Commission on Early Childhood and Child Day Care Programs

October 20, 1998; November 24, 1998, Richmond

The commission convened this fall in order to recognize nine early childhood and day-care providers and professionals for their outstanding service to Virginia's children and to review the impact of welfare reform on child day care needs.

Professional Recognition

The commission paid tribute to providers and professionals at its October 20, 1998, meeting. The ceremony marked the 10th anniversary of Virginia's day of recognition for early childhood and day care providers and professionals. The General Assembly enacted legislation setting aside October 22 to acknowledge the contributions and pay tribute to these providers, pictured below, who were chosen by their associations as deserving of this recognition. Chairman Walker commended the contributions of the providers honored for demonstrating the best practices in the early childhood and day-care field and said: "The commission spends a lot of time discussing how to improve the Commonwealth's child care system, and it is important that we take time to both recognize and accentuate the quality child care programs of the honorees."

Welfare Reform

In November, the commission met jointly with the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services to address the issue of welfare reform and child day care. The Virginia Independence Program and Virginia Initiative for Employment, not Welfare (VIEW) passed the General Assembly in 1995, and both programs called for sweeping changes in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children and the employment services programs for welfare recipients.

The federal welfare reform legislation (TANF) passed in 1996 amended the Child Care Development Block Grant. As a result, Virginia last year implemented a comprehensive two-year plan called the Child Care and Development Fund Plan. Program implementation over the last three years has brought dramatic changes to the welfare system. Child care for VIEW participants and the working poor has been an issue that the commission and the entire General Assembly has closely watched over the last three years.

A senior policy associate with the American Public Human Services Association discussed national trends in meeting the welfare reform child care challenge. He stated that child care is recognized as critical to supporting working families and, in fiscal year 1997, states made significant investments in child care services for families in response to this great need. Quoting a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet, he reported that states served an average of 1.25 million children per month, an increase from the 1 million children served in fiscal year 1996. All states met the maintenance of effort and matching spending requirements for federal dollars. Of both state and federal dollars, states spent $4.2 billion, a 35 percent increase over the fiscal year 1996 level of $3.1 billion.

Virginia's response to the welfare reform child care challenge was addressed by a representative of the Department of Social Services (DSS). DSS shared some significant developments in the day care program over the past 18 months. First, with the TANF caseload down, and with the existence of a fairly robust economy, Virginia is committed to making day care services accessible within identified resources. Working in conjunction with local departments of social services, DSS has tried to increase the accessibility of the child day care program for non-TANF, employed eligible families that applied for help with child care. For example, DSS noted the monthly average number of "transitional" cases (i.e., former TANF recipients) for fiscal year 1997 was 2,348, while the monthly average number of such cases for fiscal year 1998 was 2,595, representing an increase of 10.5 percent. The monthly average number of fee system cases for fiscal year 1997 was 3,012, while the monthly average for fiscal year 1998 was 4,167, representing an increase of 38.3 percent. DSS also stated that there has been a progressive reduction in the number of applicants waiting for a day care subsidy.

The child care system under welfare reform is not in crisis, yet there remains much work to be done to make certain that the Commonwealth's children are protected in the welfare reform era. Chairman Walker concluded: "I know that each and every one of us on both the Commission for Early Childhood and Child Day Care Programs and the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services is committed to that goal."

The Honorable Stanley C. Walker, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Amy L. Marschean