Access to child care makes it possible for parents to work and support their families while also ensuring children have a safe and nurturing environment to learn and grow. Yet for many families child care remains out of reach.

This week, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released their annual report on child care assistance policies across the country. Profiling all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the report looked at state child care data between February 2017 and February 2018.

NWLC’s new analysis focuses on five areas of child care assistance policy: income eligibility, waiting lists, parent copayments, payment rates for providers, and eligibility for assistance for parents searching for a job. Overall, families in thirty-three states were better off in February of 2018 than in February 2017. This is the sixth year in a row where more states have improved aspects of eligibility or access.

Despite these improvements, child care remains inaccessible for too many families. For instance, NWLC found that in February 2018, a family with an income above 150 percent of poverty ($31,170 a year for a family of three) still could not qualify for assistance in 15 states. Similar gaps persist across many states meaning that parents are unable to afford care and may have to remain out of the workforce, while children do not have access to quality learning and care.

Noticing the sustainable gaps in access to high-quality child care, Congress approved a historic increase in federal child care funding in March 2018. This $2.37 billion increase in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) sets the stage for states to begin to address these critical gaps. In addition to using this new money to ensure that additional children are eligible and have access, states are working to improve the quality of care.

You can read NWLC’s full report here.