Appropriately timed, CLASP has released a new analysis of state efforts to implement the new regulations and funding under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). New CCDBG regulations are a result of a new authorization enacted in 2014. The 2014 reauthorization was the first one since 1996. The regulations and law instituted new requirements on states in child care health and safety, eligibility requirements and other standards. The reauthorization did not include significant new federal dollars needed to implement the provisions until the 2018 and 2019 federal appropriations that raised CCDBG funds by $2.3 billion to a total of $5.2 billion (plus TANF child care funds). The CLASP report, From Opportunity to Change: State Experiences Implementing CCDBG says:
“Over the past four years, states have approached individual provisions of the federal law within the constraints of financial resources, federal guidance, and the general logistics of policymaking at the state level. Multiple barriers led almost every state to request at least one waiver, which were largely granted, to delay implementation of one or more provision of the CCDBG law. Although it did not expressly approve frequently requested waivers for the health and safety training requirement provision, ACF did extend the deadline for meeting those requirements, as well as those around criminal background checks. While each state had its unique set of challenges…”
The CLASP report highlights some particular challenges: 12-Month of Eligibility for child care subsidies (instead of immediate cut-off when a parent exceeds income eligibility) and the Graduated Phase-Out of child care subsidies to the family, Health and Safety Training and Monitoring; and Criminal Background Checks. The issue of background checks has been a concern for some on Capitol Hill, particularly with some senators who feel states aren’t acting fast enough in implementation of the checks. According to the CLASP analysis:
“While many states already had some level of background check system for early childhood educators and child care providers prior to the 2014 law, none had a background check system that met all the new law’s requirements. The reauthorization required states to implement a comprehensive set of criminal background checks for all child care staff of licensed, regulated, and registered child care providers— regardless of whether they are receiving CCDBG funds—and all eligible CCDBG providers (unless they are related to all children in their care).
The background checks included a Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprint check using Next Generation Identification; a search of the National Crime Information Center’s National Sex Offender Registry; and a search of the state criminal registry or repository, state sex offender registry or repository, and state-based child abuse and neglect registry and database. These state-level searches must be done in the staff person’s current state of residence and any state where he or she has resided within the past five years. Even states with existing robust background check systems, like California, struggled with the breadth and complexity of the new requirements, along with the cost of creating the administrative infrastructure necessary to meet them. In addition to the sheer number of providers and staff subject to new background check requirements, states continue to have difficulties getting background check data from other states and federal sources in a timely manner.”
This last issue is likely to become an issue during a reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) with a discussion of requiring states to conduct a background check of other state child abuse registries—a continual challenge since child abuse registries also serve as a way to monitor potential neglect situations by a caregiver over time and it is not necessarily a system that lists people who have committed an act of abuse or a criminal act toward a child.
The CLASP study indicates that creating flexibility that states needed on background checks was complicated because that provision was explicitly spelled out in the federal law, including specific checks required and fines for noncompliance.
One of the background check problems also dealt with the requirement to include data from the National Sex Offender Registry. That poses a challenge for states had never been required to access the Registry. While the original law required compliance by September 2017, HHS extended that deadline to September 2018. Recognizing ongoing challenges, the FY 2019-2021 CCDF State Plan Preprint (or template) from OCC included language allowing for additional one-year extensions for compliance with background check provisions, with the expectation that all states will be in compliance by September 2020.
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