By Sarah Keller
On Wednesday the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2013 (S. 1086) passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee by unanimous voice vote. The bipartisan bill—sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN)—was last reauthorized in 1996.
CCDBG is the main federal source of funding for families needing child care and also funds child care quality initiatives. Currently, 1.6 million children a month—from birth to age 13—receive funding totaling $5 billion a year. About 600,000 school-age children are provided with care through CCDBG. All of the senators agreed about the importance of providing high-quality, affordable, safe child care. This bill also gives working parents the flexibility to determine the best child care options for their family. To ensure that child care centers are safe, the bill enacted several provisions that reflect the changes that have occurred in the 17 years since the last reauthorization. These changes include:
- Comprehensive background checks for child care workers
- At least yearly inspections of child care programs sites to ensure the site is safe and providing developmentally appropriate activities for the children
- Promotion of continuity of care
- Help for homeless families looking for child care
- Raising the health requirement of child care centers
- Orientation and professional development training for child care program workers
We were pleased the bill recognized the importance of including care for school-age children up to 13 years old. Given the research on the benefits of a continuum of care that begins with early education and extends into the school-age years of childhood, it is important to emphasize the value of quality school-age child care to achieve positive outcomes for children, including improved academic performance, work habits and study skills.
The bill will now go to the full Senate floor for consideration.
At the same time CCDBG was being passed by the HELP Committee, the National Women’s Law Center and MomsRising were hosting a giant game of Chutes and Ladders on the Capitol lawn to emphasize the importance of early childhood education and protest the budget cuts to Head Start and other programs. The chutes represented the challenges and the ladders represented the opportunities families face while looking for high-quality, affordable preschool and child care. Several congressmen stopped by the event to speak in support of early childhood education. Those in attendance included Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tom Harkin. These representatives and senators, who stopped by after the CCDBG markup, also enjoyed playing the game and hula-hooping with the children in attendance.