of the federal legislation. There will be federal guidance and regulations, and state plans and choices too.

7. Will I have to get a bachelor’s degree?

In the preK section of the legislation, it calls for preK teachers in each setting to have a B.A. degree 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) 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 B.A. requirement. We do not know how this necessary content knowledge and skills will be measured, and getting this right is important.

The child care entitlement section of the legislation does not call for a B.A. degree. It does not name degrees or credentials but rather calls for eligibility through state licensing and participation in a “tiered system of quality.”

8. What is an entitlement? What does that mean? 

Congress is creating a new entitlement. An entitlement is a federal program or provision of law that requires payments to any person that meets the eligibility requirement. Simply put, it will be there for families that are eligible.

9. More families will be eligible and served – what does that mean? How will I find families? 

Right now, 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. Build Back Better says: if a family with a child under 6 is eligible for support, they will receive that support. 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 (eligibility expands some more each year from FY2022 through FY2025), instead of the 1 out of 6 served now in subsidy.

10. Public funding for preK has really hurt child care in my state because they don’t recognize that I’m an expert too, and children are learning in my program.

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 preK investment does not start with the schools in the legislation.

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.

11. I’m worried my governor won’t apply.

States can choose whether to participate in this new investment. The governor will decide to participate in the child care entitlement funding, the preK funding, or neither one, one or the other, or both. Here are some scenarios:

  • If the governor chooses to participate in the child care entitlement funding, CCDBG law will still be in place but with a different focus of the funding: children 6 and up (school-age child care).
  • 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.
  • If the governor chooses to participate in the preK funding, 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 in the preK funding, there will be new/additional Head Start funding, and the option for a locality to apply to be a part of this.

In our next FAQ roundup:

  • Diving into payment and compensation
  • Diving into “tiered systems of quality” and your experiences with QRIS
  • What about school-age children?
  • And more of your questions about the details!

Have a question? Email it to policy@nafcc.org