Increasing Access to Quality Child Care for Four Priority Populations
In recent decades, policymakers have increasingly focused on the importance of high-quality child care and early education services in supporting the development of low-income children. Though high-quality early care and education (ECE) can exist in any setting—including child care centers and home-based licensed and license-exempt settings—the emphasis on high-quality ECE services often translates into a singular focus on investing public funds in formal settings, especially center-based programs.
This report explores the implications of this trend in the context of the 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). It focuses on four priority populations: families with parents working nontraditional schedules, families with infants and toddlers, families living in rural areas, and families with children with disabilities and special needs. The center-based market is ill prepared to meet the needs of these four populations, yet together they make up a majority of low-income children with working parents and are a priority for the CCDBG.
The report provides data on the number of low-income children in each state who fall into these categories (except families with children who have special needs) and the proportion of those receiving subsidies who are cared for in child care centers. It also discusses the barriers to care for these populations, lays out state policy strategies to increase access to high-quality care across the full range of settings for these children, and highlights key gaps in our knowledge as to how to best support access to quality for these families.
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