Public Hearing on the District’s draft Child Care and Development Fund Block Grant Plan (CCDF Plan)

 

Last week we submitted written testimony on the District of Columbia's draft Child Care and Development Fund Block Grant Plan. Read our full remarks below: 

Written Testimony of HyeSook Chung, Executive Director

DC Action for Children

Public Hearing on the District’s draft Child Care and Development Fund Block Grant Plan (CCDF Plan)

The Division of Early Learning in the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)

January 15, 2016

On behalf of DC Action for Children, thank you for the opportunity to submit this written testimony on the District’s draft Child Care and Development Fund Block Grant Plan (CCDF Plan). My name is HyeSook Chung, and I am the executive director of DC Action for Children, DC resident and proud parent of two students in DC Public Schools.

 

DC Action for Children (DC Action) provides data-based analysis and policy leadership on critical issues facing DC children and families, to promote policies and actions that optimize child and family well-being.

 

DC Action is the home of DC KIDS COUNT, which tracks key indicators of child well-being in the DC neighborhoods where children live, learn and grow. We work closely with city agencies, the school system and service providers to share the most accurate and timely data, along with clear and accessible analysis. Our advocacy agenda is based on these data.

 

The Reauthorized CCDBG Act of 2014 

In 2014, Congress voted to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary federal grant program that provides child care assistance for families and funds child care quality initiatives. The reauthorization includes a number of new provisions to ensure the health and safety of children in child care programs, improve the quality of care and help families to access and retain child care assistance—strengthening child care’s dual roles of supporting greater workforce participation for parents and providing a developmentally supportive environment for young children. Given that the District’s population of infants and toddlers is growing rapidly—by more than 25 percent between 2010 and 2014—the need for quality child care for these very young children will continue to be a pressing issue for the District.

 

Even before the CCDBG reauthorization was introduced, the District had already incorporated many of the law’s new provisions into its child care policy. For example, the District has already met or exceeded the requirements to increase the share of CCDF funding allocated to improve the quality of care, to adopt a twelve-month redetermination process and to require developmentally appropriate child-to-staff-ratios and group sizes. That the District is ahead of the curve in implementing these critical provisions is a testament to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s work building the District’s early care and education system, and DC Action for Children commends OSSE for its efforts to improve access to high-quality, affordable child care.

 

Identifying the Costs of Quality Child Care

The District is one of the first localities to take advantage of a new provision in the reauthorized law that allows for the use of a cost model analysis to determine child care reimbursement rates. Cost modeling is an early childhood financial analysis approach that estimates the actual cost of delivering child care services at different levels of quality. Until now, the subsidy rate has been set using market studies, which involve identifying the price that providers are able to charge – an amount that is often dictated by how much parents are willing to pay rather than the quality of care provided. Not surprisingly, this approach did little to improve the quality of child care.

 

The preliminary findings from the cost model analysis provide quantitative evidence that for most child care providers, it is extremely difficult to provide high quality care to low-income children and break-even; the increased subsidy reimbursements they receive with higher quality ratings do not cover the expenses associated with improving program quality. In fact, the analysis found that under the current subsidy reimbursement rates, a small child center with a gold QRIS rating that serves low-income infants and toddlers would have an estimated budget shortfall of over $200,000. We encourage OSSE to use these findings as the impetus to adjust subsidy reimbursement rates to levels that encourage providers to improve their quality rating without risking financial instability.  

 

Early Learning Quality Improvement Network

One of the most significant aspects of child care policy in the District covered in the CCDF draft is the development of the new Early Learning Quality Improvement Network (QIN) – an innovative multi-year initiative to build the capacity of early childhood providers to provide continuous and comprehensive services for infants and toddlers and their families.

 

Using both federal and local dollars, the QIN funds established local child care programs to serve as “HUBs,” providing professional development and technical assistance to smaller child care centers and homes so they are able meet Early Head Start standards, which are recognized as the benchmark for quality. As we have seen during our many years working in early care and education, this type of centralized support and training for child care providers is greatly needed.

 

In addition to supporting the professional development of child care providers, the QIN will also add 250 additional high quality child care slots in its first year. By elevating the quality of care in the District and increasing the system’s capacity to serve more children in a high-quality setting, the QIN stands as a central component of the District’s strategy to meet CCDBG requirements to improve both quality and access to child care.  

 

DC Action is working in partnership with the national BUILD[1] Initiative to evaluate the implementation of the new QIN model to ensure that it is as effective as possible, and that its implementation is aligned with the District’s larger birth to five system. This work is groundbreaking for the District, and for the nation, and DC Action is excited by the possible benefits it offers to children aged birth to three.

 

Supporting Child Care Providers Business Practices

Developing a high quality early care and education system depends on building both the pedagogical knowledge and business knowledge of child care providers. As a result, the reauthorized CCDBG includes a provision requiring states or territories to enact policies and practices to strengthen child care providers’ business practices. Both research on early childhood finance and the findings from the recent cost model analysis highlight the importance of adopting sound business practices for child care providers, such as implementing a shared service model between smaller child providers and working to insure full enrollment in child care programs. We look forward to learning more about OSSE’s plans to support child care providers in this crucial, but often underemphasized, component of early childhood system building.

 

Implementation of the Revised QRIS

Beginning in 2007, significant federal and local dollars have been invested in revising the city’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), including $4 million in FY 2014. Under this revision process, OSSE has been working to establish a rating system that is focused on child outcomes by incorporating new quality assessment instruments. The new QRIS will provide a common measure of quality that can be applied across the District’s early care and education system and will require all licensed child care programs to participate in QRIS rating. Given the importance of early childhood care and education, and the substantial investments already made to revise the QRIS, it is encouraging that the District’s CCDF draft plan indicates that the new QRIS will be piloted in 2016 with the goal of fully implementing the rating system in 2017. 

 

Thank you again for the opportunity to submit this written testimony and we will be happy to provide any additional support to help strengthen the District’s CCDF plan. If you have any questions please contact me at hchung@dckids.org.

 

Sincerely,

HyeSook Chung

 

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