U. S. Senators Gordon H. Smith (R-OR) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) introduced legislation last week that will help ensure America's working families have access to affordable and safe child care. The Child Care Investment Act of 2008 will boost funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which helps low-income families across the nation afford quality child care.
"With American families under increasing strain in these difficult economic times, now more than ever we must do more to ensure that children are placed in safe child care settings that will encourage their development," said Smith. "By increasing funding and encouraging states to improve the quality of child care they provide, we will be able to help many more children and provide their hard-working parents with a sense of relief."
"Access to quality child care is critical to working families. It provides a stable environment in which children can develop, and it provides much-needed support and peace of mind for working parents," said Lincoln. "Particularly in tough economic times, the cost of child care can place a strain on household budgets that are already burdened by the rising costs of fuel and other basic necessities. I've heard from a growing number of Arkansas families who are in desperate need of child care assistance. Unfortunately, federal funding for child care vouchers has not kept pace with inflation, resulting in a decrease in the number of children served through the program."
CCDBG funding has remained at the same level since 2002, significantly decreasing the number of families able to utilize the program. Current CCDBG funds are only able to assist with child care costs for about one out of every seven eligible children. By most estimates, more than 200,000 children in our nation will lose child care assistance by 2009 due to the increasing cost of care.
Smith and Lincoln's legislation would raise CCDBG mandatory funding from its current level of $2.9 billion to $4 billion. The bill encourages states to invest in child care improvement initiatives by requiring states to comply with two or more of the following to receive the full increase in funding:
Develop and implement or maintain a Quality Rating and Improvement System for child care centers and family child care homes that leads to nationally recognized high standards, and provide assistance for education, training and compensation initiatives to assist child care providers.
Create or support a statewide network of infant and toddler specialists.
Require at least 40 hours of appropriate health, safety and child development training prior to employment with or operation as a provider.
Ensure that licensed and registered center and family child care providers are visited by monitoring staff at least twice per year, once on an unannounced basis.
Pay reimbursement rates for providers serving children in the subsidy system at market rates that meet or exceed the 75th percentile of a current market rate survey.