Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children


What if child care were perfect?

It would be fun for kids, high-quality, easy for parents to afford, and readily available.

Child care providers would be highly-skilled and well paid.

And the country would feel the difference as more and more young children thrived.

Perfect is, of course, hard to come by, but Child Care Aware of America is pushing for vast improvements with a new policy agenda, “Igniting Possibilities, Promoting Innovation” — a blueprint that can be used by federal, state, and local leaders.

Guided by the principle that “the earliest years of a child’s life are the most critical” and that these years “represent the single most important area for investment by communities, states, and the nation,” Child Care Aware is building “a movement—Child Care Works—that effectively and sustainably advocates for better policies that support access to high-quality child care for all.”

It’s an agenda with four priorities:

• promoting more access to infant and toddler care

• providing ongoing support for workforce and professional development

• supporting and creating more access to high-quality family child care, and

• strengthening Child Care Resource and Referrals (CCR&Rs) agencies so that they can support the evolving child care needs of families

The time to act? Now. Even though 2017 was a turbulent political year, “early childhood advocacy is emerging as a prominent area of opportunity for bipartisan agreement and progress,” the policy agenda says. That’s because 97 percent of Democrats, 89 percent of Independents, and 87 percent of Republicans all say when asked that, “they favor government investments to make early education and child care more affordable.”

Looking for innovative ideas to share? The policy agenda has some.

Take the Get Well Place in Virginia. It’s a preschool program in nine locations that offers care for mildly sick children. The agenda calls it a great “Plan B” for “normal child care arrangements. The program is staffed by a pediatric nurse “who dispenses medication and calls parents with updates during the day. Kids are cared for in separate rooms according to illness…”

There’s also Colorado “home to several innovative financing models, one of which is an “investment credit” that can be claimed by employers who provide child care facilities for the benefit of their employees.”

And in Oklahoma, there is “the Oklahoma Early Childhood Project (OECP), which distributes grants for programs that serve at-risk infants and toddlers and are looking to expand or enhance their quality.”

Child Care Aware’s agenda also makes a number of specific recommendations. Among them:

Congress could:

• pass the Child Care for Working Families Act of 2017

• encourage states to pay living wages for child care workers, and

• provide sufficient funds for Child Care Resource and Referrals (CCR&Rs) agencies

President Trump’s administration could:

• reform the child care subsidy eligibility process

• support rigorous research on improving child care quality

• provide technical support to child care providers located in parts of the country, and that pay the lowest salaries to help providers maximize their budgets

And state and local leaders could:

• establish a wage ladder for the child care workforce

• ensure that community colleges and other educational systems provide access to programs and services for new members of the early childhood workforce, and

• expand state and local investment in high-quality early childhood programs and use of tiered QRIS (Quality Rating Improvement Systems)

Please join the advocacy effort by reaching out to your elected officials and by using the social media hashtag #childcare4all.

As Child Care Aware concludes:

“We have the capacity and the resources as a nation to make a difference in the lives of this next generation. What we need is the will to do what is needed, and what is right—and to do so with urgency!”