Low-Waged Working Parents Need Affordable Child Care
There is no national child-care system. Working parents living on or close to minimum wage cannot afford to pay for licensed child care, rent, food, and transportation. They may be lucky enough to rely on a family member, or on a small group of neighbors. But they cannot necessarily rely on the safety of whatever arrangement they are able to make. Fewer than half the population of low waged families have access to quality, licensed child care. This is especially true for infants and toddlers.
Below is an outline of the funding of child care programs.
(1) Head Start and Early Head Start: This is a federal program operating under the auspices of the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, that provides child-care to about one million U.S. children from birth to age 5 years. Head Start provides grants to 1600 public and private, for-profit, and nonprofit local agencies to provide this child-care in our states. The grants are issued according to strict formulas. Head Start is usually a year-round program, but some programs operate for half days and others for full days. Teachers must have college degrees related to the child-care profession and are paid about $30,000 annually. Parents apply to their local Head Start Program for admission. Their eligibility is defined partly by Poverty Guidelines that relate to the parent’s income and to. Parents of children admitted to Head Start do not pay a fee. Many Head Start Programs have substantial waiting lists. There is an age gap in that Head Start doesn’t serve younger 5-year-olds who may not be eligible for kindergarten in their state.
(2) The Federal Government Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) has a formula for providing funding for block grants to each state to help the parent(s) pay for child-care for children from birth to 13 years old. This includes infants, toddlers, PreK, and older children in grades K-8.
The Child Care Programs are licensed in accordance with each state’s regulations. Some of the CCDBG funding is distributed through a voucher system. Parent(s) can apply for vouchers (or pay assistance) that partially fund “spots” in child-care programs accepting vouchers. Parent’s eligibility for vouchers may depend on, employment, disability, participation in acceptable education, and more. These vouchers pay for a portion of the child-care “spot” as long as the parent is eligible. Should the parent lose a job, or the hours of their work change, they also lose the voucher payment for the child-care spot. To find more information speak with your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency. (CCRRC). There is a gap in funding the child-care “spots” when the payment for vouchers is interrupted. The child-care program loses money. Advocates suggest that each state contract fund payment for a number of “spots” in local child-care programs to stabilize the financing of their operation.
(3) Some elementary public schools have designated space for child-care, usually for four, and five-year-old children. Children may be admitted for 2 or 3 days weekly. Parents usually pay privately for this service.
(4) Family Child Care Homes may be licensed, unlicensed, registered, or license-exempt. This child-care may be offered by a friend or family member in their home. There may be fewer children cared for in these homes than in a child-care center. This service may be offered at any time of day or night, and siblings of different ages may be welcomed. A parent looking into this type of care should check to see if the state has ratings for the quality of these Homes. Child Care Aware offers a Family Child Care Home Checklist. Click here to view their list.
(5) A Co-Op preschool is composed of a group of families who hire trained teachers and work with them to provide a quality preschool for their children. The parents contribute time to make this a quality experience for their children.
Recently, some Republican and Democratic Legislators have promoted the Child Care is Essential Act to fund child care nationally with $50 billion in relief to support existing child care providers and to make child care affordable for low waged workers. Read more about the act here.