More than one hundred Hill staff and advocates packed the Rayburn House Office Building Gold Room this morning to discuss the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Moderated by incoming National Policy Director of the First Five Years Fund Sarah Rittling, the briefing featured experts including Karen Lynch with the Congressional Research Service, Mary Anne Snyder with the Colorado Department of Human Services, and Mary Graham, Executive Director of Children’s Village Child Care Center in Philadelphia.

The main source of support for low-income working families who need child care assistance, CCDBG was passed in 1990 and last reauthorized in 1996, predating the scientific evidence showing the link between quality care and brain development and child outcomes. Although the program has been sustained by continued discretionary funding, authorization expired in 2002. Legislation to reauthorize the program is moving through Congress, clearing the Senate overwhelmingly this past March.

Much of the morning’s conversation focused on quality, the role of the federal government in ensuring quality while adequately funding the program to expand access, and the impact that child care has on our economy. Given what we know now about the link between quality care and brain development and child outcomes, the panelists urged Congressional action to include in any reauthorization incentives to increase activities known to boost quality and child outcomes, such as enhanced professional development, licensing and monitoring, and Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). This is especially important given that requirements set forth in the CCDBG Act apply to additional child care funding through the mandatory Child Care Entitlement to States (CCEF) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds as well.

Panelists cited data indicating that number of low-income children receiving subsidized child care is on the decline, families are paying more for child care, and are less able to be able to purchase quality care with the voucher amount offered by states In the last year, the cost of child care increased at up to eight times the rate of increases in family income.

“CCDBG supports the current workforce while preparing the future workforce”  noted Mary Graham, Executive Director of Children’s Village Child Care Center.

Yet above and beyond CCDBG’s role as a workforce support program, research clearly shows that the first years of a child’s life are crucial for cognitive and emotional development. The quality of care that a child experiences, both in and out of the home, has a direct impact on that development.

Mary Anne Snyder, the Director of Colorado’s Office of Early Learning , emphasized the need for  “a two-generation strategy that serves working parents while giving more children access to high-quality care.”