On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced new requirements for child care centers that serve children who receive federal subsidies through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). The requirements are meant to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care centers that serve low-income families and to make the process of obtaining subsidies less onerous on parents.
The provisions in the new rules include a variety of ways to improve quality and access:
- Implementing requirements for child care providers such as first aid and CPR training, background checks, and strengthened monitoring.
- Setting minimum standards for providers to comply with fire, health, and building codes.
- Providing parents with greater transparency about centers by making easy-to-understand information about the quality of care available.
- Facilitating the replication of best practices across the country and tracking the progress of those investments.
- Reducing unnecessary administrative burdens on families and improving coordination with other programs that serve low-income families.
Nearly 1 million low-income families who receive subsidies and the 1.6 million children served by the program will benefit directly, but other children who don’t receive the benefits also stand to see improvements. That’s because many children who don’t receive CCDF subsidies attend centers alongside those who do, so the new rules will impact approximately 500,000 centers.
Although each week nearly 11 million children under the age of five spend time in a child care setting, American centers often offer poor quality and safety. A 2007 survey found the majority of centers to be “fair” or “poor,” with just about 10 percent found to provide high-quality care. State oversight is also often lax. The latest comprehensive report on state requirements for centers found that none earned an A or B grade on training, safety, and health requirements and 20 states earned a failing grade. These federal requirements would help to raise standards across the board.
The CCDF program was last reauthorized in 1996 and hasn’t undergone significant changes in more than 15 years. The announcement comes as President Obama has also proposed $75 billion in spending to expand access to child care and preschool to American families. His proposal would similarly come with stricter requirements for quality and safety.