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

Supporters rally for change at first-ever Family Advocacy Summit

Parents and real families are a powerful voice for children and child care. Many of our parent and family advocates have participated at past Symposiums, sharing their stories with Members of Congress and strengthening their advocacy skills through workshops and training. This year we decided to do things a little differently and hold another kind of event, separate from Symposium, fully focused on families and amplifying their messages. If you weren’t able to participate, here’s a quick run-down of the two-day Summit.

Parent Advocates

Parents and quality child care advocates from all across the country landed in Washington D.C. as early as Sunday for the first-ever Family Advocacy Summit.  Monday morning kicked off with an advocacy training presented by Jennifer Greppi, Efuru Lynch and Michelle Garcilazo of Parent Voices of California. Advocacy leaders Efuru and Michelle spoke to fellow family advocates on developing brief but powerful personal testimonies.

Here’s a quick rundown of their surefire tips for capturing the attention of policymakers:

  1. Start with the basics. State your name, the state you’re from, and what groups you are connected to (i.e. I am Jane Doe, a family advocate and member of Child Care Aware® of America/Parent Voices/etc. from Virginia).
  2. Follow with why you took the time to reach out to them. Paint a clear picture of the issue you want addressed and how it is affecting you and those in your community or state (i.e. I am here because last May, I was forced to leave my job because I had no access to quality, affordable child care…)
  3. Finally, leave the policymaker with a call to action. Tell them what they can do to help solve the issues you’re facing (i.e. reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant this November).

Efuru and Michelle also reminded family advocates to share their plans for following up, especially if the meeting is with policymaker staff rather than the elected official. By letting staff know when to expect your call or email, it gives them a deadline for regrouping with his or policymaker to gather his response to your message.

Efuru speaks to the crowd

After the first workshop ended, parents Avonda Fox, from Texas, Vicky Dougherty from Pennsylvania, and Elly Lafkin, of Virginia shared their own compelling and inspiring child care experiences with the group during a panel discussion. Avonda talked about her efforts to pass Jacob’s Law on behalf of her son, who died from heatstroke after his caregiver left him in a van for an unknown period of time in 103 degree temperatures. Vicky, who lost her son Warren when he was placed to sleep in a faulty crib, discussed her grassroots advocacy for the licensing and inspections of all child care providers. And Elly, an experienced campaigner for comprehensive background checks, discussed her experiences working with press and the media to gain exposure on the tragic and preventable death of her daughter Camden. Elly and her husband helped pass Cami’s Law in 2013, after their daughter died in the home of a provider who used five different aliases to hide a criminal history. All three of these women demonstrated their courage and conviction by sharing their tragedy and committing to taking powerful action toward change.

Parents Efuru and Avonda

Staffers from U.S. Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) offices joined the group for lunch. Both talked hopefully about the passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant when Congress returns from recess in November, and shared updates on what their respective officials were doing to support quality child care and early learning.

In the afternoon, parents gathered for a facilitated discussion around building a national policy agenda that would reflect child care and early learning issues facing parents from all walks of life. Health, safety, access and quality were key themes of the conversation. The parents also came up with solutions and advice they would give to all working families grappling with finding and affording quality child care. The discourse was thoughtful and eye-opening and left us energized as we concluded the day with preparation meetings for the following day on the Hill.

Parent Advocates

The next morning, over sixteen family advocates from eight different states boarded a bus with Child Care Aware® of America staff and travelled just over the Arlington Country line into D.C. The advocates separated into small groups as we all arrived at Capitol Hill and the families dispersed for their respective meetings with Congressional staff. As each group returned, they recounted their stories on camera and to each other. Together the families celebrated an overwhelming feeling of progress as a result of sharing their voice.


families and bus

The Family Advocacy Summit attendees returned to Arlington for lunch with the former Child Care Aware® of America executive director and current Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development for the Administration for Children and Families. The conversation ranged from the progress the Administration has made on issues related to children and families, to how our parent group could be an action task force for child care across this nation.

The Family Advocacy Summit was an incredible success and left both our family advocates and Child Care Aware® of America staff with renewed energy to work toward solving the complex issues with our current child care system. Our first hurdle is just around the corner, as we continue to push for the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) when Congress returns from recess in November. We know one thing for sure, without our exceptional  family advocates we would not be on the brink of celebrating such a win for millions of children and families across this nation.

family advocates

We hope that those of you who were unable to attend the Summit will be inspired by the work and dedication of these families to take action in your own way and help us in the campaign to strengthen the quality of child care for working families in every state.

We look forward to sharing important updates on CCDBG in November, and in the meantime, ask you to keep your advocacy efforts going. Child Care Aware® of America will continue to share ways for you to raise the volume on child care and early learning issues. Be sure to bookmark usa.childcareaware.org and watch for video clips from the Summit coming soon, including videos of our families telling their story on Capitol Hill.

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:

 

2014 Symposium kicks off with a great start

Read about days 2 and 3 of the 2014 Symposium

Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(HHS), received the Sandra J. Skolnik Public Policy Leadership Award during the opening session for the Child Care Aware of America 2014 Symposium, Wed April 2.

symposium 4Linda’s acceptance speech brought the nearly 300 attendees to their feet as she praised the Child Care Resource and Referral Community for their hard work to help the country advance its child care policies, as evidenced by the Senate passing the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Reauthorization just weeks ago. “The country understands the importance of quality child care,” Linda said.

symposium 1The day was filled with celebratory moments. From photos with the Walkaround Cookie Monster provided by Sesame Workshop to simply being in the nation’s capitol for the first time.

“The opening was very well done,” said Yuoeven Whistler, with Crystal Stairs, Inc in Los Angeles, CA. “The award for Linda was very moving and a great way to start the day.”

Too Small to Fail
symposium 5 Ann O’Leary, Vice President of Next Generation and Co-Director of Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, opened the event as the first keynote speaker.

“Children can make terrific gains if they have access to high quality child care,” she said.

Recalling her experience trying to get her child on a wait list for a quality child care center she said, “My wish for all parents is that they can search online and know they can find licensed child care and that a license means something.”

Ann added, “Quality early learning is not only about bridging an achievement gap, but it’s an economic issue.”

Breakout sessions
With nine breakout sessions following the opening luncheon, attendees had lots of options. From Family Engagement to Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships to Coaching Preschool Providers to success – every session was full.

“I could have listened for another hour,” said Nancy Thomson, from Child Care Connection in New Jersey. “With all the resource and referral agencies doing the technical assistance for QRIS, the session by Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) really showed an ideal picture of what we all should have. They have a lot of financial resources and put a lot of professional development into the staff working with the providers.”

 symposium 7Federal Panel
The day ended with a Federal policy update from Shannon Rudisill, Director of the Office of Child Care in the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Steven Hicks, Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Many questions surrounded the Early Head Start- Child Care Parnterships. The panelists said they were encouraged that the program would help build relationship between EHS and child care advocates. Learn more about EHS-CC.

symposium 6Preparing for Day on the Hill
A room packed full of representatives from states across the country gathered for the final meeting of the day to prepare for Day on the Hill. They prepared their talking points and picked up their Hill packets. But mostly, they were ready to thank Congress for supporting CCDBG and the many other positive policy actions taken throughout the past year on behalf of children and families.

1K for Kids
For those here in DC and at home, we’ve challenged eveveyone to make their voice heard for children. We’re asking everyone to help generate 1,000 actions for kids – or 1K for Kids – throughout Symposium.

In just a few hours we were nearly a quarter of the way to our goal! You generated more than 220 tweets, facebook posts, likes, and shares with #RYH4ChildCare.

But we have a long way to go. Learn how you can help grow our voice for children and get entered to win some fun prizes. Visit symposium.usa.childcareaware.org.

Meanwhile, find your photo from Sesame Street’s Walkaround Cookie Monster photo booth!

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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.    

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.

New farm bill hurts children, vulnerable

President Obama signed a $956 billion farm bill into law last Friday, the first farm bill passed by Congress since 2008. The bill is being hailed by many as an historic bi-partisan victory. Unfortunately, to the victor, go the spoils.

What’s the farm bill?
The farm bill establishes food and agriculture policy for the United States, and much of the bill, about 80 percent, pertains to nutrition benefits like food stamps, or, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Farmers will continue to receive generous federal subsidies that help them stay in business.  Unfortunately, the biggest losers in the farm bill are children and poor families.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) wrote,

“FRAC has opposed the SNAP cuts because they will harm too many of the most vulnerable members of our society, making monthly food allotments fall even further short of what is needed for seniors, people with disabilities, children, low-income workers, and unemployed people.”

How the farm bill hurt children
We all know how important child brain development is for predicting not only school achievement but success in life as well. And it should be intuitive that children who don’t eat don’t learn. So why then would Congress take the unprecedented step of cutting SNAP by $8.6 billion – when it would affect these benefits for millions of food-insecure families?

SNAP matters to children and families in every community. It serves the most vulnerable in society; 83 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with children, elderly persons or persons with disabilities. Half of SNAP enrollees are children. And benefits are already meager – averaging $1.40 per person per meal.

Nearly 49 million Americans live in households that are food insecure. Too often they are forced to choose between paying for food or rent, medicine, shoes for their children or heat – choices no family should have to make. Congress should be strengthening, not weakening SNAP.

The whole child
Investing in children early makes a difference, but they have to have their basic needs met to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Join us for Health Aware at the Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium where we’ll focus on the health and well-being of the “Whole Child.” Sessions include presenters from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Save the Children, Child’s Environmental Health and Let’s Move! Child Care

Get more:
Let’s Move! Child Care
2014 Symposium
Food  Research and Action Center