By ERIK PETERSON Posted: Nov 25, 2019
This fall the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that they are seeking input from the public and interested stakeholders on strategies to improve access to high quality, affordable child care in the U.S. According to ACF’s request for information, child care is one of the biggest expenses a family faces and can be a barrier to work with the average cost of center-based infant child care in 28 states being more than college tuition. At the same time, ACF acknowledges child care settings are a place of learning and education for children from the time they are infants and toddlers through their school-age years with access to high quality learning opportunities laying the foundation for children’s development and, ultimately, their success in school and in life. Comments are due to ACF by December 2.
Given that #afterschool and summer learning programs provide both learning opportunities and care for school-age children, the ACF’s call for information provides an opportunity for program providers to share some of the challenges and successes involved in utilizing federal child care subsidies to provide quality afterschool and summer programs to students. The ACF is seeking feedback and ideas on the following specific topics:
- Identifying emerging and innovative practices to improve access to high quality child care,
- Identifying regulatory and other policies that unnecessarily drive up the cost of care or limit parents’ choice of different child care options; and
- Identifying ways to improve funding of child care and other related early education programs to support quality and create a more streamlined, equitable, and sustainable financing framework for future generations.
ACF notes that “the challenge ahead is making sure that standards of quality are dynamic and suited to different types of child care settings serving the full age and developmental range of children, so that parents continue to have choice, and quality standards are attainable by the full range of child care providers.”
ACF is looking for an honest assessment of child care in the U.S. from the public and from a diverse array of stakeholder groups in order to inform the development of recommendations and/or future guidance. This includes parents who use child care, including parents of children with disabilities; small child care businesses, including family child care home providers; large and chain child care providers; pre-K groups; school administrators; statewide networks; child care regulators; state and local officials; employers; state and local chambers of commerce; foundations; faith-based and other community organizations; family child care networks; child care resource and referral agencies; universities and other institutions of higher education; child care workforce development organizations; economic development organizations; and more.
From a school-age afterschool and summer learning perspective, access to high quality school-age care (for students age 5 to 12) during the afterschool and before-school hours, as well as during school breaks and summer, continues to be a challenge:
- Nationally, as of 2014 (most recent data available) 10.2 million children participated in afterschool programs while another 19.4 million children would participate if a program were available or affordable.
- Nationally as well, 45 percent of all children served through Child Care Development Fund subsidies are school age, 611,378 students in 2016.
- The need for quality, affordable school age care is so prominent that neither the 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding from the federal Department of Education nor the funding from the Child Care Development Block Grant is are enough to meet the demand from working parents and families for quality school age care.
Among the issues that the Afterschool Alliance raises for ACF in our letter are:
- The need for training opportunities in each state on topics specific to school-age afterschool/summer learning program staff taught by experts in school-age care and positive youth development.
- The need for states to develop and implement school-age child care regulations that reflect the unique challenges and opportunities of school-age care providers like afterschool and summer learning providers.
Stakeholders, including parents, who would like to comment directly to the ACF can do so through the call for information here. Additionally, the Afterschool Alliance will be sending feedback as well and will post our comment letter later this month. Please reach out to us if you would like to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org