The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal grant program that provides child care assistance for families and funds child care quality initiatives. CCDBG is administered to states in formula block grants. States use the grants to subsidize child care for low-income working families. CCDBG also funds Child Care Resource and Referral services and quality projects for infants and toddlers.
Child care resource and referral (CCR&Rs) agencies are uniquely positioned to influence many aspects of CCDBG. Whether you are directly responsible for writing your state’s plan or desire to use your organization’s expertise and systems to influence and implement the plan, Child Care Aware® of America is your go-to resource for all-things CCDBG.
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What is CCDBG?
Congress most recently updated our federal child care program in 2014 when they passed the bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014. Key provisions from the reauthorization include stronger health and safety requirements, improving the quality of care with supports for providers and providing more accessible child care assistance for families. Funding has been increased for the program several times since its reauthorization.
You can find more about the current funding levels for all federal early childhood programs on CCAoA’s budget and appropriations page.
What’s the difference between CCDBG and CCDF?
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG) is a law that authorizes the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program, which is administered by states, territories and tribes. States use CCDF to provide financial assistance to low-income families to access child care so they can work or attend a job training or educational program. States can also use CCDF dollars to invest in improving quality through teacher workforce, supporting child care programs to achieve higher standards and providing consumer education to help parents select child care that meets their families’ needs. In short, CCDBG Act is the law and CCDF is the program.
How Child Care Aware® of America can support CCR&Rs with Implementation
Getting a seat at the table to influence your state’s plans starts with enhancing and updating your CCDBG implementation expertise. CCAoA offers free resources to help CCR&Rs deepen their impact and secure funding. Our experts have provided resources on areas like:
- Consumer Education & Engagement
- Emergency Preparedness & Disaster Relief
- Federal Policy
- Health & Safety
- Professional Development & QRIS
Fill out the form on this page to get help with your plan today.
The 2022-2024 CCDF Planning Process
Beginning in 2016, states and territories have been required to outline how they will use Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) money to support child care policies. They do this by submitting a three-year state plan to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). These three-year state plans serve multiple purposes. They act as an official application for federal CCDBG funds, outline how states will remain in compliance with federal law and rules, serve as a guidance document for long-term planning, and provide a vehicle for data collection. The development of CCDF state plans provides an opportunity for collaboration and idea-sharing among all child care advocates—including parents, providers, and CCR&R staff.
To support the development of state CCDF plans so that they meet the unique needs of their children and communities, Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) is sharing an overview of the different sections of the plan, policy recommendations for consideration, and information on how to weigh in on the state planning process in Spring 2021. Combined with recent federal relief funding, policies implemented in the 2022-2024 CCDF state plans have the potential to lay the foundation for a more equitable, affordable and accessible child care system for years to come.
Key Sections of the CCDF State Plan Form
State plans are divided into eight sections with various subparts. While there are different sections for reporting and accountability reasons, ACF encourages states to approach the plans in a “cross-cutting” manner as the plan reflects key goals of a larger, integrated system. States are asked to provide brief summaries to respond to each question throughout the eight sections. These sections are:
Define Leadership & Coordination
In this section, states must identify the logistics of planning and carrying out the CCDF program. This includes identifying the lead state agency to administer the entire program and who conducts and monitors CCDF services. It also asks which stakeholders are consulted to create the plan and the public hearing process that must take place. States must identify how their match and maintenance-of-effort (MOE) funds are used. Plans must describe how they encourage public-private partnerships and coordination efforts with Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&Rs) agencies and describe their efforts on disaster preparedness.
Promote Family Engagement with Outreach & Consumer Education
States must address how they will provide outreach to eligible families to assist them in accessing high-quality child care and other financial assistance programs, share best practices on children’s development, and provide information on developmental screenings.
Provide Stable Financial Assistance to Families
States must identify eligibility criteria for child care assistance (subsidies) and how they will increase access for vulnerable children and families (like those with disabilities or experiencing homelessness). States have a great deal of flexibility in establishing a range of policies on setting family income thresholds, the definition of a family unit, qualifying activities for eligibility (like minimum work hours or job search) to initiate and continue to receive assistance, maximum age limits for children meeting certain qualifications and family contribution to payments (i.e., copayments).
Ensure Equal Access for Low-Income Children
State plans must outline which strategies they will implement to increase the supply and improve the quality of child care services in underserved areas, promote parental choice, and ensure equal access to programs that are comparable to that of non-CCDF families. This section is where states must include how they will establish provider payment rates that enable them to meet health, safety, quality and staffing requirements under CCDF. States are given the option in this section to set payment rates based on a recent market rate survey or an ACF-approved alternative methodology, such as a cost survey or study based on other data. Because of COVID-19, states are given an opportunity to request a waiver for up to one additional year (until July 1, 2022) to complete the required market rate survey and/or alternative methodology.
Establish Health & Safety Standards & Monitoring
States must certify that there are health and safety standards in place and training requirements that are appropriate to the provider setting and the age of the children served. States must address standards for background checks, child-to-staff ratios, group sizes and required qualifications and trainings (including emergency preparedness and response planning) for child care staff.
Recruit & Retain Qualified, Effective Workforce
State plans must describe their framework for training, professional development, and post-secondary education for child care staff in section six. Plans must describe how the state will strengthen provider business skills that will help expand supply and improve quality and address early learning and developmental guidelines.
Support Continuous Quality Improvement
States must report on the quality improvement activities and findings as part of a statewide needs assessment. States must detail the quality improvement activities in place, whether they have adopted a quality rating and improvement system, any financial incentives they offer to improve quality and activities they plan to take to improve the supply and quality of infant and toddler care.
Ensure Program Integrity & Accountability
In this final section, states must describe which effective internal controls are in place to ensure integrity and accountability while maintaining the continuity of services. This includes measures that address reducing fraud, waste and abuse, including program violations and administrative errors.
CCDF Planning Process
The Office of Child Care (OCC) released a draft preprint of the 2022-2024 CCDF plan in December 2020 and directed states to develop plans and begin their hearing processes based on this version. A final version of the plan will be released this spring. State agencies are required to hold at least one public hearing, which must be widely publicized at least 20 days prior to the hearing. OCC has announced it expects that plans may be submitted as early as May 2021 and plans to issue additional guidance and conduct a national webinar on the submission process when the site is ready. Plans are due to OCC no later than July 1, 2021.
Changes to the 2022-2024 Preprint Form
The amended form for FY 2022-2024 includes three welcomed changes that will better assist states in supporting families and providers. It acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic and requires states to explain how COVID-19 has changed the way they operate, list any new public-private partnerships that have emerged, provide updates or adjustments to its Statewide Disaster Plan, and note how the pandemic could impact the most recent data collection on the child care market.
The updated form provides clarifying language that encourages states to explore alternative methods for determining subsidy payment rates in lieu of using a market rate survey. In previous comments to ACF, CCAoA has elevated our concerns with the use of market rate surveys to determine subsidy payment rates, as there are discrepancies between market prices and the cost of care.
In the 2019-2021 State Plan, background checks were the only policy area for which states could still receive an extension from the 2014 reauthorization changes. The revised form reflects the 2014 requirement that all states must have policies in place to conduct comprehensive background checks for all child care staff. This is an important standard that ensures the safety of children while in child care.
Find more details in CCAoA’s comments submitted as part of the preprint process.
Policies to Consider in the 2022-2024 CCDF Plans
The CCDF state plans are one of the many vehicles to implement bold state policies that can support an equitable, transformed child care system now and years down the road. States are in a unique position in 2021 to make big investments in transformative policies as a historic investment of federal relief funds becomes available. To support these new bold investments, CCAoA encourages advocates to urge states to align their plans with our 2020-2022 Policy Agenda, which provides a guiding compass for our efforts and keeps us driving toward our ultimate goal of serving all children, families, and early childhood educators (ECE).
In line with our broader policy agenda, CCAoA recommends states include the following policies in their 2022-2024 CCDF state plans that are child-centered, family-engaged, equity-driven and community-focused.
Children deserve a high-quality, safe environment to grow and learn. It’s imperative that states work toward a system with the well-being of the whole child at the heart of their CCDF state plans. Child-centered policies support the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of all children, and such policies have become even more important in the wake of the pandemic. It also means having strong health and safety standards in place that do not step back from the expansive changes included in the 2014 CCDBG Act. A child-centered plan also means having policies and supports in place to ensure that child care environments are ready to handle future emergencies. To support a child-centered state plan, CCAoA recommends that states consider the following policies:
- Invest in child care health and mental health consultants (Sections 4.1 and 7.4). States must identify the activities that will improve the supply and quality of child care programs, including the use of child care health and mental health consultation services. Both play an important role in helping early childhood educators (ECEs) implement practices that promote healthy and safe environments for young children and whether the needs are physical or social-emotional. Policymakers must ensure that both health and mental consultants are available to child care providers, with the funding and resources needed to serve all providers and children.
- Continue to support the health and safety improvements included in the 2014 CCDBG Act around ratios and group sizes, inspections, and background checks (Section 5). The pandemic caused disruptions for states to meet background check and inspection requirements because fingerprint locations were closed in many states and visitor access was restricted to programs. As a result, many states and territories were granted waivers around health and safety standards. On the other hand, many states temporarily lowered child-to-staff ratios and decreased group sizes, which OCC has noted can have a positive impact on the overall quality of care and lower risk of infection.
These important standards around ratios, inspections, and background checks are in place to ensure the safety of children while in child care. Going forward, states must refrain from any state deregulation efforts in an attempt to “fix” the child care supply crisis. States should consider using federal relief funds to cover background checks fees and to support training and technical assistance on safe and healthy child care environments, particularly in light of recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which outlines mitigation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among ECEs, children and their families. CCR&Rs are deeply involved in supplying technical assistance to help providers and ECEs raise the health and safety standards in every facility and should continue to be supported in doing so with resources from the states.
It is critical that the actual experiences of families should guide the development of the next iteration of CCDF state plans. State plans should be reflective of the input from all families, especially those whose voices have been left out in the past. A reality faced by many families is that high-quality child care was out of reach, even before the nation was grappling with the public health and economic crisis. To put child care within reach for more for families, state CCDF plans must consider these policies, many of which have been temporarily implemented during the pandemic with the support of federal funding:
- Expand the definition of eligible children and families (Section 3.1). To be eligible for CCDF subsidies, parents/guardians must be working or attending a job training or educational program, but states have flexibility in defining what these terms mean. States can expand the approved activities used for eligibility criteria, like counting travel time toward education activities, and eliminating other restrictive policies, like those that require child support cooperation.
- Increase income eligibility levels for child care subsidy (Section 3.1). States can set income eligibility limits at or below the federal limit of 85 percent of the state median income (SMI). To help more families access child care, some states have increased income eligibility for subsidies during COVID-19 or provided care to essential workers at no/reduced charge without regard to income levels. Recent federal relief packages passed by Congress have let states extend child care assistance to essential workers (including health workers, sanitation workers, and others) despite their level of income. This has allowed states to provide care to families who exceed the 85% income eligibility threshold at no charge. The American Rescue Plan, which includes $15 billion for CCDBG, continues this exception for essential workers.
- Extend eligibility and redetermination periods (Section 3.1 and 3.2). State plans must establish minimum 12-month eligibility before their eligibility redetermination. According to a recent study, 30 states and territories made changes to their redetermination periods between 2015 and 2019, with most of the changes being an extension of redetermination periods from 6 to 12 months. Longer periods of eligibility and redetermination periods increase continuity of subsidy receipt and stability of child care arrangements. Some states put automatic renewals in place for redeterminations during the pandemic, without needing any renewal documentation from families, as a way to support families.
- Permanently waive or significantly reduce parent copayments (Sections 3.2 and 4.5). States are required to establish affordable family contributions to payments for care (called copayments) based on income and the size of the family. States have flexibility in minimizing or waiving the cost of the copayments for eligible families altogether, as many have done recently using federal relief dollars.
Early childhood education policies must not perpetuate the structural and institutional racism, poverty and lack of opportunity that exist throughout the country. The CCDF state plans gives an opportunity to reverse these patterns and make deliberate efforts to ensure input is representative of all eligible families and providers. To achieve equity in the child care system, state plans must expand access to all families and provide quality care that is culturally informed. They must also deliver fair subsidies and other supports to all child care providers, including family, friends and neighbor (FFN) and home-based family child care (FCC) providers. To support a more equitable child care system, state plans should include polices that:
- Use an alternative methodology to set CCDF payment rates and apply for the temporary waiver (Section 4.2). State plans must set child care payment rates based on a recent market rate survey (MRS) or an approved alternative methodology. CCAoA’s report, Picking Up the Pieces: Building a Better Child Care System Post COVID-19, found that there are discrepancies between market prices and the cost of care and that basing child care rates on market prices hurt low-income areas the most. A dependency on these surveys for determining the price of care will continue to cripple the industry. States are given an opportunity in the new plan to apply for a temporary waiver of up to one year for meeting the deadline to determine new subsidy rates and should use this extended timeline to explore alternative methods. CCR&Rs have the tools and resources to help states develop a new rate methodology.
- Increase provider reimbursement rates (Section 4.3). State plans set the maximum amounts that will be paid to child care providers at a level sufficient for them to meet health and safety, quality, and staffing requirements. ACF recommends that states reimburse providers at the 75th percentile of rates reported in the child care MRS. When states increase provider reimbursement rates, they incentivize providers to increase capacity and open more slots to subsidy-eligible families and ensure the sustainability of their businesses. States have increased reimbursement rates to providers with relief funds and continued investment in provider reimbursement may also serve as a means to recruit new providers.
- Using enrollment versus attendance and expand use of contracts (Section 4.4). A common state policy is paying child care providers based on a child’s daily attendance rather than overall capacity. This leaves payment amounts unpredictable each month, while costs remain stable, and makes it challenging for programs to have financial stability to build a high-quality program. The CCDBG Act of 2014 encourages states to improve provider payment practices and funding stability by delinking provider payments from children’s occasional absences to the extent practicable. States should consider structuring provider payments based on enrollment as opposed to attendance, to provide stability for providers who have no control over a children’s attendance patterns. Additionally, moving to a contract funding model can help provide stability for the child care sector. Contracts guarantee providers a certain number of spaces to serve children, making reimbursements predictable and reliable. Direct contracts may also serve to expand access to child care in areas that have low or no child care centers.
Child care does not exist in a vacuum, but is an integral part of our greater communities, connected to school readiness, health outcomes, financial security, immigration, workforce preparedness and national productivity. For child care policies to be sustainable, they must focus on the entire community and the role child care plays within it. To support a community-focused state CCDF plan, states should consider including the following policies and practices:
- Support an increase in compensation, comprehensive benefits, and professional development opportunities for child care providers (Section 7.3). States must note if they provide financial incentives and other supports designed to expand the diversity of child care options and help child care providers improve the quality of services. One of the most effective ways states can support providers within their communities is by using these funds to increase wages and provide benefits for child care educators. Nearly 15% of child care workers live below the artificially low “official” poverty line, more than double the rate of other industries. Providing increased compensation or bonus pay to providers can help staff stay on payroll if a center needs to temporarily shut down or consider staffing cuts. It can also help with recruiting and retaining the child care workforce, which has experienced significant job loss over the course of the pandemic. Failure to support ECEs — who are generally women and disproportionately women of color and immigrant women — will leave providers without a workforce and families without providers on which to rely. Federal relief funds can be used toward increasing wages and benefits for providers.
- Ensure funding and resources exists to support CCR&Rs to continue and expand their work (1.7, 2.4, and 7.2). Each state must develop and implement strategies to strengthen the business practices of child care providers to expand the supply and to improve the quality of child care services. States must also describe their framework for training and professional development. CCR&Rs play an important role in offering this assistance to providers but need additional investment to carry out a host of other supports– including helping providers open and run their businesses, providing ongoing training and professional development, and helping providers maintain or meet licensure requirements. CCR&Rs can also play a role in building the supply of quality care through staffed family childcare networks, which provide ongoing support relating to licensing, professional development, training, and financial resources. States must continue to invest in CCR&R’s ongoing work to build the supply of high-quality child care, provide technical assistance and trainings to families and providers and support emergency response efforts. Federal relief funds can be used to support CCR&Rs to deliver technical assistance to help providers with the implementation of new policies.
Opportunities to Engage on State CCDF Plans
States are in a unique position as they develop their 2022-2024 CCDF state plans. The pandemic has resulted in a historic investment of over $50 billion for child care over the course of a year. These critical funds will help set the stage for years to come and should be used to not only support child care as it recovers from the pandemic, but to support long-term changes that create an equitable child care system that is affordable, accessible and provides children the healthy start they need. Now is the time to implement big changes to transform child care so that it truly is child-centered, family-focused, equity-driven, and community-focused.
You can make a huge difference in shaping your state’s plan as an advocate, whether you have participated in this process before or it is your first time. Your voices and experiences need to be heard. States are required to hold public hearings to gather stakeholder input on what policies and best practices should be included in its upcoming plan. Considering the pandemic, states will likely hold virtual hearings and listening sessions to weigh in orally, meaning you can advocate from the comfort of your home or submit written testimony.
Who Can Participate?
Anyone— parents, providers, CCR&R staff, and advocates — can and should participate in providing input in their state’s CCDF planning process. It is especially important to make sure the voices of families and providers who need the most support are amplified throughout this process so their needs are reflected within the state’s final plan.
What Should We Share?
It will be critical for advocates to share their lived experiences, qualitative and quantitative data on the state of child care, and which policies already have or could best address their ability to survive and thrive. To help advocates with this process, CCAoA will continue to update this page with resources on when and where to find information about upcoming hearings. CCAoA will also share advocacy tools and messaging you can use to help shape your statements.
When is Your State Holding Public Hearings?
Advocates can find more information regarding the logistics of when their state will be holding listening sessions and public hearings on the 2022-2204 CCDF state plans in this chart below. Let us know what you’re seeing. Please contact Diane Girouard, State Policy Analyst, with any CCDF plan updates happening in your state.
Resources to Guide the CCDF Planning Process
In preparing your statements, you can use several resources that provide important data for your state, such as in CCAoA’s Picking Up the Pieces: Building a Better Child Care System Post COVID-19 report, along with detailed policy recommendations and best practices from our partner organizations.
Join the Webinar: CCDF State Plans—Shape the Future of Child Care
Join experts, former policymakers, and advocates to discuss why it’s important to engage in the CCDF state planning process. Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) will review new resources available to support stakeholders.
Office of Child Care’s Draft FY 2022-2024 CCDF Preprint
Office of Child Care’s Approved State Plans for 2019-2021