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 an ongoing crisis. Many working parents are left without options for childcare. Some states, like Florida, are using federal funds to support child care, but the duration and effectiveness of these programs aren’t yet known. Major policy work is needed to turn this crisis into an opportunity to set higher standards, address inequities, and support the working families who form the backbone of our state and country’s economy.
New Funds for Foster Children to Attend Child Care Highlights Issues in Access
In 2022, policy makers passed legislation that provided foster parents with money to send their foster children to child care, as often is required in the child’s case plan. This assistance was crucial to support foster parents, but the current crisis in child care rests on the supply side. Even with increased funds to foster parents, the number of quality slots available are often less than the current need.
Additional CCDBG Funding Isn’t Enough to Maintain Access
Only 1 in 7 eligible children received any assistance through the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) up to 2018, when Florida received its largest-ever increase in CCDBG funding. Unfortunately, Florida still only subsidizes 52% of eligible children. In 2022, Florida received an additional $19 million in CCDBG funding, but this increase failed to keep up with inflation – or the changes in prices year to year. Federal investments in child care that expand access to the affordable, quality child care families need can act as a tool to combat inflation. These investments create career opportunities, expand the workforce, and increase productivity.
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. Lack of appropriate child care funding leads to low salaries for child care workers that cannot support working families and workloads high enough to quickly cause burn-out, which drives experienced and accredited professionals away from working in child care. 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.
State-Funded Afterschool 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 afterschool 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 same issue exists in the state’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program (VPK). Florida focuses more on quantity and access rather than research-based quality. Florida offers a free voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) program for the state’s four-year-old children. It is one of the largest Pre-K programs in the country.
Unfortunately, Florida’s VPK is held to even lower standards than Florida’s Head Start and child care programs. VPK does not have age-limited class size caps or minimum qualifications for assistant teachers. The program has lower teacher certification standards, lower validation of curriculum quality, and less oversight on child education outcomes than Head Start requirements.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Florida’s Pre-K system only meets two of ten quality benchmarks – placing Florida last in Pre-K quality among every state that offers it.
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 12.4% and Latinx children accounting for 18.7% of Florida’s population, they make up 71% of children below the poverty line. Poverty presents a challenge to families in need of appropriate childcare and early education. In Florida, the average cost of childcare is approximately $10,000 per year, which is more than double Florida’s average in-state college tuition and approximately 20% of the median Black family’s median income or 17% of the median 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. Low-income families do not have the option to not use child care when the alternative is to turn down work. The inability to access quality child care can lead to negative outcomes when children are placed in programs that are not monitored for health and safety guidelines. Access to affordable and culturally competent childcare is crucial to closing the disparities in child care, income, and poverty.
- Require Florida’s Pre-K program to meet Head Start quality standards.
- Combat inflation by investing in quality child care programs. Quality child care investments will promote the success and mobility of all children, especially those in dual working families, those suffering from racial disparities, and children in the child welfare system.
- Continue current licensing standards, as well as health and safety regulations. Ensure children are healthy and safe when out of parents’ care.
- To follow legislation regarding this issue visit our Child Care & Early Education Legislative Center page for real time updates.
- Read American Children’s Campaign’s full Legislative & Policy Agenda
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.
- The State of Preschool 2018—National Institute for Early Education Research
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