Commission on Early Childhood and Child Day Care Programs
November 30, 2000, Richmond
Background and Overview
Staff gave a brief overview of the commission's history and child care issues in Virginia. Charged with encouraging the availability of high-quality, affordable, and accessible child day care programs, as well providing a forum for the continuing review and study of those programs and services, the commission has been instrumental in developing and maintaining a uniform and equitable regulatory system for child care in the Commonwealth. Much work in the past has been centered on uniform licensing and regulation of day care centers, standardizing centers exempt from licensure, and oversight of the regulatory and inspection processes.
Recent attention has focused on the effects of welfare reform on child care. Funding of child day care for low-income families was a significant appropriations issue in the 2000 General Assembly Session. According to the Department of Social Services in its study of child day care subsidies for low-income families, further state funding for fee day-care subsidies is not recommended, as the federal funding is likely to be reduced, and building a large subsidy program that cannot be sustained would lead to severe hardship for families that became accustomed to the aid. Alternatives being explored are: increasing the co-payment from 10 percent to 15 percent of gross income; limiting eligibility time for the subsidy; requiring cooperation in the collection of child support payments; encouraging families to take advantage of certain tax credits; and encouraging private sector investment in child day care.
Finally, a report issued this year by the State Board of Social Services used a marketplace approach to study consumers and providers of child care services, in an attempt to assess the quality, affordability and accessibility of licensed and unlicensed child care programs in the Commonwealth. Policy recommendations stemming from that study include facilitation of the search for child care through a state or private sector Internet site and additional child care subsidies, tax credits or vocational training for low-income workers.
The commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services briefed the commission on two topics: child day care subsidy programs for low-income families and the licensing of child care in Virginia.
The goal of the department's Child Day Care Program is to provide temporary child care assistance to working low-income families in order to permit them to gain and maintain economic independence, and the program is key to the success of Virginia's welfare reform initiative. Three categories of subsidy are available, all of which are used by families in which the adult is employed or in an approved education or training activity. First, Day Care for TANF recipients is an entitlement, requiring no co-payment, for children in families receiving or eligible for TANF benefits. Second, Transitional Day Care for former TANF recipients is also an entitlement, giving up to 12 months of subsidy after a family stops receiving TANF payment. It requires a co-payment of 10 percent of the family's gross income. Last, Fee Day Care is available on a first-come, first-served basis as long as funds are available. It also requires a 10 percent co-payment and is provided to families who have exhausted their 12 months of Transitional Day Care and low-income families.
Regarding child care licensing, the Division of Licensing Programs performs licensing and monitoring activities for all of the licensed child day care centers, licensed family day homes, voluntarily registered family day homes and religiously exempt child day centers across the Commonwealth, totaling more than 6,000 entities. Moreover, the division plans and delivers provider training and support services and distributes booklets and pamphlets on selecting and monitoring child care arrangements.
The director of the Office of Family Health Services of the Virginia Department of Health spoke on the "Healthy Child Care Virginia" initiative. The goal of the program is to promote safe, healthy care for all children in child care, including those with special health needs. This is done through partnerships between the Virginia Department of Health, Department of Social Services, American Academy of Pediatrics, and public and private community agencies. The objectives of the new program are to maintain appropriate immunization status; assist child care providers in helping parents to access regular health care, including dental care; provide safe and nutritious and developmentally appropriate food; assure a lead-free environment; and promote overall healthy child development.
To achieve these objectives, the program will provide information on health and safety issues on its web site, in newsletters, and by developing a team of trained Child Care Health Consultants. The consultants' role will be ongoing assessment of needs of child care providers; training, guidance and educational development of child care providers; and assistance with the need for medical attention regarding health concerns, medical home, and health insurance.