Child care is essential to helping families work and ensuring the full development of young children. Every day 13 million preschoolers, including 6 million babies and toddlers, go to child care. Parents struggle to find and afford quality child care environments. Child care can cost between $4,000 and $10,000 per year. A family with both parents working full-time at a minimum wage job earns only $21,400 per year.
The federal government gives states funds to provide child care assistance to low-income and working families receiving TANF [cash welfare payments] through the Child Care and Development Block Grant [CCDBG] and Title XX/Social Services Block Grant [SSBG]. Child care assistance is usually provided on a "sliding-fee" basis, meaning that families pay some of the costs of care at a child care center, family child care home, neighbor, or relative, with the amount rising as their income rises. Currently no state can afford to serve all families eligible for subsidies under federal guidelines. Nationally only 1 in 10 eligible children are getting any assistance.
The federal Dependent Care Tax Credit [DCTC] helps families by allowing them to claim an income tax credit for a portion of their child care expenses. The credit is on a sliding scale. Poor families receive no help from the DCTC since it is not refundable. About half of the states have state tax credits that help families with the costs of child care.
Funding for CCDBG was $3.349 billion in FY99. SSBG funding has been virtually level for 15 years at $2.8 billion and was reduced to $1.9 billion in FY99. It is estimated that only about $500 million of these funds are currently used for child care.
In Putting Children and Families First, the bishops called for public policy to ensure and promote family-friendly workplace arrangements, adequate funding of broad-based and inclusive child care and other essential services needed by families, especially poor families. In addition, they emphasized that the fact that children who are poor and in need of government aid should not take away their basic human right to be cared for by their parents if that is their family's choice.
In light of the pressing unmet needs of children, USCCB supports an increase in mandatory funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant [CCDBG] to address the affordability of child care. Parents, earning between $5.50 and $10 an hour, simply cannot afford the full cost of even the least expensive child care. The supply of good quality, affordable child care must be fostered, developed and continually subsidized to allow low-income parents to work and support their families above the poverty line.
Meaningful child care legislation should provide more families with affordable, quality child care, including that offered by religious providers. Many parents prefer religiously-run child care centers above all other forms of child care, except that provided by a child's own family members. In addition, USCCB urges that the needs of families who make a choice to forego some outside income in order to stay at home to care for their children should be considered in any policy on child care.
The results of the questionnaire sent out in 1999 with the annual Official Catholic Directory survey have been analyzed and offer some insight into the state of day care in the Catholic parishes. While the survey resulted in too small a sample to be generalizable, it suggests a wide range of services offered by parishes. Parishes offer day care, before and after school care, as well as early childhood programs. They serve children under age 5 and those older, Catholic and non-Catholic, including some with disabilities, across a range of ethnic backgrounds. Most of the parishes responding, that did not offer day care programs, said that inadequate funding, government regulations, staffing issues, and the absence of parental demand for such programs were the reasons for not providing early childhood programs.
What You Can Do:
Despite four Senate bipartisan victories to increase child care funding in 1999, the final budget bill approved by Congress last fall failed to increase child care funding at all. Urge the Administration and members of Congress to increase child care funding in this year's budget.
For more information, contact: Patricia King [202-541-3188 or firstname.lastname@example.org] or Cynthia Phillips [202-541-3235 or email@example.com]