U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, was joined today by Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the HELP Committee, and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, to announce that they have introduced the bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2013, which reauthorizes and updates the CCDBG program. This program helps low and moderate income parents access and afford child care while they work or attend school.
"Every working parent with children, no matter their income level, worries about child care," Senator Mikulski said. "What's affordable? What's accessible? Will my child be safe? Where can I get the very best care for my kid? The CCDBG program is supposed to give parents peace of mind. And for many families over many years, it has. But we can and should be doing more to improve child care for children, parents, and providers alike. It is long past time to revitalize, refresh and reform this vitally important program."
"When parents leave their children in the care of someone else, they want to know their children are in a safe place with qualified providers. The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is an important federal program to ensure that low-income parents have access to child care so that they can work. Since its creation, the CCDBG program has experienced many positive developments that have boosted the quality of federally-subsidized child care," said Senator Burr. "Tragically, incidents of child abuse and endangerment have occurred in these day care facilities, and it's time Congress acts to assure parents and taxpayers that these children are in a safe place. The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 is bipartisan, commonsense legislation that updates this law to reflect these realities. And most importantly, I am very pleased that this legislation includes my bill to require criminal background checks for all child care providers, an important step in protecting America's children."
"I am pleased to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to improve CCDBG. I am especially excited about the new focus on providing access to quality early childhood care and education," said Chairman Harkin. "This is an evidence-based approach to closing the readiness gap for low-income children, giving them a fair shot at success when they enter school. We know that these are smart investments for our children, our families, and the future of our country."
"Access to quality child care can make all the difference in a child's early years, and this program has helped nearly 30,000 Tennessee families not only afford to enroll their children in child care, but be able to choose the type of care that's best for their family," Senator Alexander said.
When the CCDBG program was last reauthorized in 1996, the program rightly focused primarily on workforce aid. But in the intervening years, more has been learned about the necessity of not just providing children with a place to go, but also the importance of providing them with high-quality care. The HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families held three public hearings over the past Congress - consulting with parents, childcare providers and early learning and developmental experts and other child care advocacy organizations - to explore how best the CCDBG program could be reauthorized and improved.
The legislation introduced this week by Senators Mikulski, Burr, Harkin and Alexander incorporates feedback and suggestions provided to the Committee over the past year. The bill requires states to devote more of their funding to quality initiatives, such as: training, professional development, and professional advancement of the child care workforce. The bill ensures that CCDBG providers meet certain health and safety requirements, related to prevention and control of infectious diseases, first aid and CPR, child abuse prevention, administration of medication, prevention of and response to emergencies due to food allergies, prevention of sudden infant death syndrome and shaken baby syndrome, building and physical premises safety, and emergency response planning. The legislation gives families more stability in the CCDBG program and works to improve early childhood care by requiring states to focus on infant and toddler quality initiatives. Finally, the bill requires mandatory background checks for child care providers in the CCDBG program.