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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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

Sandra J. Skolnik, a woman who made a difference

March is Women’s History Month and in that spirit we’re proud to host an award that honors an incredible woman, Sandra “Sandy” J. Skolnik.

SandraSkolnikbwSandy Skolnik grew up with a working mother and knew the balancing act that required, though during her childhood having a mother working outside the home was the exception. That perspective undoubtedly influenced her drive to pioneer the development of the Maryland Child Care Resource Network, a private-public partnership that continues to provide needed services for Maryland’s families with young children today. She also served as the Executive Director of the Maryland Committee for Children for over 30 years and was instrumental in growing the organization from a part-time staff of two, to a staff of over 75 committed to children and families.

Above all, Sandy was a passionate visionary and a dedicated advocate for quality child care and education for young children. The recipient of numerous awards and honors during her life, we now honor Sandy’s legacy each year by granting an outstanding professional working on behalf of children and families within the Child Care Resource and Referral field, with The Sandra J. Skolnik Public Policy Leadership Award.

Established in 2008, past winners of the Sandra J. Skolnik award include its namesake Sandra J. Skolnik; Linda Foy, Childhood Development Service; Patty Siegel, California CCR&R Network; Clinton Macsherry, Maryland Family Network; and Elizabeth Bonbright, Child Care Aware® of Washington.

Do you know a remarkable advocate for children and families? Please visit the Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium page for instructions on how to nominate your colleague. The winner will be announced at symposium April 2-4.

Act now! Nominations must be submitted by March 12.

Congratulations to Let’s Move! for reaching four years

February marks the fourth anniversary of Let’s Move!, America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. As a Let’s Move! Child Care partner, Child Care Aware® of America joins in celebrating this milestone. We have worked with Let’s Move! Child Care on many projects over the past years.

Here are a few of our favorite moments:

Let’s Move! Child Care Physical Activity for Trainers

Farm to Preschool: Digging in to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

Taking Care of You With MyPlate

Focusing on the Whole Child
We’ll be talking about the health and education of the whole child at our second Health Aware event, as part of the 2014 Symposium. Join us on Friday, April 4 for Health Aware with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Save the Children, Child’s Environmental Health and Let’s Move! Child Care.

Learn more about how Child Care Aware® of America works with Let’s Move! here.

Raise Your Hand discussion continued at Symposium

Child Care Aware® of America hosted its first Raise Your Hand for Child Care virtual event. This event included a live reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) and Twitter chat to conclude our Raise Your Hand for Child Care five-month webinar series, which was created to build awareness about federal and state policy opportunities to support child care.

18500129_ryh-social-media-ad-redditThe Raise Your Hand series united coalition partners and early childhood advocates nationwide and the virtual finale event gave the public the chance to ask questions about early childhood policy, the child care subsidy system, the Preschool for All movement, and more. To view the entire reddit event, click here. support child care. 

Not only did our virtual event help us engage parents and families around the country, but it also generated lots of questions that we’ll be addressing at our 2014 Symposium.  Many of 27 breakout sessions taking place at Symposium will talk about the new funding for Early Head Start – Child Care partnerships, research about families and best practices for training providers, and so much more we chatted about during the Raise Your Hand virtual event.

Get more at Symposium
The Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium will take place April 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. This three-day event will focus on child care and early education policies and bills currently before Congress, as well as research, practice and innovation approaches for child care that are shaping how families access quality child care. To register for Symposium, please visit our website here and follow the conversation on Twitter using #RYH4ChildCare.

Sneak Preview
Be sure to check the Early Directions blog often. Over the next few weeks you’ll get a peek into some of the 2014 Symposium sessions through guest bloggers who will also present at Symposium.  We are proud to present sneak preview blogs from:

Join us in preparing for the 2014 Symposium where we’ll celebrate our field and keep the momentum forward as we do something BIG 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

Congress Set to Pass Spending Bill with Investments for Early Learning

Tweet your thanks with this image!Wednesday, Congress will begin voting on a spending bill that includes investments in early childhood education.

Late Monday night, Senate Appropriations Chair Senator Barbara Mikulski and House Appropriations Chair Representative Hal Rogers announced an agreement on a spending bill that will fund the government through September 30, 2014. The spending bill consolidates the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government each year into one “Omnibus” spending bill.

The Omnibus spending bill would set spending for the rest of Fiscal Year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, which allows for some relief of the sequester, which had set spending at $967 billion for the year, but falls short of the $1.058 billion proposed by the Senate and the Administration.

Some of the highlights of the bill’s investment in children and families include:

  • $2.36 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is an increase of $154 million over the FY2013 levels.
  • $8.6 billion for Head Start, which is an increase of $1.025 billion over the FY2013 level.
  • $500 million from the above $8.6 million will be put towards expanding access to Early Head Start, including the development of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grants to help improve the quality in child care programs.
  • $250 million for Race to the Top- Preschool Development Grants to help states develop, enhance, or expand quality preschool programs for children 4 years old or older from low-income families.

Leaders of both parties in Congress and the Administration support this Omnibus spending bill, sending a clear signal there is a federal commitment to invest in early childhood education.

Tweet Thanks
Although there is still work to do, join us as we tweet thanks to those Congressional members who supported children and families through this budget process.

  • Senator Tom Harkin @SenatorHarkin  Chair of Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee
  • Senator Barbara Mikulski @SenatorBarb  Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Congressman Hal Rogers @RepHalRogers  Chair of House Appropriations Committee
  • Senator Jerry Moran @JerryMoran  Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services  (Labor HHS) Subcommittee
  • Senator Richard Shelby @senShelby  Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Congresswoman Nita Lowey @nitalowey  Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee
  • Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro @rosadelauro  Ranking Member, House Appropriations LaborHHS Subcommittee
  • Congressman Jack Kingston @JackKingston  Chair, House Appropriations Committee
Tell them you appreciate their commitment to a quality early learning experience for young children and families. 
Get More
Bill details on the policy blog: Mikulski and Rogers Unveil Omnibus Spending Bill

2013: Setting the Stage for Young Children in 2014

For years Child Care Aware® of America has shared one message: affordable, high quality child care matters. It matters for children and it matters for families.

This year, the White House took notice, with President Obama making expanded opportunities for high quality child care and early learning not just a part of his policy agenda, but a central focus of that agenda so that “none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

This unparalleled attention to an issue that impacts the more than 11 million children in out of home care was met with welcomed hope and renewed inspiration.

Perhaps finally our pleas for focus and attention to quality and safety would be heeded.

Maybe all states that participate in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) would have to ensure minimum health and safety standards in their programs.

Perhaps training, which is currently required in only half of the states would be extended to all.

Maybe states would be expected to conduct routine inspections more frequently than every 5 or 6 years and background checks would be conducted on all who accept a fee for child care.

President Obama embraced this challenge early on, sharing his vision for a quality early learning system for all in his 2013 State of the Union address; promoting early learning as an economic development strategy and as essential to ensuring that children enter school ready to learn so we can prevent achievement gaps before they begin.

It didn’t end there. He backed it up with a promise to fund states who embraced quality. He proposed new regulations for CCDBG, a program which hadn’t been reauthorized in more than 17 years.

Later, in his budget, President Obama proposed a new $75 billion investment in a high quality, coordinated early learning program that would ensure all children would have access to preschool. The Obama administration leadership shed light on how few children have access to quality child care and that state laws vary greatly. They did so by focusing attention on five areas:

  • Improving the Quality of Child Care: Access to affordable, safe, quality child care is essential for all families: without it, many families are left with the untenable choice of leaving their children in substandard care, or risk losing their jobs. New comprehensive rules proposed by the Obama administration are pending and have been echoed in the first bi-partisan reauthorization proposal for CCDBG in more than 17 years. The proposed rule and CCDBG reauthorization set the stage for significant improvements in 2014 for the largest program funding child care services in the United States.
  • Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships: The President also announced plans to expand the supply of early learning for children from birth to age 3 by making a $1.4 billion investment in Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. This means Early Head Start grantees would partner with child care providers who agree to meet high standards of quality.
  • Preschool for All: In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. As part of that effort, the President will propose a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child – beginning at birth and continuing to age 5. By doing so, the President would invest critical resources where we know the return on our dollar is the highest: In our youngest children.
  • Empowering Parents: We all know the important role that families play in promoting the healthy development of their children, yet not all families are equipped with the information and support they need to create positive environments for their children to develop and learn. The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program created under the Affordable Care Act expands evidence-based home visiting programs in states to serve the most vulnerable children and families to better ensure that children are healthy and prepared for school and life. The President put forward a proposal to extend funding of this $1.5 billion program for another 10 years in the 2013 State of the Union address.
  • Raising the Bar for Early Learning through Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants: The Obama administration has invested in comprehensive improvements to state early learning systems through Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), a new competition that challenges states to deliver better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful education and training for early educators. This program represents an unprecedented opportunity for states to focus on early learning and development systems in their states and build a more unified approach to supporting young children and their families to make sure that more children, especially those with high needs, enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

We have much to be thankful for, and yet much more to do. Last year was a launch pad for action in 2014. Major legislation has been introduced and needs our sustained voices to gain momentum and convey the sense of urgency needed to propel it into law.

Child Care Aware® of America is not alone. We stand with hundreds of other committed organizations who share the same mission and goal. We stand with the parents and children whose stories tell us why we must demand action from decision makers.  Child Care Aware® of America has raised its hand and stands at the ready to make those decisions happen. Raise your hand. Stand with us in 2014.

Get more: Raise Your Hand webinar series on child care and early education in America.

Top 5 most read blogs in 2013

The year is coming to a close and Child Care Aware® of America wishes its members, partners and colleagues a safe and happy holiday season.

As we reflect on 2013, here are our top five blog posts:

#5  -  Dual Language Learning: Benefits and Practice
This Q&A with the National Council of La Raza generated lots of buzz, exploring the experiences of Latino children in child care and early education.

#4  - Harkin, Miller, Hanna propose Strong Start for America’s Children Act
The Harkin-Miller-Hanna legislation was a vital step forward validating the importance of quality early learning experiences nationwide. Get the details of the day.

 #3 – Parents and the High Cost of Care: A Report
This report went viral. With more than 400 news stories about the report, our analysis around child care costs in the United States struck a chord. Read the blog launch of the report on our 3rd most popular blog post of the year.

 #2 – Early childhood education major + college degree = low pay
An NPR report citing research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education found an early childhood education degree among the least lucrative of all college majors. See the other majors that made the list.

#1  Most read blog of the year: Child Care Provider Reacts to Cost of Care Report
A guest post from Kathy Banks, M.Ed., the executive director of the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia, was our most visited blog. See what she had to say about the Parents and the High Cost of Care: 2013 Report.

Did you read a blog that stuck with you? We’d love to hear about it. Send the title of your favorite blog at news@usa.childcareaware.org and tell us why it’s great.

Happy New Year from the team at Child Care Aware® of America.

Child Care Provider Reacts to Cost of Care Report

Child Care Aware® of America’s Parents and the High Cost of Care: 2013 Report received a huge reaction from the media – more than 250 references in the news, reaching an estimated 2 million readers and viewers.

In the report we noted child care is one of the lowest paying professional fields and one of the most labor-intensive. We asked a child care provider to share her perspective on the report.

Kathy Banks, M.Ed., is the executive director of the award-winning Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia. In this guest blog she shares how the field has changed over the years, and how her team works to balance a successful, high-quality child care program with an innovative approach.

~ Lynette

The Child Care Aware® of America publication, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report was a great prelude to the bi-partisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013, introduced last week by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY). The importance of early care and education is now being seen as what we, as providers, have known for decades. This age is a critical time of investment.

But while legislators continue to discuss why it is important for Americans to invest in early care and education on all levels, families continue to struggle to ensure their children remain in a high-quality program. The term child care suggests this is an institute for someone to watch children while parents work. While families do rely on child care to support working parents, the field has undergone great changes over the last few decades.

From child care to early education
Today, early care and education has improved the quality of learning for all children. With countless research findings how on a child’s brain develops, we now know that the influences children have in the first years of development are crucial to their success throughout their life. Because of this research, the field of early childhood education has increased quality requirements, added educational guidelines for teachers, and implemented early standards of learning that allow a child’s environment to be rich with positive interactions, and resources that enhance their learning experiences.

Preparing for kindergarten
Recognizing how essential it is to positively impact the brain activity while children are under age 5, educators now work to ensure that children are ready for the challenges that face them in kindergarten and beyond. Children who start kindergarten behind require additional services to catch up. If those services are not provided, children remain behind, and are subject to school failure.

The funding challenge
But public funding has yet to catch up with the quality changes. Many low-income families with young children can apply for federal assistance to help pay for child care. However, subsidy rates are at least 10 years behind the current market rates for child care services, and many  local social service departments have  long waiting lists.

If families do receive child care subsidies, many times, they are required to find quality care that will accept this subsidy rate. Many child care centers charge families, who are already struggling to afford care, the additional cost, over and above the subsidy rates. Right now, the subsidy leaves a balance that can range from $20 to $100 a week.

As the executive director of Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, we have made this struggle our mission.

Our solution
Working to ensure that all families have access to quality early childhood education, we work with private funders and foundations to make ends meet.

But all centers do not have this option.

They either provide the professional quality early learning environment that our children deserve, or provide substandard care, accepting the fees offered through public funding to support families.

Then there are families who don’t meet the income guidelines to receive a public subsidy, but still have difficulties meeting the costs associated with quality early care and education.

Tough choices
Sometimes, families opt to have one parent stay home because the loss of one income is more economical than the cost of child care. While this may seem a solution to the rising cost, as explained earlier, the research backing the importance of early childhood education shows that children enrolled in a quality program show greater outcomes than those children who have not experienced it at all.

Americans need to stop viewing early care and education as “just child care,” and commit to the financial investment in our future.

Kathy Banks, M.Ed., is the executive director of the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia.