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Home > Advocacy > CWLA 2008 Children's Legislative Agenda > Child Care and Head Start


CWLA 2008 Children's Legislative Agenda

Child Care and Head Start

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  • Support a substantial increase in child care appropriations for FY 2009.

  • Increase funding for Head Start to $7.6 billion in FY 2009, as included in the 2007 Head Start reauthorization.

The Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) Spending and Trends

The 1996 welfare reform law fundamentally changed the way the federal government provides funding to states for child care. The law created the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) by combining child care funds previously available from the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the annually appropriated Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). After rapid expansion in the late 1990s, child care services have essentially plateaued this decade and are going down. When children and families receiving child care through all federal sources including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant are added in, the Administration indicates that child care services decreased from 2.45 million children in 2000 to 2.3 million children in 2006. They further project this trend to continue with child care services decreasing to 2 million children by 2012. In other words, a loss of 450,000 child care slots through 2012. 1

In FY 2008, the CCDF provided states with approximately $5 billion for child care. Just under $2.1 billion of this total is provided through the annual appropriation process, with the remaining provided as mandatory funds written into the law.

States receive the same amount of mandatory funds each year. In addition, if states spend an additional amount of their own funds to match the federal dollars, states can draw on federal matching funds. Between FY 1997 and FY 2002, matching funds for states increased each year but no increases occurred in 2003, 2004, or 2005. The reauthorization of the TANF block grant in 2006 extended the mandatory and matching funds through 2010, with a slight $200 million increase in matching funds in 2006. Mandatory and matching funding is frozen for the remainder of the decade.

States also receive CCDBG discretionary funds that do not require a state match. CCDBG funding increased from $1 billion to $2.1 billion between FY 1997 and FY 2002, but has since decreased, with Congress continually freezing funding or enacting across-the-board spending cuts for all social service programs, including child care. In FY 2008, child care discretionary funding was set at $2.09 billion. The total amount of CCDF funding has remained at nearly the same rate since FY 2002 due to White House opposition to funding increases and the lack of congressional support.

In addition to these CCDF dollars, states can transfer the federal TANF block grant into CCDF, or spend funds for child care directly out of TANF. With TANF funding remaining at the same level as in 1996, states are left with a dwindling reserve of TANF funds to use for child care. Federal TANF funds used for child care peaked in 2000 when states spent $4 billion in TANF funds on child care. Funding fell to $3.3 billion in 2004, then to $3.2 billion in 2005, and finally to $3.1 billion in 2006. 2

Child Care Structure at the State and Local Levels

States have flexibility in setting child care eligibility standards and allocating funds. A state can designate any family earning up to 85% of the state median income (SMI) as eligible for a child care subsidy. In 2005, 48 states had eligibility levels below 85% of SMI. In fact, in three-quarters of the states, families earning 200% of poverty (i.e., $32,180) did not qualify for assistance. 3 In the past, this 85% ceiling has been used to determine all of the children potentially eligible for child care and then that number is compared to the number of children who do receive child care. Based on such calculations in FY 2000, only 1 in 7 children were receiving a child care subsidy.

To be eligible for child care assistance, children must be younger than 13, and their parents must be working, receiving training, or in school. Children in the protective services system or in need of protective services are eligible, regardless of their parents' eligibility (work status). A child in foster care, however, qualifies only if a state indicates in its child care plan that the foster care system is considered part of its child protection system. At the local program level, this can create confusion and result in a lack of services for foster parents who are actually eligible for child care services.

Child Care Workforce

High turnover within the child care workforce affects the quality of services. Many states report difficulty with retaining workers in the child care field due to extremely low wages. Despite the great need to address child care workforce issues by providing reimbursement rates and better quality, the congressional child care debate has been limited to funding levels. The child care workforce faces a serious challenge. A 2001 study found that 75% of all teaching staff and 40% of all directors working at certain centers in 1996 were no longer on the job when those centers were revisited in 2000. 4 Because the child care workforce and the quality of services draws funding from the same block grant and that funding has been frozen, states are forced to choose between services, quality initiatives, and reimbursement rates-all of which, of course, are fundamental components.

Developments in this Decade

Since its establishment in l995, the Child Care Bureau has been at the forefront of promoting quality of care as an essential component to child and youth development. In March 2006, the Administration reorganized and consolidated the Child Care Bureau into the Office of Family Assistance. The final 2006 TANF reauthorization (P.L. 109-171) contained a very limited one-year, $200 million increase in matching child care funds. This means that the overall matching funds increased in FY 2006 to $1.8 billion and will remain stagnant through 2010 unless Congress acts. The same TANF reauthorization also increased the work requirements on both single- and two-parent families.

Head Start

Created in 1965, Head Start began as an eight-week summer program designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children of low-income families with comprehensive services that meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs. Between 1990 and 2000, Head Start experienced dramatic increases in enrollment, from more than 540,000 children in 1990, to 857,000 in 2000. Enrollment peaked in 2002 at 912,000 children. 5

Head Start's continued goal is to ensure that every child enters school physically, emotionally, and educationally prepared to begin formal learning. The program's annual selfassessment includes indicators of each child's progress. Studies indicate that by the spring of their kindergarten year, children in Head Start have substantially increased their word knowledge, letter recognition, and math and writing skills. 6 Preliminary results from a randomly selected longitudinal study of more than 600 Head Start graduates show that the graduates in kindergarten also have higher final grades in numeracy, language, literacy, social conduct, and physical development, and were absent 4.5 fewer days than their non-Head Start peers. 7

Head Start functions not just as a child care and education program, but also as a comprehensive effort to promote child development. Head Start offers services that are unique and critical to children's development, addressing their social, emotional, physical, and health needs. Head Start recognizes that both families and communities are important to the program's success; consequently, partnerships serve as an important part of its structure. Children's wellness and health are important concerns for Head Start programs. Head Start also seeks to fully include children with disabilities as a way to help all children, parents, and staff in the program.

Head Start was expanded in 1994 to include a new Early Head Start program that extends services to pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and their families. The 1998 reauthorization of Head Start increased the funds set aside to expand Early Head Start from 7.5% in 1999, to 10% by 2003. In FY 2006, 650 programs provided Early Head Start in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Service was provided to more than 62,000 children under the age of 3. 8

Head Start is also an important program in Indian country and assists in areas of high migrant populations. It does this through a set aside of federal funding. In FY 2007, Head Start provided $475 million for American Indian- Alaska Native, and migrant and seasonal programs. Of the more than 900,000 children enrolled, 4.2% were American Indian/Alaska Native. 9

The Reauthoriaztion in 2007

In 2007, Congress passed the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007. It was the first time Head Start had been reauthorized since 1998 and in effect it finished a debate over reauthorization that began in 2003. The initial debate and discussion in 2003 focused on controversial Administration proposals that allowed up to eight states to receive Head Start funding as a block grant instead of the current structure that provides dollars directly to local Head Start programs. The Administration also proposed moving Head Start from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Education in an attempt to emphasize its role in education. During the reauthorization debate, the role of testing and accountability for Head Start children, Head Start teacher requirements, and the role of policy and parent councils were discussed.

When Congress passed a final reauthorization (P.L. 110- 134) in November of 2007, it preserved its role as a comprehensive early childhood program that promotes child development and involves the entire family. The new Head Start law authorizes funding of $7.3 billion in 2008, $7.6 billion in 2009, $7.9 billion in 2010, and such sums as Congress chooses to appropriate in the years 2011 and 2012. Other significant changes include collaboration grants to better coordinate Head Start with other child care and early childhood development programs, maintaining parent policy councils, the creation of an incentive program that will allow Head Start to reward Head Start Centers of Excellence, and allowing programs to serve families up to 130% of the federal poverty level, providing that the programs meet certain responsibilities in regard to families at or below poverty.

Key Facts

  • Considered a high point in child care services, states served approximately 14%, or 1 in 7, of the federally eligible children with child care needs in FY 2000. 10

  • As of early 2007, an estimated 365,617 children nationwide were on the waiting list for subsidized child care. 11

  • In 2007, a family at 150% of poverty in 29 states was charged a copayment of above $150 per month (7% of income); in addition, in seven states a family at this income level was not even eligible for child care assistance. 12

  • In 2007, less than one-fifth of states paid child care providers at 75% of an up-to-date market rate. In 2001, nearly half the states did. 13

  • States can spend child care quality funds on a range of services, including teacher training, enhanced reimbursements, safety and health measures, inspections, and increased compensation for workers. States must spend at least 4% of their child care funds on quality. In addition to this set-aside, the federal government provides $100 million for infant and toddler quality, $19 million for school-age resource and referral, and $172 million for general quality enhancements. Of these total funds, 20% is spent on resource and referral, 14% for enhanced inspections, 13% for meeting state standards, and 12% for caregiver compensation. 14

  • In 1965, Head Start served 561,000 children. In 2006, the program served more than 909,201 children. As of 2006, Head Start has served more than 24 million children since its creation. 15

  • Children in Head Start receive significantly more health care screenings and dental examinations than do their peers not enrolled in Head Start. 16

  • Since 1972, Congress has required that at least 10% of children whom a Head Start grantee serves be children with disabilities. Of the total Head Start population nationwide, nearly 13%, or more than 115,000 children, are children with disabilities. 17

  • A review of 40 early childhood programs, including Head Start, found positive long-term effects on parent or teacher ratings of antisocial behavior and actual delinquency records. 18

  • Head Start includes more than 50,030 classes. Staffing for Head Start totals 218,000, including approximately 218,000 paid staff. More than 1.3 million volunteers are involved-including 925,000 parents. 19

  • Of Head Start enrollees,
    51% are age 4;
    35% are age 3;
    4% are age 5 and older;
    10% are under age 3;
    30.7% are African American;
    34% are Hispanic;
    39.8% are white; and
    4.2% are American Indian-Alaskan Native. 20

  • An evaluation of state preschool services found that Head Start usually offers a more comprehensive set of higher quality services than states have offered through preschool programs. 21


  1. Mathews, H., & Ewen, D. (2007). Families forgotten: Administration's priorities put child care low on list. Available online. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy. back
  2. Ewen, D., & Matthews, H. (2007). Title I and early childhood programs: A look at investments in the NCLB era. Available online. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy. back
  3. Schulman, K., & Blank, H. (2005). Child care assistance policies 2005: States fail to make up lost ground, families continue to lack critical supports. Available online. Washington, DC: National Women's Law Center. back
  4. Whitebook, M., Sakai, L., Gerber, E., & Howes, C. (2001). Then and now: Changes in child care staffing, 1994-2000. Available online. Washington, DC: Center for the Child Care Workforce. back
  5. Administration on Children and Families (ACF), Head Start Bureau. (2007). Head Start program fact sheet for fiscal year 2006. Available online. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. back
  6. Commissioner's Office of Research and Evaluation, Head Start Bureau. (2001). Head Start FACES (1997): Longitudinal findings on program performance: Third progress report. Available online. Washington, DC: Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. back
  7. Meier, J. (2003). Kindergarten readiness study: Head Start success, interim report. San Bernardino, CA: Preschool Services Department of San Bernardino County. back
  8. ACF, Head Start Bureau, Head Start program fact sheet for fiscal year 2006back
  9. Ibid. back
  10. Mezey, J., Greenberg, M., & Schumacher, R. (2002). The vast majority of federally-eligible children did not receive child care assistance in FY 2000: Increased child care funding needed to help more families. Available online at Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). back
  11. Schulman, K., & Blank, H. (2007). State child care assistance policies 2007: Some steps forward, more progress needed. Available online. Washington, DC: National Women's Law Center. back
  12. Ibid. back
  13. Ibid. back
  14. U.S. General Accounting Office. (2002). Child care: States exercise flexibility in setting reimbursement rates and providing access for low-income children. (GAO-02-894). Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
  15. ACF, Head Start Bureau, Head Start program fact sheet for fiscal year 2006back
  16. Marcon, R. (2002). Moving up the grades: Relationship between preschool model and later success. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 4(1). Available online. Champaign, IL: Early Childhood and Parenting (ECAP) Collaborative at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. back
  17. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). (2003). Head Start Act (Report 108-208). Available online. back
  18. Yoshikawa, H. (1995). Long-term effects of early childhood programs on social outcomes and delinquency. The Future of Children, 5(3), 51-75. Available online.  back
  19. ACF, Head Start Bureau, Head Start program fact sheet for fiscal year 2006back
  20. Ibid. back
  21. Ripple, C., Gilliam, W., Chanana, N., & Zigler, E. (1999). Will fifty cooks spoil the broth? American Psychologist, 54(5), 327-343. back

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