Marsha Basloe, president of Child Care Services Association
As I drove to work this morning, the
conversation on my news radio station was around essential positions in our
communities. They mentioned hospitals, schools, grocery stores and more.
We must not forget our child care programs and
the early childhood educators who teach and care for our children every day!
As the coronavirus affects all aspects of our
lives, I urge federal, state and local policymakers to consider early childhood
educators as essential workers in today’s economy. Any measures taken by
government to support Americans who do not have paid sick leave, early
childhood educators must be included. These dedicated teachers are the
workforce that supports all other workforces. With K-12 schools closing, child
care centers must consider whether to remain open and risk exposure or to close
and put their teachers and staff at risk of not being paid. The centers that
choose to remain open might also be needed to serve additional children.
Early childhood educators are one of the
lowest-paid workforces in the U.S., and often do not have paid sick leave or
health insurance. And yet, this does not reflect their value to our children
and families. Science tells us the first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial for brain
development, setting the architecture for all future learning. “Early
experiences affect the development of the brain and lay the foundation for
intelligence, emotional health, and moral development,” according to Jack
Shonkoff, director of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. 
“The lack of paid sick days could make
coronavirus harder to contain in the United States compared with other
countries that have universal sick leave policies in place,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro,
who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing federal health
agencies, said in a statement. “Low-income workers and their families could be hit
even harder by the virus, as low wage jobs are at the forefront of not
providing sick leave benefits.” .
never be forced to choose between staying home or working while sick to earn a
living,” said Congressman David Price.  While it didn’t pass in
Congress, Congressman Price co-sponsored Rep. DeLauro’s
Healthy Families Act “because we need a national paid sick leave policy to help
families take care of illnesses and the financial burden it may cause. And, it
will help contain the spread of viruses like coronavirus by allowing sick
workers to remain home.” 
Early childhood educators ARE essential personnel. If federal, state and local governments
are going to support essential jobs, we must also support our child care workforce
and our early childhood programs.
We hope that North Carolina will consider
multiple areas to support programs and families, including:
Adjusting payment policies so they are based on
enrollment of children rather than actual attendance;
Waiving any state policies that terminate child
eligibility based on a specific number of absent days;
Temporarily suspending redetermination of family
eligibility for child care services;
Allowing providers to waive co-pays and adjusting
reimbursement rates accordingly.
There are many more ways we can support our
communities, and we would be happy to work with the state on this. We need to ensure
that we support our early childhood community!
child deserves the best chance to succeed,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “That means
we have to support families, early childhood teachers, and all those who have
an impact on early childhood development.” 
If any issue warrants
public attention, public discussion and rethinking as to the best way to ensure
families with young children have access to child care and pre-kindergarten, it
is our nation’s current approach to the safety and healthy development of young
children. It’s not a system as much as a patchwork quilt stitched together over
decades. The federal government allocates funds to states through individual
programs or funding streams (i.e., block grants), each with different rules,
administered by different state agencies, and too often resulting in siloed
approaches with little to no coordination or collaboration among state agencies,
departments, divisions or communities.
In December 2019,
Congress enacted the FY2020 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
Appropriations measure, which included the following funding levels for early
care and education programs:
In addition to the funding above, in FY2019, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture allocated $3.7 billion to states to support healthy meals and snacks for low-income children in child care centers and family child care homes  and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services allocated the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to states, of which states chose to use $3.8 billion for child care and $2.6 billion for state pre-K.  The number of children served by TANF funds for child care or pre-K is unknown because the federal government only requires aggregate spending to be reported, not how many children are served, the setting children are in (homes or centers, licensed or unlicensed) or the average price paid per child. In all, that’s more than $35 billion through various federal funds for early care and education programs.
Child care is the largest early childhood program with $12.5 billion in funding and yet only about 17 percent of eligible children (based on state standards) receive a subsidy.  Many states have a waiting list for assistance, including North Carolina with a waiting list of more than 40,000 children. Families have a difficult time finding care, affording care, and then many parents express concern about the quality of care. Numerous national reports have been released about child care deserts, communities where the need for child care for parents of children under age 6 pales in comparison to the licensed supply of child care.  The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services released a report in October 2019 that found the supply of home-based care has declined by more than 97,000 providers since 2005. 
Why? Child care is a business. Child care centers tend to operate in areas where the population is dense enough with sufficient numbers of private-pay families who can afford weekly parent fees. The operating budget for child care centers largely comprises parent fees and therefore staff is hired at the lowest wages possible to hold costs down. In a good economy with low unemployment, like we have today, turnover is high because staff often can find better-paying jobs in fast food, retail sales or other jobs that require less training or education. Turnover also costs businesses because of the marketing, interviewing, hiring and training required for new staff.
For home-based providers, the hours are long and the pay is low. According to a 2019 economic impact report by the Committee for Economic Development,  the average annual income of home-based providers is approximately $15,000 per year,  18% higher than in North Carolina, where the average income of home-based providers is $12,300.  The decline in home-based providers (who often serve infants and toddlers) is a hardship for parents, particularly those in rural communities where the economics of operating a center don’t work. Home-based care is often less expensive and providers may be more willing to stay open during nontraditional hours for those parents who work shift work or have long commutes to their job. Yet, again, wages drive interest in opening a home-based program (or closing one) because other jobs in the community may pay more with fewer hours and less stress.
The reality is that mothers are working today. Nationally, approximately 72 percent of mothers with children under age 6 are working outside of the home,  65.4 percent of mothers with children age 2 are working  and, 57.8 percent of mothers with children under age 1 are working.  Many of these mothers need child care, but federal subsidies reach only one out of every six eligible children. Therefore, most families are forced to afford whatever they can find. However, in too many communities, the supply is not available, let alone affordable.
There is no doubt that if our nation’s early care and education system were designed today, it would look much different. If we can’t think out of the box about a new bold system to better meet the needs of families with young children, we will be stuck with incremental, minor band-aids that ignore the real problem: the system is under-financed and poorly designed. Parents can’t afford quality child care, but we know from the research that high-quality child care really matters to the healthy development of children, particularly in the earliest years as a child’s brain is developing the fastest, setting the architecture for all future social, emotional, physical and cognitive skills. 
Two decades ago, child care was a work support. Today, we know that it is a two-generation strategy. High-quality child care helps parents work and helps support the healthy development of children. In fact, parents who can’t access child care reduce their hours or drop out of the workforce. About 94 percent of those who involuntarily work part-time are mothers who cite child care problems as their reason for working part-time. 
In 2018, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released “Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education,” which reviewed the multiple funding streams for early care and education and made a number of recommendations. The NAS Committee, made up of early childhood experts and finance experts, recommended investing in early care and education at a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) aligned with the average of other member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report recommended increasing funds in four phases, from at least $5 billion in phase one to $53 billion in phase four. 
However, it is not just
about the money. It is also about program design and meeting the needs of
families in urban and rural areas and in an array of settings that best meet
the needs of the family and each individual child with an early education workforce
that is trained and paid appropriately for the important work they do.
Rethinking is always a
bit more challenging than staying in the box with patchwork fixes. The current
system isn’t working for low-income children whose families need a subsidy or
the private market where working parents need access to affordable high-quality
child care and early education programs. It is time for a discussion about a
Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager at Child Care Services Association
1, 2020, is Census Day
The Census is your chance to make sure your
community counts. Participating in the Census will help make sure your
community over the next 10 years receives:
Fair representation in Congress;
Financial resources for health,
schools, transportation and more; and
Help for information leaders to
plan your community’s future. 
More than $5 billion of North Carolina’s
federal funding for children’s services is at stake in the census, so it’s
critical to get the count right. That’s about $1,600 for each person in federal
funding for the state. 
However, in the 2010 Census, nearly 1 million children (4.6% of children under the age of 5) were not counted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, children under age 5 are one of the largest groups of undercounted people in the United States.  If missed in the Census, young children in hard to count communities also stand to suffer the most from reductions in funding to vital programs. 
People of color
Non-native English speakers
“Complex” families  (for
example, those with multiple generations of a family, unrelated families living
together and blended or foster families.) 
In North Carolina, 950,000 residents live in a
hard-to-count community,  leaving 73,000 young children at risk
of being missed in the 2020 Census. 
Nearly 1 in 5 of America’s infants are growing up in poverty, putting them at a greater risk to fall behind their peers in language development, reading proficiency, and experience learning disabilities and developmental delays. It is critical to invest in programs such as Early Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant that ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive. 
Can You Do?
Help spread the word! Share this article by clicking on the social media icons below.
Learn more about the 2020 Census and find more resources and shareable materials here.
Tell the people in your life who care for children 5 and under to count every child in the 2020 Census on April 1.
Because census results help determine where
federal funds are distributed for programs that are important for children, an
accurate count can shape a child’s future for the next decade and beyond. It’s
important to count young children now so they have the resources they need as
they grow up. It all begins with responding to the 2020 Census. 
Basloe, President, Child Care Services Association
Families with jobs and secure housing access child care
through our country’s Child Care Resource & Referral network, friends and
family and the internet. Without child
care, families experiencing homelessness struggle to secure housing. And yet, for
these families, accessing child care offers two important benefits—the chance
to be able to participate in job training, education, and other programs
essential to resolving their homelessness and the opportunity to have a safe
setting for children to grow!
Research has established a strong connection between a young child’s early experiences and the development of his or her brain structure. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the early years of life when more than 1 million new neural connections form every second, can provide a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. We know that homelessness jeopardizes the health, early childhood development and educational well-being of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children. It also creates unique barriers to participating in early care and education. With nearly 50% of children living in federally-funded homeless shelters under the age of five, this is a problem for families, communities, states and the country.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, signed into law on November 19, 2014, reauthorized the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Program. The reauthorized law made significant advancements by defining health and safety requirements for child care providers, outlining family-friendly eligibility policies, and ensuring parents and the general public have transparent information about available child care choices.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published the
Final Rule to implement the Child Care and Development Fund program (CCDF) in
September 2016. The full regulations may be read here.
The McKinney-Vento Act’s education definition of homelessness to be used by child care (and Head Start and public education),
A grace period or flexibility to obtain immunizations and other documents needed so that children experiencing homelessness can be served more quickly,
Outreach to homeless families with children,
Training and technical assistance in identifying and serving homeless children and their families,
The coordination of services so that families with children can get the help that they need, and
Data reporting to know how many families (and children) experiencing homelessness are receiving child care assistance.
States submitted 2016-2018 CCDF Plans and excerpts from Section 3.2.2., Improving Access to High Quality Child Care for Homeless Families, within State Plans were shared here. The state plans for 2016-2018 indicated that while many states had policies in place to help families experiencing homelessness access child care assistance, the majority of states were not yet adequately addressing those families’ unique needs.
The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Plan serves as
the application for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds by
providing a description of, and assurance about, state child care programs and related
services available to eligible families. The Office of Child Care reviews the
Plans for approval.
The CCDF Plan also presents an opportunity for states to demonstrate the activities and services they are providing to meet the needs of low-income children and families. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) makes Plans publicly available to many users including members of Congress, Congressional committees, State and local child care administrators, advocacy groups, researchers and the general public. For states looking for innovative ways to better meet the child care needs of families experiencing homelessness, the publication of the state plans serves as a clearinghouse of resources for states to replicate or customize to finetune their strategies to best support these families.
The 2019-2021 CCDF State Plans show that States have embraced the CCDF law and regulations with regard to serving families experiencing homelessness, making changes to policies and practice, including eligibility requirements, coordinating with partners, increasing access and providing professional development for those within the child care field to not only increase access to child care but also to ensure that families with children experiencing homelessness receive the support and services they need. These State Plans can be found here.
View other resources for early childhood homelessness here.
Millions of Americans live with mental illness. With May just passing as National Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to recognize that prevention and early intervention are the solutions to a healthier, happier life. 1The National Alliance on Mental Illness records 1 in 5 (46.6 million) U.S. adults experience mental illness at least once in their lifetime, and “half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% by age 25, but early intervention programs can help.” 2
One dependable way to intervene and prevent mental illness is recognizing it as early as possible, since even infants and young children can have mental and developmental disorders. 3 Healthy social and emotional development is the foundation for brain development in young children, and high-quality early care and education is a large piece of that development.
With this high-quality child care and education, infants and
toddlers, “who engage with responsive, consistent and nurturing caregivers, are
more likely to have strong emotional health throughout life.” 3
Supports such as T.E.A.C.H., WAGE$ and AWARD$ help child care teachers further
their education and receive additional compensation, allowing them to continue
teaching and caring for our youngest children.
While having happy, educated and stable teachers improves
the quality of care and education a child receives, child care can still be unaffordable
for parents, especially if they have more than one child in need of care. CCSA’s
free child care referral services simplify the child care search, helping parents
focus on what’s truly important for their specific child’s needs without worrying
about another expense. “Ensuring all families
have access to affordable, high-quality child care can help mitigate some of
the impacts of poverty and prepare children for success in school and beyond.” 4
However, even with affordable and positive early childhood
experiences and stable educators, mental health and developmental delays can be
seen as early as infancy. 3
“Children can show clear characteristics of
anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder,
depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and neurodevelopmental disabilities,
such as autism, at a very early age. That said, young children respond to
and process emotional experiences and traumatic events in ways that are very
different from adults and older children. Consequently, diagnosis in early
childhood can be much more difficult than it is in adults.” 5
It is important to identify and treat mental health
disorders as early as possible to reduce impairment, suffering and effects on
overall health and development. 3
However, it can be difficult to identify mental health illness in young
children, and parents may turn to their child’s doctors or teachers for
guidance. “If properly identified using diagnostic criteria relevant to infant
and early childhood development and experiences, many of these challenges can
be effectively treated.” 3
“It is clear that state agencies [also] must attend to the
mental health needs of infants and young children if they want to improve
health and developmental outcomes, prevent impairment due to early adversity,
provide trauma-informed care, and ultimately, see better returns on investment.
Adopting an age-appropriate diagnosis and treatment is a significant step
toward assuring better overall health for infants, young children, and their
and the teachers who educate and nurture our youngest.