In a new brief, Child Trends discusses how Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) state administrators, policymakers, and researchers can apply the Access Framework to guide policy and funding decisions and track progress toward equitable access over time, which will be especially important as they respond to and move toward recovery from COVID-19. The Access Framework was developed by the Early Care and Education (ECE) Access project (supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research, Planning, and Evaluation and managed by Child Trends) to address gaps and inconsistencies in tracking access and conceptualizes a definition of access with four interrelated dimensions of access:
- Affordable, for both parents and providers, acknowledging parents may have access to financial supports and that some arrangements may be free for the family (including Head Start and some care provided by family and friends).
- Supports child development with high-quality, coordinated, stable care that meets children’s unique needs, including supports for children with developmental or physical disabilities, children who are homeless, and children who speak a language other than English.
- Meets the parents’ needs, including a parent’s preferred type of care, availability of transportation, and hours of operation.
- Reasonable effort, including the interaction between the supply of available child care programs, families’ use of programs, and the availability of information to guide parents’ child care choices.
The brief demonstrates how these dimensions can be used to define and measure “access” beyond just supply and demand, particularly in the context of using CCDF subsidies to stabilize the child care industry and ensuring racial equity. For example, the CARES Act, allowed states to use supplemental funding for child care to: 1) continue subsidy payments to providers who closed or had limited enrollment due to the pandemic, 2) waive or reduce parent co-payments during child care closures, 3) expand access to subsidies for families of essential workers, and 4) provide grants to providers to pay for additional costs related to COVID-19 health and safety regulations. Application of the Access Framework to these options reveals only the first addresses all four dimensions, the third and fourth address two dimensions, and the second only one.
Finally, the brief provides recommendations to state CCDF administrators and other policymakers around capturing needed data to help inform decisions and track progress toward access to child care during COVID-19 response and recovery.
The full brief is available from Child Trends here.