WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 25, 2014 -
As you may know, the full committee recently held a hearing to review the federal investment in early childhood care and development. During the hearing, we explored opportunities to streamline and improve existing programs to better serve children and their families.
Today we will continue that discussion as we examine one of the largest and most critical programs in the nation’s network of early childhood programs, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, or CCDBG, program.
Authorized in 1996 under the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act the CCDBG program provides funds to states to help low-income families access child care. Parents receive funds in the form of vouchers or certificates to pay for the child care provider of their choice, be it public or private, secular or religious, or in a home-based or center setting.
CCDBG is invaluable to parents who are struggling to provide for their families. As a father of two boys, I know firsthand child care isn’t just finding a place for your kids to go during your work day. It’s a far more difficult decision about choosing a provider where you can trust trained professionals will care for your child in a safe environment.
Unfortunately, this is where CCDBG falls short. In the nearly two decades that have passed since the last reauthorization of the law, it has become increasingly clear the CCDBG program fails to ensure states develop or adequately enforce the health and safety, training, and inspection standards that are the foundation for quality care.
Last year Child Care Aware of America released a report ranking state child care center regulations and oversight. The report found 10 states failed to conduct monitoring visits or inspections at least once a year. Even more troubling, five states do not check the child abuse registry before allowing an individual to work in a center.
With nearly 1.5 million children and their families participating in the CCDBG program, federal policymakers must take steps to strengthen the program and ensure enhanced program quality and accountability.
As many of you know, our colleagues in the Senate recently approved the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization Act of 2014. As Chairman Kline noted in our previous hearing on early care programs, the Senate legislation presents a solid foundation for reform.
I am pleased the Senate legislation includes language to raise standards for child care providers, requiring states to implement minimum training requirements and conduct annual inspections of license providers. These provisions will help ensure caregivers are equipped to handle common health conditions and emergency situations, while also promoting facilities that are cleaner and safer for our children.
The Senate legislation also takes important steps to enhance transparency and better inform parents of their child care options. Under the bill, states are required to make public information on a range of key issues, including availability of child care services, the quality of providers, data on childhood development research and best practices.
While many of these provisions will help to improve the quality of child care, we must also take steps to ensure these new requirements will help – not hinder – states in meeting the needs of children and their families. I also hope today we can discuss policy changes that work to streamline the federal early childhood system and help increase coordination among existing programs.
If we are truly here to fight for people, and to empower people, so they can build better lives for themselves and their families, access to quality child care is something we must address.
The reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act provides an opportunity to work together to advance bipartisan legislation that will help our nation’s most vulnerable children and families. I also look forward to examining the strengths and weaknesses of the CCDBG program, and discussing opportunities for consensus between House priorities for reauthorization and the Senate-passed legislation.
# # #