On October 22, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released a new report, “Turning the Corner: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2014.” As the authors state in the introduction, child care should be a top priority in all states: it helps children learn and develop important social, emotional, and academic skills; it allows parents to get to work and frees them from anxiety over their children’s safety; and it helps build the United States’ economy both by educating our future workforce and by providing jobs to those who work in child care settings. However, child care costs vary widely based on a number of factors – including location, the age of the child, and the type of care – and in some cases, fees for full-time care can reach $16,400 a year. For many families, this cost is too much to bear, and without state assistance, they would be left with few safe options for their children’s care.
The NWLC report looks at policies in five key areas in order to assess a state’s child care assistance: 1) income eligibility limits to qualify for child care assistance, 2) waiting lists for child care assistance, 3) copayments for parents who receive child care assistance, 4) reimbursement rates for child care providers, and 5) eligibility for child care assistance for parents searching for a job.
In prior years, statistics showed that families in many states were increasingly worse off in at least one of those five areas. In 2011, for example, families in thirty-seven states were worse off under one or more child care assistance policies than in 2010. Fortunately, the 2014 report is entitled “Turning the Corner” for a reason: this year, most states expanded access to child care assistance or increased the benefits for eligible families.
Child Care Assistance in Connecticut
So how did Connecticut fare in the NWLC’s report? Connecticut’s state child care assistance program is called Care4Kids. In July 2014, for the first time since 2002, Connecticut increased its Care4Kids reimbursement rates for child care providers in centers and in home-based programs. As the authors note, “Inadequate reimbursement rates deprive child care providers of the resources needed to offer high-quality care and may discourage high-quality providers from enrolling families who receive child care assistance.” Clearly, Connecticut’s Care4Kids increases represent a crucial step towards improving program quality and expanding access to child care for low-income families. However, families in Connecticut did not see improvements in any of the other four indicators of child care assistance policy in Connecticut – income eligibility limits, waiting lists, parent copayments, and eligibility for job searchers.
Care4Kids is an essential lifeline for Connecticut’s working parents and young children, and it helps people who work in child care settings to establish stable relationships with children and provide higher quality care. As the NWLC concludes, nationally, “there are still far too many children whose families cannot receive the help they need.” At All Our Kin, we hope that the report’s optimistic title truly foreshadows a change in policymakers’ priorities so that all families can access child care, and child care providers can get the resources they need.
To read the NWLC’s full report, “Turning the Corner: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2014,” click here.