Slehria, Communications Intern, and Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager,
May 8, 2020, is National Child Care Provider
Appreciation Day, a day to recognize child care providers, teachers, and other
educators of young children everywhere. Join CCSA in giving thanks to those who
dedicate themselves every day to educating and caring for our youngest
children. Especially now during COVID-19, they deserve more than just our
Child care providers are essential workers. COVID-19 has left them to operate in extreme circumstances while providing safe and loving care to the children of other essential workers. Please consider giving to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund launched in partnership with Smart Start to help child care programs in North Carolina either continue operating during this pandemic or be able to reopen once it’s safe again.
With your help, child care providers like Mary
Lewis can continue to do what they love—teaching.
Mary says “just watching children learn” is what she loves most about teaching. “Being able to adapt lesson plans on their level and teach them the way they need to learn, not the way I want to teach. Finding what works best for them on the individual level.”
Mary has been the director of the Children’s
Center of First Baptist in Cary, N.C. for four years and just recently
completed her Bachelor’s degree in December. “I have applied to UNC-G for the
master’s program. I’m hoping to go all the way. I’m hoping to get a doctorate,”
For Mary, her background sparked her career in
early childhood education. “I grew up as a foster child and I’ve always looked
for a way to advocate for children,” she said. As a director, Mary says she can
“connect with [students] on all levels instead of just a few in the classroom.”
Her transition to teaching future teachers
began with her desire to “see some changes in the early childhood college
curriculum so [teachers] can be more prepared when we step in and be ready to
go.” She says a change in curriculum can help teach future teachers “how to
handle behavior issues [and] different things I feel like maybe we’re missing
out on now in the current college curriculum.”
Mary’s favorite part of being a director is in
her connections. “I love that I can connect with all the children, and all the
families and the staff. My determination is to treat them the way I would want
to be treated. I’ve worked for some directors that didn’t really care, you
know. I really want to make a difference in [the staff’s] lives as much as the
lives of the children, and T.E.A.C.H. allows me to do that,” Mary said.
Her advice to those beginning a journey in early childhood education is, “to not settle. Not to just go get the paper [degree], but to go and get every piece of information offered by the colleges so you can really build yourself up and know you can help change the lives of children.”
The most rewarding part of Mary’s experience
is how she “can look back at the end of the day and say that I’ve accomplished
this, or together we’ve accomplished this. Together, we’ve made a change.”
CCSA is grateful for child care providers like
Mary for not just caring for and educating our youngest children, but for truly
being the backbone of our economy. COVID-19 has shown the rest of America this,
and we hope that the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund will help child care
programs continue to care and educate our youngest after the pandemic. Say
thanks to your child care provider and donate to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund
By Kay Ducharme, Regional CCR&R Senior Manager at Child Care Services Association
Part III: Why is data important?
For Child Care Services Association (CCSA), collecting data about the impact and effects of high quality child care is one of the most important things we can do for early childhood educators, young children and families. To that end, we talk to educators and families daily, collecting an enormous amount of data to analyze the needs of families and early childhood educators. In fact, we are the only organization in North Carolina that collects data on child care supply and demand. This information helps us strengthen and innovate the child care system for families, child care providers, programs and communities.
Yet, I am often asked why we have to
collect all of this data. In short, data is absolutely vital to ensuring that
all children have access to high quality child care led by educated and
For example, recent data indicates decreases in the number of classrooms, family child care homes and the total number in the child care workforce. Since child care resource and referral (CCR&R) is the only system that collects data on both supply and demand, we continue to help families locate child care as the supply decreases and the need increases. We also work to help start-up new programs to fill gaps where the supply of child care is limited. Our data can be used to help us advocate for change in public policy. And we need data to accurately tell the story of what families and providers across North Carolina need to strengthen services for families and the early childhood education field.
Federal funds to support CCR&R are a part of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The state’s Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) defines goals each year for the Council to help North Carolina meet federal block grant requirements. Regional CCR&R Lead Agencies receive funding from the Council to provide services in the 14 CCR&R regions based on population, community and child care demographics, workforce numbers and number of classrooms in the region, etc. The Council reports outcomes, outputs and demographics to DCDEE each year. These reports enable us to analyze customer needs and identify gaps in services and trends in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
Statewide in FY19, the NC CCR&R
system data indicated that the 14 regions trained 24,180 early educators; 3,077
of those training participants received CEUs. In addition to training,
CCR&R agencies provided technical assistance to 6,171 classrooms/homes and
consumer education and/or consultation to 21,738 households across the state. Ninety-eight
percent (98%) of families surveyed said they used quality indicators when
choosing child care and 97% of the families surveyed indicated that they chose
a 3-5 star rated child care program after using CCR&R services. By
collecting data in a consistent manner using defined data sets, data is
monitored to ensure reliability.
To access a membership to the website for
CCR&R staff, please contact Mary Erwin, NC CCR&R Council Coordinator at
Child Care Services Association, here.
For more in-depth knowledge of the
CCR&R system, training sessions are available each year throughout the
state for new staff. The final one for this fiscal year will be held in
Greenville, N.C., at the Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children, April 23 at 9:30
a.m. You can register for the training session here.
To read the first part of this series on what the statewide CCR&R is, click here.
To read the second part of this series on what the NC CCR&R Council is, click here.
By Kay Ducharme, Regional CCR&R Senior Manager at Child Care Services Association
What is the NC CCR&R Council?
The NC CCR&R Council was designed by the state’s Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) to standardize the delivery of child care resource and referral (CCR&R) services and provide equitable funding across the state. Before the Council was created, North Carolina had a fragmented, under-resourced CCR&R system that delivered services to children from birth to 5 or birth through 12, depending on where they lived. Some CCR&Rs provided non-English services while others did not. Databases and reporting mechanisms were different and data on programs, children and families served was not collected in a consistent manner. This made it impossible to provide accurate statewide data when advocating for changes in public policy or reporting to federal or state governments on the successes and/or gaps in services across North Carolina.
Council allowed DCDEE to ensure that CCR&R services were equitably funded
and available in communities across the state for providers and families of
children from birth through age 12 in the two most commonly used languages, no
matter where they lived or worked. In addition, they wanted to ensure that the
system was data driven and that data was collected consistently. This allows
DCDEE to paint an accurate picture of what is happening in North Carolina for
policymakers using consistent statistical data. It was also created with a
flexible structure to accommodate emerging needs as priorities and funding
Today, the Council manages and delivers CCR&R
core services and special initiatives which include providing technical
assistance and training to early care and education professionals, helping
families locate child care services, collecting and analyzing data to help
shape public policy and provide community awareness, helping young children
build strong social-emotional behaviors, helping support babies, helping
improve school-age services and others as requested by DCDEE. The Council
collaborates with other early childhood entities in North Carolina to
strengthen early childhood and also leads many projects that increase the
quality and availability of child care, provides research and advocates for
child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families.
The three agencies chosen to partner as
the Council—Child Care Services Association, Child Care Resources Inc. and
Southwestern Child Development Commission—are referred to as Council Management
Agencies (CMAs) and each one is responsible for the management of 4 to 5 regions
(inclusive of their own region). Below is a map showing how regions are
A wealth of information is provided by the Council to support CCR&Rs, children, families, providers and communities. In addition to training and technical assistance, other resources provided to CCR&Rs include:
train the trainer classes;
an annual conference;
email and advocacy alerts;
regulatory changes and notices;
definitions/instructions and data
a monthly news blast with early
childhood news and links to regional training calendars;
Art and Science of TA and Emergency
Preparedness training calendars;
Read more about why the data collected is important in the final part of this series here.
To read the first part of this series on what the statewide CCR&R is, click here.
If any issue warrants
public attention, public discussion and rethinking as to the best way to ensure
families with young children have access to child care and pre-kindergarten, it
is our nation’s current approach to the safety and healthy development of young
children. It’s not a system as much as a patchwork quilt stitched together over
decades. The federal government allocates funds to states through individual
programs or funding streams (i.e., block grants), each with different rules,
administered by different state agencies, and too often resulting in siloed
approaches with little to no coordination or collaboration among state agencies,
departments, divisions or communities.
In December 2019,
Congress enacted the FY2020 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
Appropriations measure, which included the following funding levels for early
care and education programs:
In addition to the funding above, in FY2019, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture allocated $3.7 billion to states to support healthy meals and snacks for low-income children in child care centers and family child care homes  and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services allocated the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to states, of which states chose to use $3.8 billion for child care and $2.6 billion for state pre-K.  The number of children served by TANF funds for child care or pre-K is unknown because the federal government only requires aggregate spending to be reported, not how many children are served, the setting children are in (homes or centers, licensed or unlicensed) or the average price paid per child. In all, that’s more than $35 billion through various federal funds for early care and education programs.
Child care is the largest early childhood program with $12.5 billion in funding and yet only about 17 percent of eligible children (based on state standards) receive a subsidy.  Many states have a waiting list for assistance, including North Carolina with a waiting list of more than 40,000 children. Families have a difficult time finding care, affording care, and then many parents express concern about the quality of care. Numerous national reports have been released about child care deserts, communities where the need for child care for parents of children under age 6 pales in comparison to the licensed supply of child care.  The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services released a report in October 2019 that found the supply of home-based care has declined by more than 97,000 providers since 2005. 
Why? Child care is a business. Child care centers tend to operate in areas where the population is dense enough with sufficient numbers of private-pay families who can afford weekly parent fees. The operating budget for child care centers largely comprises parent fees and therefore staff is hired at the lowest wages possible to hold costs down. In a good economy with low unemployment, like we have today, turnover is high because staff often can find better-paying jobs in fast food, retail sales or other jobs that require less training or education. Turnover also costs businesses because of the marketing, interviewing, hiring and training required for new staff.
For home-based providers, the hours are long and the pay is low. According to a 2019 economic impact report by the Committee for Economic Development,  the average annual income of home-based providers is approximately $15,000 per year,  18% higher than in North Carolina, where the average income of home-based providers is $12,300.  The decline in home-based providers (who often serve infants and toddlers) is a hardship for parents, particularly those in rural communities where the economics of operating a center don’t work. Home-based care is often less expensive and providers may be more willing to stay open during nontraditional hours for those parents who work shift work or have long commutes to their job. Yet, again, wages drive interest in opening a home-based program (or closing one) because other jobs in the community may pay more with fewer hours and less stress.
The reality is that mothers are working today. Nationally, approximately 72 percent of mothers with children under age 6 are working outside of the home,  65.4 percent of mothers with children age 2 are working  and, 57.8 percent of mothers with children under age 1 are working.  Many of these mothers need child care, but federal subsidies reach only one out of every six eligible children. Therefore, most families are forced to afford whatever they can find. However, in too many communities, the supply is not available, let alone affordable.
There is no doubt that if our nation’s early care and education system were designed today, it would look much different. If we can’t think out of the box about a new bold system to better meet the needs of families with young children, we will be stuck with incremental, minor band-aids that ignore the real problem: the system is under-financed and poorly designed. Parents can’t afford quality child care, but we know from the research that high-quality child care really matters to the healthy development of children, particularly in the earliest years as a child’s brain is developing the fastest, setting the architecture for all future social, emotional, physical and cognitive skills. 
Two decades ago, child care was a work support. Today, we know that it is a two-generation strategy. High-quality child care helps parents work and helps support the healthy development of children. In fact, parents who can’t access child care reduce their hours or drop out of the workforce. About 94 percent of those who involuntarily work part-time are mothers who cite child care problems as their reason for working part-time. 
In 2018, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released “Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education,” which reviewed the multiple funding streams for early care and education and made a number of recommendations. The NAS Committee, made up of early childhood experts and finance experts, recommended investing in early care and education at a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) aligned with the average of other member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report recommended increasing funds in four phases, from at least $5 billion in phase one to $53 billion in phase four. 
However, it is not just
about the money. It is also about program design and meeting the needs of
families in urban and rural areas and in an array of settings that best meet
the needs of the family and each individual child with an early education workforce
that is trained and paid appropriately for the important work they do.
Rethinking is always a
bit more challenging than staying in the box with patchwork fixes. The current
system isn’t working for low-income children whose families need a subsidy or
the private market where working parents need access to affordable high-quality
child care and early education programs. It is time for a discussion about a
As a teaching professional, Chatiba Bullock truly values her education and credits her continuous path to being a lifelong learner. “In order for me to motivate my teachers and team members, it’s important for them to see me working,” said Chatiba.
Chatiba works as Education Manager for Durham Head Start/Early Head Start while also furthering her early childhood development degree. She first began as an assistant teacher, quickly moved up to lead teacher and went on further to serve in the leadership position of center director.
Chatiba is also a Child Care WAGE$® recipient. “I really like WAGE$ because it gives you an incentive to keep learning,” she said. “The WAGE$ program really was [integral] in motivating me as an educator to want more and better myself.”
“I received an associates in early childhood education from Durham Tech Community College in 2005 and I went on to North Carolina Central University where I received my bachelor’s in family and consumer sciences with a concentration in child development in 2008,” Chatiba said. She didn’t stop there. “I received my Master’s in education in 2014 from Ashford University and then received some post-graduate certifications from Walden University in teacher leadership and childhood administration.
It wasn’t always Chatiba’s plan to work in early childhood education. Out of high school, she began as a business major. “It wasn’t until in ‘99, I started working at the Early Learning Center through the YMCA, they had their own child care center and I took on a part-time job as a floater, and I loved early childhood education,” Chatiba said.
While there, Chatiba realized something. “Working with kids and going to school for business, it just didn’t mesh. I like working with kids and I need to learn more about children,” she said.
“[My favorite part of being an educator is] the correlation between children and families. I think it’s actually working with children and families to help them understand the importance of education and how they can foster that love at home with their kids,” said Chatiba.
Her teaching style is shaped by “letting [the children] be the teacher and I’m the facilitator. I like to build lessons when I’m in the classroom. I’m not in the classroom as much anymore, but when I’m helping teachers understand their teaching style, my teaching style basically is the child’s interests and helping teachers facilitate that in their classroom,” said Chatiba.
By Tanya Slehria, Spring Communications Intern at CCSA
Tracy Pace’s favorite part of being an early childhood educator is “being there, being able to be an advocate for [children’s] success and being willing to listen and try to help parents reach out, find the resources [they need] and gain new skills.”
Tracy wears many hats in her role as a lead teacher at Nanna’s & Momma’s Child Care Center in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. “And my title kind of switches from day-to-day,” Tracy said. “It depends. I’m a very flexible person, but the majority of my time is used either as teaching in a classroom or in the office as an executive assistant.”
After high school, Tracy said, “I decided to get married instead of go to school…my husband and I were married for 5 years and our first child came along…We didn’t want them to do the same thing we’ve done. We wanted [them] to try to be smarter than that. So, we both had enrolled in school…Our second child came along and I just piddled here and there and did a class. So, it took me 26 years to get my associate’s degree and I’ve just done that this July ” from Blue Ridge Community College.
Tracy’s educational journey may be filled with twists and turns, yet her commitment to education and early childhood education has remained consistent throughout her 30-plus years in the field. While working toward her degree, she was still supporting her family of four children as well.
After graduating, Tracy enrolled in Brevard College. It was through her persistence and encouragement that they began offering a birth-to-kindergarten program and an education program for students to receive teaching licenses. She continued to pave her own path, and as she told Brevard, “I’d love to [enroll with] the T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship.” At the time, Brevard was not participating with CCSA’s T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program, but Tracy’s determination led them to offer the scholarship. “So, in 10 classes, I’ll have my Bachelor’s degree,” Tracy said.
Tracy’s involvement with T.E.A.C.H. began with her work at Nanna’s & Momma’s where she became a Child Care WAGE$® recipient. At the time, she was her mother’s full-time caregiver, a full-time student, a full-time employee and a full-time mother. She credits her ability to keep up with it all to the WAGE$ supplement.
“The [WAGE$] supplement has allowed me not to have [a second job] and to help me manage all these other different things, as first of all, a wife and mother, and second of all, someone who wants to give back to their community. Without [WAGE$], it wouldn’t have been possible,” said Tracy.
Tracy is as dedicated a teacher as she is a student. Her goal has always been to teach. Teaching “fits my family’s needs,” said Tracy.
Before her time in the classroom, Tracy worked as the assistant director for the Brevard Davidson River Presbyterian Church and was involved with various organizations. Her position helped her form a network of connections that serve as a benefit to her current role as an educator. “I think community resources is my biggest strength—those connections outside of this job and those I made before I got into this current job,” said Tracy. “I know people to call by name at the Social Services office. I would say that’s one of the biggest things for teachers, in general, is being able to know and have a list of those resources and know people by name.”
Tracy attributes her teaching style to her community. “I’ve grown a lot and become a lot more flexible as I understand and continue to try to edge out a living in the community that I’ve worked and raised my kids in and [one that] they would love to come back to,” she said. She also credits her passion for reading, “which has given me an understanding and [ability to find] solutions, or things I can try, and that not all kids are the same.”
“We know everything we need to know before we’re age 5. That’s the point and most people miss that. They think we’re not anything until we’re 5 and go to kindergarten, but every child learns all their coping skills, their ability to receive and give information before the age of 5,” said Tracy.
Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager at Child Care Services Association
1, 2020, is Census Day
The Census is your chance to make sure your
community counts. Participating in the Census will help make sure your
community over the next 10 years receives:
Fair representation in Congress;
Financial resources for health,
schools, transportation and more; and
Help for information leaders to
plan your community’s future. 
More than $5 billion of North Carolina’s
federal funding for children’s services is at stake in the census, so it’s
critical to get the count right. That’s about $1,600 for each person in federal
funding for the state. 
However, in the 2010 Census, nearly 1 million children (4.6% of children under the age of 5) were not counted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, children under age 5 are one of the largest groups of undercounted people in the United States.  If missed in the Census, young children in hard to count communities also stand to suffer the most from reductions in funding to vital programs. 
People of color
Non-native English speakers
“Complex” families  (for
example, those with multiple generations of a family, unrelated families living
together and blended or foster families.) 
In North Carolina, 950,000 residents live in a
hard-to-count community,  leaving 73,000 young children at risk
of being missed in the 2020 Census. 
Nearly 1 in 5 of America’s infants are growing up in poverty, putting them at a greater risk to fall behind their peers in language development, reading proficiency, and experience learning disabilities and developmental delays. It is critical to invest in programs such as Early Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant that ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive. 
Can You Do?
Help spread the word! Share this article by clicking on the social media icons below.
Learn more about the 2020 Census and find more resources and shareable materials here.
Tell the people in your life who care for children 5 and under to count every child in the 2020 Census on April 1.
Because census results help determine where
federal funds are distributed for programs that are important for children, an
accurate count can shape a child’s future for the next decade and beyond. It’s
important to count young children now so they have the resources they need as
they grow up. It all begins with responding to the 2020 Census. 
Basloe, President, Child Care Services Association
Families with jobs and secure housing access child care
through our country’s Child Care Resource & Referral network, friends and
family and the internet. Without child
care, families experiencing homelessness struggle to secure housing. And yet, for
these families, accessing child care offers two important benefits—the chance
to be able to participate in job training, education, and other programs
essential to resolving their homelessness and the opportunity to have a safe
setting for children to grow!
Research has established a strong connection between a young child’s early experiences and the development of his or her brain structure. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the early years of life when more than 1 million new neural connections form every second, can provide a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. We know that homelessness jeopardizes the health, early childhood development and educational well-being of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children. It also creates unique barriers to participating in early care and education. With nearly 50% of children living in federally-funded homeless shelters under the age of five, this is a problem for families, communities, states and the country.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, signed into law on November 19, 2014, reauthorized the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Program. The reauthorized law made significant advancements by defining health and safety requirements for child care providers, outlining family-friendly eligibility policies, and ensuring parents and the general public have transparent information about available child care choices.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published the
Final Rule to implement the Child Care and Development Fund program (CCDF) in
September 2016. The full regulations may be read here.
The McKinney-Vento Act’s education definition of homelessness to be used by child care (and Head Start and public education),
A grace period or flexibility to obtain immunizations and other documents needed so that children experiencing homelessness can be served more quickly,
Outreach to homeless families with children,
Training and technical assistance in identifying and serving homeless children and their families,
The coordination of services so that families with children can get the help that they need, and
Data reporting to know how many families (and children) experiencing homelessness are receiving child care assistance.
States submitted 2016-2018 CCDF Plans and excerpts from Section 3.2.2., Improving Access to High Quality Child Care for Homeless Families, within State Plans were shared here. The state plans for 2016-2018 indicated that while many states had policies in place to help families experiencing homelessness access child care assistance, the majority of states were not yet adequately addressing those families’ unique needs.
The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Plan serves as
the application for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds by
providing a description of, and assurance about, state child care programs and related
services available to eligible families. The Office of Child Care reviews the
Plans for approval.
The CCDF Plan also presents an opportunity for states to demonstrate the activities and services they are providing to meet the needs of low-income children and families. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) makes Plans publicly available to many users including members of Congress, Congressional committees, State and local child care administrators, advocacy groups, researchers and the general public. For states looking for innovative ways to better meet the child care needs of families experiencing homelessness, the publication of the state plans serves as a clearinghouse of resources for states to replicate or customize to finetune their strategies to best support these families.
The 2019-2021 CCDF State Plans show that States have embraced the CCDF law and regulations with regard to serving families experiencing homelessness, making changes to policies and practice, including eligibility requirements, coordinating with partners, increasing access and providing professional development for those within the child care field to not only increase access to child care but also to ensure that families with children experiencing homelessness receive the support and services they need. These State Plans can be found here.
View other resources for early childhood homelessness here.
By Marsha Basloe, President, Child Care Services Association
During a child’s earliest years, brain development occurs that sets the architecture for all future learning (e.g., the wiring needed for healthy child development across social, emotional, physical, and cognitive areas). This is what makes high-quality child care for infants and toddlers so important.
At the same time, infant and toddler care is the hardest to find. The supply of infant and toddler care pales in comparison to the needs of working parents. A report by the Center for American Progress found that 44 percent of families in North Carolina live in a child care desert where the demand for child care by working families far exceeds the supply.
Even when families can find it, too many struggle with the cost, particularly for infants and toddlers. Throughout North Carolina, the average annual price of child care for an infant in a child care center is $9,254. The average annual price of child care for an infant in a family child care home is $7,412.
perspective, for a single mother earning minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) working
full-time, she would earn $15,080 per year. The cost of center-based infant
care would be 61.4 percent of her income. The cost of infant care in a family
child care home would be 49.2 percent of her income. If she earns twice the
minimumwage ($14.50 per hour), about $30,160 per year – the cost of
child care in a center would be 30.7 percent of her income. The cost of infant
care in a family child care home would be 24.6 percent of her income. If she earnsthree times the minimum wage ($21.75 per hour), her annual income would
be about $45,240 per year. Center-based infant care would cost 20.5 percent of
her income; infant care in a family child care home would cost 16.4 percent of
To help families with the cost of child care, the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) offers qualifying families a subsidy. The state pays most of the cost and families have a 10 percent co-pay. Unfortunately, not all families who qualify can receive assistance and more than 30,000 eligible children throughout the state are on a waiting list for child care financial help. It is important to note that the waiting list is only a snapshot in time because some families don’t join the list when they hear about the length of it. So, the waiting list reflects only those who qualify for help and who also add their names to the waiting list in case more funding becomes available to support additional families.
For families with infants
and toddlers, the supply and cost are both struggles. It’s unrealistic to think
that families can access the licensed market if they have to pay a huge
percentage of their income to cover the cost. Why is that a concern to all
North Carolina taxpayers? There are several reasons.
Quality of child care and long-term taxpayer bills. When parents can’t afford the licensed market, if they must stay in the workforce to make ends meet, then they will try to make do with a variety of unlicensed care options. Given the brain development that is underway during a child’s earliest years, it is critical that a child be in a setting that promotes his or her healthy development. That’s one of the reasons for the rated child care license in North Carolina and one of the reasons the NC General Assembly restricted the receipt of child care subsidies to programs with at least a 3-star rating. Supporting healthy child development is important, particularly for infants and toddlers when the brain is developing the fastest. Taxpayers will pay more in the long-term when a child enters kindergarten without the skills to succeed through additional costs for remediation, for special education, and for those children who must repeat a grade (e.g., repeating a grade is not “free”).
Labor force participation. Without affordable child care, parents reduce their hours or opt-out of the workforce. Ninety-four percent of workers involuntarily working part-time due to child care problems are women. In North Carolina, 457,706 children under age 6 have working parents. If one-third to one-half of these children under 6 are infants and toddlers, that’s 151,043 to 228,853 children who may need some type of child care while their parents work.
Employers & Employees. Employers depend on working parents. And, working parents with young children depend on some type of child care.
As the General Assembly meets to
discuss budget priorities, child care assistance should be at the top of the
list. Given the extraordinary cost of child care for infants and toddlers, the
General Assembly may want to consider reviewing other models to support access
to high-quality infant and toddler care.
In June 2018, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously passed the Birth to Three for All DC Act. The legislation charts the path for a comprehensive system of supports for children’s healthy growth and development with a specific focus on services for families with infants and toddlers. The Act is broad — investing in home visiting and child developmental screening, however, with regard to child care for infants and toddlers, the Act expands child care subsidy eligibility for infants and toddlers to all families by 2027, caps the percentage of annual income a family would pay toward child care expenses at 10 percent of gross income by 2028, and phases in competitive compensation for early educators. The District is now in its second year of implementation with $16 million in funding for FY2020. City Council members say it’s a high priority to increase funding as part of the 2021 budget, and work on that front is underway.
There are certainly differences
in passing legislation that supports a city (even a large city like Washington,
D.C.) compared to a state. However, the concept is innovative. It recognizes
that the cost of infant and toddler care is so high that all families may
struggle with the cost. It recognizes that access to high-quality infant and
toddler care is important to a child’s healthy development. And, it recognizes
that a compensation strategy for the child care workforce is needed to support
It is time to rethink the state’s
approach to child care subsidy, and especially how families with infants and
toddlers are supported in accessing high-quality child care. In the new year,
let’s give thanks for what we have and think through policies that can best
support our children in the future.
By Marsha Basloe, President, Child Care
Working Parents Need Access to Quality Child Care – More Support Needed
for Child Care Workforce
Currently, throughout North Carolina, nearly half a million (457,706) children under age six live in a family where all parents in the household are working. Many of these children are in some type of child care setting every week so that their parents can obtain and retain jobs that sustain and grow our state’s economy.
A study by the Committee for Economic Development (CED) shows that child care as an industry has an economic impact in North Carolina of $3.15 billion annually ($1.47 billion in direct revenue and $1.67 billion in spillover in other industries throughout our counties and cities). Child care programs have an overall job impact throughout the state of 64,852, which includes 47,282 individuals who are employed within child care centers or who operate a home-based business plus another 17,570 in spillover jobs – created through the activity of those operating child care programs. The economic impact of child care matters because it helps drive local economies. When parents can access child care, they are more likely to enter the workforce and stay employed.
The Child Care
Workforce: Early Brain Builders
What we know is that child care is not only a work support for parents but also an early learning setting for young children. Research shows that a child’s earliest years are when the brain is developing the fastest – forming a foundation for all future social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. During this time, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second. This is important to understand because both parents and child care providers play an important role in supporting healthy child development – helping to shape the brain’s foundation for all future learning (e.g., school readiness and school success).
Because both genes and experiences impact a child’s brain development, the child care workforce plays a critical role in supporting early learning. In essence, they are brain builders – working with children to support a strong foundation on which later learning depends – just like the foundation for a house, all floors above the basement depend on the construction or sturdiness of the basement.
The Workforce that
Supports All Other Workforces
Despite the important role that child care educators play in supporting our next generation (as well as supporting the ability of parents to work), the current economic model for child care programs falls short of supporting child care workers in a way that recognizes their role in child development. How so? The operating budget for child care programs is based on parent fees and state subsidies paid for low-income children.
Because the current cost of child care in North Carolina is so high (e.g., $9,254 annually for center-based infant care), program directors try to keep costs down because they know parents can’t pay more. However, what this translates to is low wages for the child care field. In today’s economy, where the fast-food industry and retail sales pay higher hourly wages and often offer benefits, the competition for the workforce to enter the early childhood field is steep. In fact, the early childhood field is experiencing a workforce crisis.
In North Carolina, the median wage earned for child care teachers is about $10.97 per hour ($22,818 per year if full time) and assistant teachers earn $9.97 per hour. These wages represent a modest 0.7% increase in buying power despite much larger gains in education. The study also found that statewide, 39% of teachers and teacher assistants had needed at least one type of public assistance (e.g., TANF, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, etc.) in the past three years.
Child Care Services Association (CCSA) is conducting a county-level early childhood workforce study for the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) that will be completed in August 2020. Once completed, North Carolina will have additional information.
For context, many child care educators are supporting their own families. With these wages, they fall well short of the level that qualifies them for public food assistance benefits (e.g., a family of three with income under $27,000 per year qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP). It’s not hard to understand that workers in low wage jobs face stresses in making ends meet, in supporting their own families and in parking their stress outside the classroom door when working with young children.
In North Carolina, the
state funds two programs administered by CCSA to support the early childhood
Child Care WAGE$® Program, which provides education-based salary supplements to low paid teachers, directors and family child care educators working with children ages birth to five. The program is designed to increase retention, education and compensation. The Child Care WAGE$® Program is a funding collaboration between local Smart Start partnerships (55 partnerships) and the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). Salary supplements are earned – tied to the recipient’s level of education, with teachers and family child care providers awarded on a different scale than directors.
These strategies are invaluable to better support the child care workforce for the important work that they do. It raises salaries sometimes almost a dollar an hour. You can see the impact of these programs on our website. This is an investment in the workforce that supports all other workforces, AND also an investment that results in better outcomes for our children (e.g., brain-building that leads to school readiness). We hope these programs will grow in the years ahead to support our early childhood educators who care for our young children and families.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the work of our early educators. It is time for our communities to think about compensation for the early childhood workforce in a manner that reflects their contribution to our state’s prosperity.