Child Care Aware of America member testifies before House Subcommittee for CCR&R perspective on CCDBG Reauthorization

Editor’s Note:  On Tuesday, March 25, Paula Koos, executive director of Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA),  testified  before the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, which is chaired by Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN).  We asked Paula to share some of her testimony and a little bit about her experience speaking before the Subcommittee.

Guest blog by Paula Koos, executive director of Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Ms. Paula Koos, Executive Director, Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association, testified before a House Subcommittee on CCDBG Reauthorization.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Ms. Paula Koos, Executive Director, Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association, testified before a House Subcommittee on CCDBG Reauthorization.

Yesterday, I had the honor of testifying before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce about the need for quality, affordable child care. The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled “The Foundation for Success: Strengthening the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program.”

This hearing picked up the CCDBG Reauthorization conversation, which came in the wake of the Senate passing a bi-partisan reauthorization bill by a vote of 96-2 just a couple of weeks ago. Congressman Rokita kicked off the hearing with an opening statement discussing the importance of quality improvements to the current child care system and the solid foundation provided by the Senate’s CCDBG Reauthorization bill.

I was joined on the panel by Dr. Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Mrs. Linda Kostantenaco, President of the National Child Care Association; and Ms. Gloria Jarmon , Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A long overdue bill

The hearing was in response to the  historic measure passed by the Senate HELP Committee that would reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant. It is my hope, that the House can also pass CCDBG this year.

If passed, It would be the first reauthorization since 1996. It includes significant changes to the quality measures. The bi-partisan bill that was passed by the committee would require providers to undergo comprehensive background checks, receive orientation training and ongoing professional development, and be subject to initial and annual inspections.

I began my testimony by saying, “Child care is a way of life for the majority of families. It is the same in Oklahoma. But… child care is hard to find… hard to afford… and too often the quality is questionable. Parents worry about the cost… and they worry about whether or not their kids will be safe while mom and dad are at work.”

CCR&R’s are essential to communities

In addition to talking about the necessity for basic federal measures to ensure that children are safe in child care, the role of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies and the importance of these agencies within communities were a main theme of my testimony and many of my responses to the Representatives’ questions. After the four witnesses finished their testimonies, all four panelists answered a range of questions from the Subcommittee members about priorities for CCDBG Reauthorization, suggestions for where the current program could be improved, and any recommendations regarding the Senate’s CCDBG Reauthorization bill.

A memorable experience

Despite the snowy weather in my time in Washington D.C., I could not have been more honored to have had the opportunity to represent OCCRRA, the entire Child Care Resource and Referral field, Child Care Aware® of America and the millions of parents and families that rely on safe, quality and affordable child care in this nation.  It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

 

Get more:

Full text of opening statements and testimonies from the hearing

Watch the archived webcast of the hearing

5 Reasons CCDBG Reauthorization matters

Paula Koos has 40 years experience working with nonprofits including 25 years as an Executive Director.    She spent 22 years traveling around the country working with the Girl Scouts and was a certified Girl Scout Executive Director.  After retiring from Girl Scouts and 25 years away from Oklahoma, Paula returned home and has put her knowledge and expertise to work in the early education field, serving on numerous committees in the state and fostering efforts at collaboration.   She received her Masters in Recreation Management and her Bachelors of Science in Physical Education from the University of Oklahoma.  She received a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Case Western Reserve University, attended the Yale University Leadership and Decision Making in Organizations Seminar and the Harvard Business School Corporate Management Seminar and completed Principles of Fund Raising at The Fund Raising School.    

California makes progress ensuring basic health, safety of children in licensed child care

Guest blog from Kim Johnson, Public Policy Director, California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

Editor’s Note: Child Care Aware® of America participated in a story with a California investigative reporting team writing about families’ access to licensing and inspection information on child care in their state. The story, which also featured an interview with Kim Johnson, public policy director at the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network prompted local lawmakers to move forward getting inspection records online and easily accessible for families. Kim writes here as a guest blogger about the history and progress of protecting children in child care in California and why this might be the year the system gets a much needed technology fix.

California’s licensing program, the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) performs the essential function of protecting the basic health and safety of children in licensed centers and family child care home settings in California. Budget cuts and compliance procedures have resulted in a program that now provides inadequate oversight and monitoring of these facilities – as few as one site visit over five years.

Prior to 2003, licensed child care centers were required to receive a site visit at least once a year and family child care homes three times a year under CCLD. In reality site visits may occur as few as once in five years from the licensing program, hardly enough to ensure minimum safety in an industry with high staff turnover.

The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network (the Network) has led efforts that would require more frequent inspections by sponsoring Assembly Bill 419 (Mitchell): Care facilities, in the 2011-12 legislative session and in the current year with Assembly Bill 1454 (Calderon): Care facilities: regulatory visits.

Research demonstrates that licensed programs are more likely to be in compliance with required regulations if inspections occur more frequently. In addition, inspections are associated with lower rates of accidents requiring medical attention.

The Network strongly encourages the allocation of new resources to expand states’ capacity to ensure the basic health and safety of children in licensed child care settings by strengthening the licensing infrastructure.

The Governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year provides additional funding to the Licensing Division to strengthen their accountability and oversight and to make efficiencies. The discussion about this proposal in Budget Committees in both the Assembly and Senate, demonstrate that the Legislature is also supportive of providing new resources to the Licensing Division.

Paired with recent television and print media attention that highlights California’s need for improvement, citing research such as, Child Care Aware® of America’s 2013, “We Can Do Better Report,” may just put this issue over the tipping point to make positive change.

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to learn more about AB 1454 and support this effort by signing the Network’s petition located here: http://www.rrnetwork.org/support_ab_1454.

Recent Media:
NBC Bay Area Coverage
California Lags Behind in Child Care Oversight
Completely Outdated Inspection System Needs Fix

Parents Struggle to Access Child Care Records
California’s Lack of Online Child Care Records Leaves Parents in the Dark

Kim Johnson serves as the Public Policy Manager of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network where she guides the Network and its member agencies in budget and legislative analysis, public policy education and advocacy efforts. Kim also leads the Network’s Public Policy Committee. She is a mother of three.

More in the States: Virginia progress on background checks for child care providers

5 reasons the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant matters

ccdbg reauthorize2The Senate will consider the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) as early as next week. As you know, this federal law outlines how child care funding and quality initiatives are funded in the states –yet it has not been reauthorized in over 17 years, making the Senate debate next week one of the most critical conversations about children in child care in recent times.

This piece of legislation, S. 1086, is something for which Child Care Aware® of America has long fought and we’re thrilled and hopeful that the bill has come this far.  There are many steps to take still, but if passed, this legislation would help ensure working families have access to safe, affordable child care in ways that do not exist today.

Children and families in America are counting on you and I to rally behind every step the CCDBG reauthorization takes towards becoming reality. That’s why we are urging everyone to contact their Senators and ask them to support S.1086 right away.

Need more? Here are five reasons the reauthorization of CCDBG matters:

  1. Comprehensive background checks. Did you know under the current law, many states do not require child care providers to have comprehensive background checks to work in child care? This means that it’s possible for anyone to receive child care funds and work with children… even sex offenders. This CCDBG reauthorization requires providers undergo a comprehensive background check, which include state and federal fingerprint checks, sex offender registry check and a child abuse and registry check. It’s a common sense requirement to keep children safe.
  2. Increased quality funds to states. The current CCDBG law requires that states use 4 percent of funding from CCDBG for quality dollars. These quality dollars help Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies support quality initiatives like training and parent education. This number of quality dollars increases dramatically with S.1086 requiring that states set aside no less than 6 percent of funds in 2014, 8 percent of funds in 2016, and 10 percent of funds by 2018 to improve the quality of child care.
  3. Increased awareness for families. This CCDBG reauthorization requires states to electronically post the results of monitoring and inspection reports, including substantiated complaints of child care programs. Additionally, states would be required to collect and make public the number of deaths, serious injuries, and instances of child abuse. Transparency is necessary to help parents choose the right child care setting for their family.
  4. Inspect child care programs before licensing. Many states do not require inspections prior to issuing child care licenses. Some states even allow self-certification prior to receiving a license. The CCDBG reauthorization, S.1086, requires states to inspect programs at least once before licensing and at least one unannounced inspection annually. These reports must also be posted electronically.
  5. Continuity of care. S.1086 ensures each child who receives assistance through CCDBG will continue to be eligible for child care assistance for no less than 12 months, as long as family income does not exceed 85 percent of state median income for a family of the same size. This is extremely important for our youngest learners because we know how crucial continuity of care is in a child’s early years. The ability to keep a child in a program consistently will help ensure the child receives appropriate developmental activities and prepares them to start kindergarten ready to learn.

This is a critical moment for the future of children in child care. You can send an email to your Senators through our Action Center here and to learn more about the bill, please visit our website here. Don’t delay. Your senators will need to know your position as they prepare to discuss the bill.

Thank you for your support for children in child care.

Virginia Progress on Background Checks for Child Care Providers

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Elly and Cameron Lafkin preparing for their interview on Weekend Today, August 2013

Guest Blog by Sharon Veatch, Executive Director, Child Care Aware® of Virginia

At Symposium in 2013, I met Elly Lafkin, one of Child Care Aware® of America’s parent leaders, whose baby, Camden, died in a child care program in Shenandoah, Virginia in 2012. It was heartbreaking to hear that during the police investigation of Camden’s death, the police processed the child care provider’s fingerprints and found that the woman had several aliases and a history of criminal offenses. When Elly said that she and her husband would have made a different choice had they only known about the provider’s past, I knew I would make changing the law in Virginia a top priority for the 2013 session.

There were many things to do and we needed to do them quickly. We drafted background check legislation and materials. We met with Voices for Virginia’s Children to request that the background check bill be included in their children’s agenda. We met with stakeholders such as the Department of Social Services, the State Police, the Virginia Child Care Center Association (VCCA), the Virginia Alliance of Family Child Care Associations (VAFCCA), and the VA Association for the Education of Young Children (VAEYC) and the religious community. With each meeting we had, there were concerns raised that we sought to address.

After meeting with several state legislators, we identified sponsors to introduce the bills in the House and Senate. In January, we succeeded in getting bills introduced to require fingerprint background checks for child care providers: HB 412, with Co-Patrons of Delegate Richard Anderson, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and Delegate Chris Peace, and SB 639 with by Senator Emmett Hanger. A fiscal impact concern started to derail the process so we worked out a compromise with the sponsors. The compromise was to require a task force to convene stakeholders (the Department of Social Services, the state police, the child care provider community, parents, etc.) and to recommend ways to implement a fingerprint check system at the lowest possible cost in a practical and effective manner. The task force recommendations would be due on November 1, 2014 with enough time to prepare the recommendations in bill form for the 2015 session.

We testified at budget hearings, committee hearings, and worked with VA legislators and staff. Elly Lafkin testified before the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee to make the case about why parents believe background checks are important. We met with every member of the House HWI Committee and the Senate Rules Committee (the committees where the bills had been referred). In the end, the bill passed the House and the Senate. Our child care team made it happen. Elly is looking forward to standing at the Governor’s side as he signs Cami’s bill into law. Next year we’ll be back with a draft bill to implement the task force’s recommendations.

Get More:
Elly and Cameron Lafkin told their story on the Weekend Today Show, August 2013, with an interview from Child Care Aware® of America.

From Rhetoric to Reality: Inspiring the Nation to Action

SOTU2014Steeped in history and required by the United States Constitution, the President is required “from time to time” to give the Congress information about the State of the Union and to recommend for their consideration measures he deems “necessary and expedient.”

It’s more than a great speech- it is an opportunity to focus the nation on key national priorities. Some are remembered for their historic moments like President Bush’s first after September 11th when he encouraged “We go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”

President Clinton when he called on Congress to create “The Information Superhighway” or President Kennedy challenging our nation to land a man on the moon. And who can forget the 50-year-old declaration from President Johnson on a “War on human Poverty.”

Focusing on early education
Last year’s State of the Union Speech by President Obama held that same hope for child advocates everywhere. For the first time in a generation, the President placed early education front and center- much more than a mere mention in a laundry list of domestic priorities.

President Obama reminded us and educated others that a child’s first years of life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success later in school. He made it about education but also about economics, noting the fact that high-quality early learning programs can help level the playing field for lower-income families and put them on the path to economic security and self-reliance. The President took the historic step of calling on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool for every child in America and asserting that a zip code should never predetermine the quality of any child’s educational opportunities.

The good news is that tonight, during his 5th State of the Union address, the President stated, “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education… we can’t wait. So, just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children.”

The great news is that he and his administration are already taking important steps to turn that rhetoric into reality.

More than talk
Late last year, early childhood education was one of the biggest winners in the most recent federal Appropriations bill – receiving a more than $1 billion increase in federal funding for Head Start, Early Head Start, Child Care and grants to states. Congress clearly heard the overwhelming support for early learning from key voices across the country including business leaders, law enforcement officials, economists, governors – and many more. This increased federal funding will more than restore early childhood education sequestration cuts, as well as provide a significant increase in funding. A bill reauthorizing CCDBG has been introduced and has bi-partisan support in the Senate. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act has been introduced and has bipartisan support in the House.

Making investments in high-quality early childhood care and education is a clear economic solution backed by a proven body of research, high returns on investment, and it’s the right priority for our policymakers.

By increasing federal investments, we can ensure that our children do better in school, acquire the skills necessary to compete in the 21stcentury economy, get higher-paying jobs, rely less on social programs and contribute more to the economy as adults. We also know that learning begins from birth and that quality affordable child care, from infancy, is critical to our nation’s families. We will continue to “raise our hands” and our voices this year to ensure that high quality child care is a major part of the nation’s early education agenda.

To draw from past inspirations from our President, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”

So let’s do what works and make sure that none of our children start the race of life already behind.

Get more:
Follow Child Care Aware® of America live tweets from the White House
Discuss the issues live: Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium
Child care provider reacts to Cost of Care Report
Strong Start for America’s Children Act

Harkin, Miller, Hanna propose Strong Start for America’s Children Act

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Today, Congress sent a clear message to the nation.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congressman George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013 in the Senate and House, respectively. Flanked by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and actress Jennifer Garner, Harkin and Miller introduced the bill before a packed room of early education advocates including parents, educators, and members of the law enforcement, military, and business communities – and children!

“Families are trying to give their children the right start in life and are not given the opportunity. They deserve better”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.

The legislation would follow much of  President Obama’s FY 2014 Budget proposal:

  • Creating a new program providing enhanced access to preschool for 4-year-olds
  • Expanding partnerships between Early Head Start and child care programs, and
  • Provide guidance on the importance of home visiting

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently offer state-funded pre-kindergarten programs. The Harkin-Miller-Hanna proposal would build on these existing state programs, while supporting infrastructure development in states without programs.

At the same time, the proposal ensures families have increased access to quality care, by including more funds for quality initiatives in child care settings and expanding partnerships with Early Head Start programs in their communities.

The Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act in September. Now, along with the Harkin-Miller-Hanna proposal, we continue to see Congress is listening, and they know children and families deserve better.

Although there is still work to do, the Harkin-Miller-Hanna legislation is a vital step forward validating the importance of quality early learning experiences nationwide.

What is QRIS? Webinar series continues Thursday

As Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) have expanded across the country, states are focusing on the “I,” improving quality.

Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (CCR&Rs) are important players in the quality improvement landscape and have a large stake in the structure and functioning of QRIS.

Our “Raise Your Hand” webinar series continues on Thursday, with Gerrit Westervelt, Ph.D., Executive Director of the BUILD Initiative and its QRIS National Learning Network, leading an interactive discussion of the evolution of QRIS, the increasing attention to QI strategies, and how QRIS are shaping state early learning systems.

We invite you to join us for this important webinar, Raise Quality, part of our ongoing series that is designed to increase awareness about federal and state opportunities to support child care, connect participants with content experts, and promote meaningful action to get the job done.

Register here.