President Obama Signs Child Care and Development Block Grant into Law

Just before noon today, President Obama signed into law the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. The bill, which provides child care assistance to families and funds quality initiatives for child care, had not previously been reauthorized since 1996.  Today’s signing follows an overwhelming show of bi-partisan support during Monday’s Senate vote on the legislation. This bi-partisan bicameral effort was led by Representatives John Kline (R-MN), George Miller (D-CA), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and David Loebsack (D-IA), and Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

“Every working parent with children, no matter their income level, worries about child care. What’s affordable? What’s accessible? Will my child be safe? Where can I get the best care for my kid? The CCDBG program has given many families over many years peace of mind, but we can and should be doing more to improve child care for children, parents and providers alike,” said Senator Mikulski, one of the leaders and original sponsors of the legislation. “It is long past time to revitalize, refresh and reform this vitally important program.”

As you know, this is huge news for families and a moment we should all celebrate!  Many of you have advocated for a number of years on the reauthorization of CCDBG, and in partnership with Child Care Aware of America, you’ve brought attention to the importance of this legislation to support the safe, healthy development of all children in child care settings.

Today we celebrate the recognition, through legislation, that children deserve safe, healthy, quality settings across the country.  This bill will significantly:

  • Enhance parental choice by providing information about available care options
  • Strengthen safety in child care settings by requiring all providers  to comply with state health, safety, and fire standards and undergo annual inspections
  • Promote high quality child care by reserving funds at the state level to improve the quality of care provided to children, enhancing states’ ability to train providers and develop safer and more effective child care services

And it is all thanks to you. Your support got us here. Your calls, letters and emails to Congress made this happen. Your stories showed policymakers why this bill is so important to America’s working families and to millions of children’s health and safety. Now is the time to celebrate all that has been accomplished in 2014. For those of you who attended our child care Symposium in April, our “something big” is finally here. Congratulations! And thank you to Congress and the President for making children and working families a priority.

Look for more information as we seek to support the implementation. You can send a thank you to President Obama and to Congress for standing up for working families by visiting our action center, or tweet, tag, and share the image below with your members of Congress show your appreciation on social media:

Thank you CCDBG-Reauthorize

Building Relationships with Exceptional Families

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog by Richard Schott, Senior Chief of National Programs at Child Care Aware® of America. Rich is a 25-year veteran and retired colonel in the United States Marine Corps.

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of visiting Langley Air Force Base to take a deeper dive into Child Care Aware® of America’s U.S. Air Force Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).  For those of you not already familiar, the Air Force EFMP serves approximately 736 families stationed throughout the country in need of quality child care services. Many of these families have children diagnosed with moderate or severe special needs that require unique child care considerations and sometimes require specialized continuity of care. This program, free for eligible families, provides parents with brief, but vital relief from the daily tasks that come with a special needs child.

Upon arriving at Langley I met with Ursula Santiago, a U.S. Air Force EFMP-Family Support Liaison.  As an EFMP liaison, Ursula regularly attends Langley Air Force Base newcomer orientations with the responsibility of making parents aware of the EFMP program and encouraging eligible families to participate. Ursula showed a wealth of enthusiasm toward the work that she does.  As a mother of an EFMP child herself, Ursula understands first-hand how a little bit of time to yourself or with a spouse can make a world of difference.

“We try to fill in the gap and connect military families with what they need. I can honestly say that everyone involved has a heart to help. The Respite Care program gives families relief when they need it most.” said Santiago. “It has saved marriages.”

While at Langley, I also had the pleasure to meet with staff from The Planning Council, Child Care Aware® of America’s partner agency.  I visited their office and had a chance to speak with some of the case managers who work with EFMP child care providers, Air Force families at Langley, and Navy EFMP families in Norfolk, Virginia.  This dedicated group of individuals listen with intensity and work with sensitivity when connecting parents with their ideal provider.  The intake process may start with simple paperwork, but it moves quickly to over-the-phone conversations and in-person meetings between case managers and families. Case managers make every effort to completely understand the needs of the child, the capabilities of the provider, and the type of support both need to maintain such a close relationship for many years.

Everything I’d seen that day—from Ursula, to the case managers, to my own work—came together when I met Emma.  Emma is a child enrolled in the Navy Exceptional Family Member Program. She has a condition that requires her to wear a back brace.  I met Emma in her home, along with her mother and child care provider.  Emma’s happy interactions with them made it clear that her provider was more than an occasional caregiver, but a trusted partner in Emma’s care and a critical relationship in her development.  In one month, they would celebrate five years together. And those five years are what make the of the EFMP liaisons, The Planning Council, and everything that we do here at Child Care Aware® of America so inspiring. I returned home with a deeper sense of both pride and responsibility. The Exceptional Family Member Program is an invaluable system of support for families. To the providers, it’s more than just a job; it is about the relationships and the commitment to care. And to me, it’s a promise to building relationships that will positively impact the lives of children and families.

The Tragic Truth About Vehicular Heatstroke

You’ve seen it on the news. Every year as temperatures across the country rise, quiet children are forgotten in hot cars. The result is serious injury or death and families that are changed forever.

Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute.

Image via Safe Kids Worldwide

Vehicular heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related fatalities for children 14 and younger. Heatstroke has claimed the lives of 606 children from 1998 – 2013. Forty-four children died in 2013 alone. In 2014, there have already been eighteen deaths. With hyperthermia deaths occurring 11 months out of the year, that number will almost certainly rise. The good news is that these deaths are preventable.

What’s the number one cause of child vehicular heatstroke? Forgotten child care dropoff. The truth is that the majority of children who fall victim to heatstroke have the most loving and responsible of parents. The terrifying fact is that this mistake could happen to anyone… Even you.

Everyone has days where their thinking is distracted. If you’ve ever jumped in the car and reached your destination in what seems like record time, it’s probably because part of your brain set itself on “auto-pilot.” This is an instinctive reaction, a function of the primitive side of the brain, and can happen for any number of reasons. You could be sleep-deprived, stressed, doing too many things all at once or all three. So your brain sets your body in motion. Normally, your husband drops your baby off at child care. So on the day of his six-month dental cleaning, the same day your water heater goes on the fritz, the same day you’re running late to work because the baby spit up on your first outfit, is the same day your brain clicks to autopilot and allows you to drive past the turn to your child care provider’s home without a moment’s hesitation.

If you’re lucky, you’ve already made an absence verification plan with your provider and she calls you the moment your baby fails to show up for care. This simple phone call could save your baby’s life. The alternative is too horrific to imagine. I urge you to take the time to set up a plan right now. And follow these steps to prevent vehicular heatstroke from happening to another child:

  • NEVER leave a child alone in a car—not with the windows down, not with the car running, not even for a minute.
  • Remember that children overheat up to five times faster than adults. Heatstroke can happen even on mild or cloudy days.
  • Always check your backseat before you lock your car. Simple habits like keeping your purse or cell phone in the backseat are great ways to ensure a quiet child is never forgotten in your car.
  • Thirty percent of children who died of vehicular heatstroke gained access to an unlocked car and then trapped themselves inside. Never leave a vehicle unlocked and teach children never to play in or around cars.
  • Use technology to your advantage. The Kars4Kids Safety App, is a free, downloadable app that works with Bluetooth-enabled cars. The minute you and your phone leave the car, an alarm goes off reminding you to yes, check your backseat.
  • Watch our archived heat safety webinar for more prevention tips.
  • If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check that your child has arrived at their destination safely.
  • Visit safercar.gov/heatstroke for fact sheets, flyers, and other helpful heatstroke awareness materials.
  • For more information, visit the Safe Kids Worldwide page or check out these resources from the Administration for Children and Families.
  • If you see a child alone in a car, take action immediately. Don’t wait for the driver to return. If the child appears to be in distress, call 911 immediately.

Don’t let another child fall victim to heatstroke.  Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle and always check the backseat.

Working Families Summit Recap

working families summit

On Monday, I joined President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at the Omni Hotel in Washington D.C. for the first ever White House Summit on Working Families. The place was packed with policymakers, business and labor leaders, economists, reporters and their cameramen, and of course many advocates for working families, including parents and small business owners from across the country. The sum of us gathered for opening remarks with the same questions on our minds: What will it take to help working families succeed in the 21st century workplace, and how can we, as a nation, make it happen?

The theme of the day revealed itself early, as Dr. Jill Biden spoke about her personal experiences as a mother of three, working and going to school full-time in earlier years. Her husband and Vice President and later the Obamas would also speak to their own experiences of struggling to balance their careers with family and their children. The message was clear that although issues vary from one individual to another, no one is alone in these experiences. All working families experience these challenges.

I was very interested to see Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at New Republic and author of the Hell of American Daycare, would be moderating the opening plenary. Not surprisingly the issue of children’s health and safety in America’s child care system was brought up almost immediately. Jonathan raised the question of working families’ accessibility to quality child care, and though the panelist varied from Ivy League economics professor to Global Chairman and company CEOs, all seemed to agree that among the most basic needs of working families is the need for high-quality, early learning environments… Early learning environments where children of America’s working families can flourish in a safe and healthy setting that will stimulate their brains during the most critical of time in their development.

President Obama took the stage to talk about bringing the American economy into the 21st century and prepare workplaces to support working families in the coming decades.  He touched on the importance of spending time with family, the necessity of having flexibility in the workplace, the struggles of the “sandwich” generation who must deal with raising children, maintaining their careers, and caring for aging parents. He discussed his and Michelle’s experience as young working parents and the struggles they faced, and what he wants as a father for his two daughters.

President Barack Obama

“…I take it personally, because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies.  And I want them to be able to have families.  And I want them to be able to have careers.  And I want them to go as far as their dreams will take them.  And I want a society that supports that.“

And perhaps most importantly, the President talked at length about child care in America. He quoted directly from Child Care Aware® of America’s 2013 Parents and the High Cost of Child Care report when he pointed out that “in 31 states, decent child care costs more than in-state college tuition.” Obama went on to say that America must find a solution to rising child care costs and the burden it puts on so many families. In his own words, “child care, workplace flexibility, a decent wage… these are not frills these are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses; they should be part of our bottom line as a society.”

As fate would have it, my phone lit up just as Obama spoke about juggling careers and family obligations. I looked down and saw my daughter’s name appear on the screen.  Knowing she was with her grandparents visiting from Arizona.  I had to giggle. Really? Now?  The text exchange that followed went something like this:

ME: “Can’t talk right now. I’ll call you later”

MY DAUGHTER: “Kk”

MY DAUGHTER: “I’m just really bored, what are you doing?”

ME:  “Guess who this is?? President Obama!!” (with accompanying photo as I sat tables away from the President)

ASHLYN: “Cool, what is he doing?”

ME: “Giving a speech about kids like you and working parents like me!”

ASHLYN: “Oh”

ASHLYN: “I’m still bored”

I found it so ironic that just hours earlier I had listened to Vice President Biden emphasize the importance of every day moments, of which I am fortunate to have many with my children, and then, on that particular day, during that particular hour, my daughter was reaching out to me – at work – listening to President Obama!

Vice Preseident Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden

The President concluded his remarks by urging the audience to take action.

“As long as Congress refuses to act on these policies, we’re going to need you to raise your voices.  We need you to tell Congress don’t talk about how you support families, actually support families.  Don’t talk the talk.  We want you to walk the walk.

In the meantime, if Congress will not act, we’re going to need mayors to act.  We’ll need governors and state legislators to act.  We need CEOs to act.  And I will promise you, you will have a President who will take action to support working families.”

Later, the First Lady’s remarks echoed this call, saying “It’s up to us to change the conversation… That’s the job of all of us and it starts here… These conversations have to continue at the regional level. This is just the beginning. And it has to be a movement, and there has to be momentum, and it has to continue to the point where the pressure is real.” So let me also close by asking you to raise your voice. Help us walk the walk. Or as Maria Shriver put it, “We all have a story to tell, tell it.”

Lynette M. Fraga with Maria Shriver

One way to tell your state’s child care story is to share our 2014 State Fact Sheets with legislators and policymakers in your community. Child Care Aware® of America’s state fact sheets  provide data useful to child care advocates, policymakers, and program administrators as they make decisions around child care programs and expenditures in their state. The fact sheets look at the cost, use, and supply of child care in individual states, as well as family characteristics related to the need of child care, services provided by Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, and the child care workforce.

Visit usa.childcareaware.org  for the latest data on your state, or visit the workingfamiliessummit.org for more ways to get involved.

You can watch the President’s full remarks from the Summit below:

 

PBS NewsHour on the Cost of Child Care

Last week PBS NewsHour aired a story about child care and featured three families whose stories represent millions of others in the United States today; the story of families who find it is sometimes more affordable not to work, than to pay for child care, and the quality of child care they can afford.

I sat down with PBS NewsHour for the broadcast as well. We are often contacted for  comments, facts and history on the rising costs of child care – but few stories capture the real point behind our Cost of Care reports; that child care is an economic and education issue that affects everyone.

The cost of child care is certainly financial news, but more importantly the cost of child care highlights how our nation’s child care system is preventing families from working because it’s simply too expensive and families don’t often know what they’re really getting for that price.  Instead of a child care system that empowers families to make a better life for them and their children, we have a child care system that is fragmented and frankly, in too many cases, simply unsafe.

This summer, Child Care Aware of America will release its annual Child Care in America State Fact Sheets. These reports lay bare the numbers beyond cost – availability, how families pay for child care, what states pay to subsidize child care and many more facts about working families today. We look forward to the dialogue.

Meanwhile, what did you think of the PBS NewsHour broadcast? Watch,  then comment below.

 

Quality Child Care gives Families Peace of Mind

Child care providers have a deep and resounding impact on the children and the families they serve. This Provider Appreciation Day, we asked parents to send in stories about the early learning professionals in their children’s lives and the positive impact they have had on their family. The responses were overwhelming. Below we’ve highlighted  a few to sharewith you today, as we celebrate and honor the teachers that care for our youngest learners.

Preschool children in classroom with teacher“I really enjoy Scaife Day Care. They have been providing my son with great care since he has been three months and now he is five years of age.” –Crystal Davis, Milwaukee, WI

“I would like to thank, recognize and express sincere gratitude for the care my daughter, and family as a whole receives from Mercy Cares for Kids, especially the staff in Infant 2, Karan, Alketa and Leah. These ladies take care of my child as if she were their own while I am at work, they take on the duties of ‘mommyhood’ and the respect, care and comfort they provide to me and my daughter is exceptional. Every day is planned with social, educational and developmental information. Taking on the task of playing a large role in raising someone else’s child is neither something that is easy to do, nor a job for everyone. It takes a special person to be respectful, competent and devoted to young children. My appreciation for the care they provide to my family could never be expressed through words, and in attending events and functions at the site, it is evident that the entire center encompasses these wonderful traits.” – Julianne Brown, Albany, NY

“I love [Cozy Care] and their values. When the owner Traci Poellnitz, told me how the nursery and daycare is about EDUCATION I couldn’t believe myself. I thought wow… these preschoolers are learning Arabic! I’m all about education so when I heard what they do, I thought, this is a no-brainer.” –Alex Spencer, Cincinnati, OH

“When my son was born, I spent the first year of his life being a stay at home mom. It was amazing and I loved every day of it! However, I did have to return to teaching the following year. It was very hard for me to leave my son. He started off at an in home daycare. Things just weren’t working out. Communication was horrible, and my son did not have a daytime routine/schedule. This is when my husband and I decided to try him at a learning center. We were VERY nervous at first. We didn’t know what to expect, and we didn’t know how our son would adjust. Well, it’s been almost 5 months now and we couldn’t be happier!! My son is receiving EXCEPTIONAL care at Fundamentals Early Learning Center, and is learning new things every day! He absolutely loves his teacher and all of his classmates. We spent all of last week on vacation, and all he talked about was his teacher back at school and his classmates. This made my husband and I extremely happy! We are so proud and thankful to be a part of the Fundamentals family! We appreciate them!! “ –Whitney Lewis, Central Louisiana

On Family Circle Learning Center
“Best child care my husband and I have experienced. The teachers are great with the kids. We trust that our babies are well taken care of away from us!! Thank you for loving our babies as much as we do.” –Sherri Armendariz, Renton, WA

“I write a testimonial every year. Lenora is a fantastic provider for all the children she cares for. I am going on my eighth year with my children in her care. Tomorrow she is taking them to the strawberry patch. She always does fun and education trips with the kids, so it makes it a special time for them to look back at when they are older.

Thanks so much for all that you do Lenora. You are appreciated more than you know. I (and my family) would not have made it the past 8 years without you!” –Holly Price, Durham, NC

Quality child care providers are education professionals. Working families get peace-of-mind when they know their child is in the care of a trusted, quality provider. They are an integral part of a family’s support system.  This Provider Appreciation Day, we urge you to not only celebrate the early educators in your life, but also to remember that their training and professional development directly impact the quality of care they are able to provide. It’s time to create a quality child care system that works for families and providers and pays a living wage to our child care professionals.

Provider Appreciation Day Logo

Beyond Appreciation…Gratitude for our Nation’s Child Care Providers

Editor’s note: In honor of Provider Appreciation Day, today’s post shares a personal account of how Lynette’s child care provider supported her son and family in a time of crisis.

It was a few days after my son’s second birthday. The day began, hurried as most and late as usual. I was doing my best to reach the office by 9AM.  I hadn’t quite mastered the art of juggling of work and parenthood (Do we ever? Perhaps that’s a question for another blog). But, I remember enjoying our time together after settling into the car for our 20 minute commute to his child care provider. It was our special time…talking and singing to our favorite music on the radio.

My search for a child care provider was typical of many….looking through lists, asking lots of questions, and trying to find the right person to partner with in the nurturing of my son while his father and I were at work.  With extended family on the opposite coast, we desperately needed and depended on the right person.  After two months, we found her.  The sleepless nights were over and I began to breathe again.

This particular morning went smoothly.  I arrived at her home, chatted a few minutes about how my son interacted the previous night and about our morning commute.  I gave him a big kiss good-bye and was off to the second phase of my trip to work.  I  enjoyed my daily ride on the Metro; it provided helpful transition time to recalibrate from being a mommy to a manager. Crossing the river from Virginia to DC was a symbolic bridge between family and work.

When I arrived to the office emotions were running high.  I had no idea what was going on.  A group of my colleagues were gathered around a workstation with the radio on.  There had been a plane; it hit a tower in Manhattan. Soon a plane would hit the Pentagon…very close to home.  It was about 9:20 AM,  September 11, 2001.

The rest of the day was a blur.  The phones weren’t working, and we couldn’t reach anyone.  The trains were shut down, and there was no way to get back across the river into Virginia.  There were rumors of more attacks, explosions, threats.  I couldn’t reach my son.  I couldn’t reach him…

After what seemed like days, I finally was able to reach her.  She was so calm, so reassuring.  “He’s fine, don’t worry,” she said. ” We are all playing and eating and we are fine.  He is safe and loved.”

At that moment, when I needed her most, when he needed her most, during one of the most challenging days in our nation’s history, my child care provider held both my son and I in her heart and in her arms.

I finally made it to her home and to my son several hours later.  He was happy, safe and sound. That night I put my son to bed squeezing him tight and holding him for hours.

I will always remember the feeling of not being able to reach him at a moment of crisis; to hold and protect him.  I will always be grateful for the woman who welcomed us into her home and family and who we welcomed into ours.

The effects of that September day lasted for weeks, months, and for many of us, for years. Now 14 years old, my son still talks about her. It is clear she made such an impact on him.  Mostly he remembers the nurturance, care and affection she provided him. For that I am forever grateful.

On this Provider Appreciation Day I hope everyone says a word of gratitude to the special child care provider in their life.  I still do!