An Opportunity to Address Inequities and Quality Standards
Finding quality and affordable child care before the COVID-19 pandemic was not easy. Now, it’s a crisis. As attempts unfold to kick-start the economy, many working parents are finding fewer available slots or even closed doors at their providers, and more cost due to new health safety guidelines and procedures. Some states like Florida are using federal funds to shore up child care but the sufficiency and duration are unknown. Major policy work is needed to turn this crisis into an opportunity to set better and higher standards, address inequities and support working parents who form the backbone of the state and nation’s economy.
Foster Children Need More Access to Subsidized Child Care
The primary segment lacking access to subsidized early education and child care is children in out-of-home care. Although “at-risk” children are given the second level of priority for subsidized child care slots, if those slots are unavailable, the cost of child care falls to the foster parent or relative caregiver. This can be a large expense for families providing care to children who are unable to live with their parents.
Additional CCDBG Funding to Improve Access and Strengthen System
Florida will receive more than $168 million in additional Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding that could allow up to 13,310 more children to be served, including those in the child welfare system. The state could also readdress income eligibility requirements for subsidized child care and higher levels of reimbursement for programs that show their quality is achieving accreditation requirements.
Child Care Providers Must Be Accredited
Quality of child care begins with ensuring that well-trained and appropriately paid professionals care for and educate young children using an enriching curriculum in an equally stimulating environment. In Florida, only 26% of center-based child care programs and 8% of family child care homes are nationally accredited. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, accreditation ensures quality-based standards are in place to provide the best learning experiences for young children and their educators.
Systemic Bias Impacts Ability to Access and Participate in Quality Child Care Programs
Racial disparities within the child care system exist and impact children and their parents. Despite Black children only accounting for 14% and Latinx children accounting for 26% of Florida’s population, they make up 77% of children below the poverty line. This presents a challenge to families in need of appropriate childcare and early education. In Florida, the average cost of childcare is $9,238 per year which is approximately 21% of the average Black family’s median income and approximately 18% of the average Latinx family’s income. Single parent households run by mothers face a larger challenge as Florida’s Black and Latinx mothers make 53 cents for every dollar white non-Lantix fathers make. Almost 17,000 children were on the child care assistance waiting list in 2019.The inability to access quality child care can lead to negative outcomes – when children are placed in homes that are not monitored for health and safety guidelines. Unfortunately, after children of color access accredited early education programs racial bias impacts the school experience, even in the youngest years. Nationally, Black preschool children are 3.6 times as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as their White peers. Access to affordable and culturally competent childcare is crucial for families who need to place their child in a safe and quality child care facility in order to work.
State-Funded After School Programs Need Oversight to Ensure Health and Safety
Due to the high number of dual working parents, children need afterschool settings that are safe and developmentally appropriate. Although Florida is among the top ten states for access to after school programs, a current exemption in Florida law allows national membership organizations to not be licensed as child care facilities–even if they receive state funding. Organizations that provide care to children out of their parents’ care and receive state dollars must be held accountable to the state’s standards for child safety.
Degreed Teachers Lacking in VPK Program
The rap against Florida from a national perspective is that, historically, the state focuses more on quantity and access rather than research-based quality in the areas of child care and voluntary pre-kindergarten.
Florida offers a free voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) program for four-year-old children. It is one of the largest Pre-K programs in the country. Unfortunately, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Florida’s Pre-K system only meets two of ten quality benchmarks, reflecting its reluctance to require a degreed teacher in every Pre-K classroom.
In 2021 a massive overhaul was made to early learning administration in Florida. While the new laws will address many aspects of oversight and assessment, they do not directly address increases in quality. Hopefully, the new information gained will provide the state with the data needed to invest in quality-improving additions to the state’s early learning program.
- Provide child care for children in out-of-home care: Although “at-risk” children are given the second level of priority for subsidized child care slots, if slots are unavailable the cost of child care falls to the foster parent or relative caregiver. This can be a large expense and leads to foster care families leaving.
- Continue current licensing standards and health and safety regulations: Ensure children are kept healthy and safe when out of parents’ care.
- Hold national membership organizations accountable for after school safety: Require national membership organizations that receive state dollars to be subject to the same licensing standards as other after school programs.
- Increase quality in Florida’s VPK program: To improve pre-K and early learning quality and national rankings, increase the per student funding to the 2010 investment level adjusted for inflation, require a bachelor’s degree and experience for lead teachers, a CDA or equivalent for assistant teachers, and improve vision, health and hearing screenings.
American Children’s Campaign Priority Bill Highlights
What American Children’s Campaign is Saying…
- The State of Preschool 2018—National Institute for Early Education Research
Florida’s pre-K program is among the best in the country for access, yet is in the lowest for quality components and funding.
- Afterschool Fostering Student Success in Florida—Afterschool Alliance
After School programs are keeping students safe, inspiring them to learn and supporting Florida’s working families. Yet 541,481 school-age children (19%) in Florida are alone and unsupervised during the hours after school. More than a decade of research confirms that quality afterschool programs are providing rich learning experiences for students, helping to narrow existing opportunity and achievement gaps and positioning students toward a bright future as they move through school, career and life.
- A New “Early Years” Model for Solving Florida’s Silent Crisis—Voices for Florida
The current underinvestment in the developmental needs of Florida’s children–and lack of recognition of its lifelong impact on families and Florida’s economic opportunity–has created a silent crisis. This “silent crisis” can be solved by investing in early education, supporting innovative high quality programs, integrating important developmental services and creating access to full-service child care for all Floridians.
Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by American Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.