National Academies Press: OpenBook

Caring for America's Children (1991)

Chapter: PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW

« Previous: FRONT MATTER
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

I
The Panel's Work And New Federel Law

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
This page in the original is blank.
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

Like many scholars and experts who have considered child care in recent years, the panel recognized the complex and controversial nature of the issues. Because the majority of children have mothers who work outside their homes, child care has become an important and growing component of services provided in an array of settings, including homes, centers, schools, businesses, and other institutions. Child care has become a large and diverse enterprise of public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit services with annual revenues expected to grow to $48 billion by 1995. Child care is no longer simply a protective or remedial service for children from low-income or troubled families: it is an everyday arrangement for the majority of children in the United States. Consequently, the debate over child care policy has changed considerably over the past generation.

There is general agreement that mothers are in the labor force to stay and, thus, that children need to be well cared for in safe and healthy environments. There is no general agreement on how the significant economic costs of caring for children will be borne by parents, employers, governments, or a combination of these sources.

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

PANEL FINDINGS: The Current State of Child Care

The panel found that child care services in the United States are inadequate to meet the needs of children, parents, and society as a whole. The panel found that for some families, child care services are simply unavailable; for others, the care is unaffordable or fails to meet basic standards of quality.

Research and professional practice have clearly shown that child care quality can significantly affect children's social, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as their physical health and safety. In the absence of coordinated public policies to ensure employed parents access to adequate, affordable, and appropriate care for their children, child care services have developed very unevenly. Existing programs, which are supported by various funding sources and which reflect varying levels of quality, do not serve all of the families who need child care services.

Of greatest concern to the panel was the large number of children cared for in settings that fail to protect their health and safety and to provide appropriate developmental stimulation. Low-quality care threatens the development of children, especially those from poor and minority families who may not have access to higher quality alternatives. A range of quality can be found in all types of services, whether provided in the child's home or in schools, child care centers, or family day care homes, and in all types of programs, whether operated for profit or not.

The panel noted that, although child care has become a necessity for a majority of American families, regardless of income, gaps in existing programs and arrangements have left many children and families without access to adequate services. Among those who have difficulty obtaining appropriate child care services are families with infants, toddlers, school-age children, or children with illnesses or special needs. In fact, preschool

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

children are the only age group for which child care arrangements are relatively adequate.

Arranging for high-quality child care can be difficult, stressful, and time-consuming for any family, but the panel found that the problems are inevitably compounded for families who lack time, information, and economic resources. In comparison with other families, low-income families tend to have fewer options for child care.

The panel found that child care services are very diverse. On the negative side, the amalgam of providers, programs, and institutional auspices have little interconnectedness, sense of common purpose, or direction. On the positive side, however, the diversity offers parents several options, increases funding resources, and provides a range of services to meet different family values and needs. The diversity also results in substantial variation in the costs, availability, and quality of services.

Because Americans place a high priority on individuals' values and parental rights, the panel concluded that no single program could address the needs of all families and children. A comprehensive array of coordinated policies and programs is necessary. Child care policies should affirm the role and responsibilities of families in child-rearing, but employers, community institutions, and governments should share the responsibility for meeting the nation's child care needs, and the quality of services should be of paramount concern.

PANEL RECOMMENDATIONS: Looking to the Future

On the basis of its assessment of the current state of child care and the unmet needs of the nation's parents and children, the panel made five recommendations for improving America's child care policies and programs.

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

The first three recommendations spoke to the need for increased funds and expanded services, particularly for low-income families:

  • The federal government, in partnership with the states, should expand subsidies to support low-income families' use of quality child care programs and arrangements.

  • In partnership with the states, the federal government should expand Head Start and other compensatory preschool programs for income eligible 3- and 4-year-olds who are at risk of early school failure.

  • Governments at all levels, along with employers and other private-sector groups, should make investments to strengthen the infrastructure of the child care system: expand resource and referral services; improve caregiver training and wages; expand vender-voucher programs; encourage the organization of family day care systems; and improve planning and coordination.

    The comprehensive package of child care legislation passed by Congress in late 1990 includes provisions that respond at least partly to these recommendations. Those laws are briefly summarized in the last part of this section.

    The panel's fourth recommendation focused on the issue of ensuring quality child care services:

  • The federal government should initiate a process to develop national standards for child care.

    The 1990 federal legislation did not directly address the issue of quality. Rather, it made clear that states and local jurisdictions—through their roles in carrying out the other provisions of the legislation—would be responsible for overseeing the quality of child care services. To assist state and local officials, as well as child care providers, referral services, and concerned parents, the second part of this booklet details the panel's findings on quality child care: what characteristics determine quality care for children.

    The panel's final recommendation turned to the issue of working parents who wish to provide their infants' care themselves.

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
  • The federal government should mandate job-protected leave for employed parents of infants up to 1 year of age.

    This recommendation recognized the need for close and early parent-child interaction and the shortage of quality infant care programs. At this time, parental leave legislation is still pending before Congress, and the ultimate resolution of parental leave issues is likely to require further study of the costs and other effects of leave policies on individual firms, on hiring decisions, and on the economy at large.

NEW FEDERAL LAW

The legislation enacted by Congress in October 1990 included a comprehensive package of child care measures. The new law (P.L. 101-508) includes provisions:

  • to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families with children, adjusts it for family size, and creates two new related tax-credit programs;

  • to aid children at risk of early school failure by reauthorizing, expanding, and substantially increasing funding levels for the Head Start Program; and

  • to strengthen the infrastructure of the child care system by establishing new programs, including the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program and a capped entitlement program under Title IV-A of the Social Security Act, Jobs opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program.

As a result of these new and revised programs and tax credits, states and localities face the opportunity and challenge of sparking the evolution of current child care programs into more comprehensive, rational, coordinated,

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

and integrated systems. These measures relate to the first three of the panel's recommendations.

Federal Tax Credits

The federal government, in partnership with the states, should expand subsidies to support low-income families' use of quality child care programs and arrangements.

In addition to expanding and simplifying the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the new law provides a tax credit for low-income families with children under 1 year of age and another credit to subsidize health-insurance costs for low-income families with dependent children. The young-child supplement provides a credit of up to 5 percent of earned income for low-income families with children under 1 year of age. The health-insurance supplement provides a credit of up to $428 for low-income families who pay premiums for health insurance or copayments for employer-sponsored health plans that include coverage for children.

Over a 5-year period beginning in 1991, subsidies to families with dependent children will increase by more than $18.3 billion: an additional $12.4 billion in the basic EITC, $700 million in the young-child credit, and $5.2 billion in the health-insurance credit. Benefit levels, tied to the number of children in the family, increase incrementally through 1994, when the maximum basic credit will be approximately $1,860 for a family with one child and $2,025 for a family with two or more children.

The credits are available to low-income employed parents whether they care for their own children or have other child care arrangements. However, because a family that claims this credit cannot also claim the dependent-care tax credit for child care expenses for the same child, the supplement is essentially a subsidy for parents who remain at home to care for their infants.

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

Expansion of Head Start

In partnership with the states, the federal government should expand Head Start and other compensatory preschool programs for income-eligible 3- and 4-year-olds who are at risk of early school failure.

The Augustus F. Hawkins Human Services Reauthorization Act of 1990 expands funding for the Head Start program and strengthens its quality and accountability. With the goal of serving all eligible children between the ages of 3 and 5, an additional $400 million is authorized for Head Start in the first year, bringing the total to nearly $2.4 billion. The annual funding level is authorized to reach $7.6 billion by fiscal 1994.

The law sets aside funds for improvements, including salary increases; earmarks funds for training and technical assistance; and requires that every Head Start classroom have at least one teacher with an appropriate early childhood degree or credential by 1994. Local grantees have the flexibility to tailor programs to meet the changing and diverse needs of participating children and their families and to provide full-day, year-round services.

Although the law directs the Head Start program to coordinate with the new child care grant programs, no mechanisms or resources are provided for the coordination. The law does authorize $20 million for the Head Start Transition Project, a new program of demonstration grants to provide follow-up support for Head Start graduates and other low-income children in kindergarten and early school grades.

State Grant Programs

Governments at all levels, along with employers and other private-sector groups, should make investments to strengthen the infrastructure of the child care system: expand resource and referral services; improve caregiver training and wages; expand vender voucher programs; encourage the organization of family day care systems; and improve planning and coordination.

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

The new child care package includes the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which allocates a total of $2.5 billion for fiscal 1991 through fiscal 1993 and additional funds thereafter. The grants to the states can be used for a variety of activities, and the states have considerable latitude to choose what particular programs and activities to fund.

States must use 75 percent of the funds to provide child care services for eligible children on a sliding-fee scale and to improve the availability and quality of child care. Priority is to be given to children in families with the lowest incomes and children with special needs. Most states will probably use these funds to subsidize the cost of child care services for low-income families.

The remaining 25 percent of the funds must be used to improve the quality of child care services and to increase the availability of early childhood education or before-and after-school child care services. Some of this money must be earmarked for resource and referral programs, grants or loans to help providers meet state and local standards, improvements in monitoring regulatory compliance and enforcement, training, or increases in the salaries of child care workers.

States must offer parents the option of enrolling their children with state-funded child care providers or receiving vouchers that can be used to pay for the child care services of any eligible provider. To be eligible, providers must be licensed, regulated, or registered and must meet state and local requirements.

To enhance parental choice and educate parents about child care services, states must undertake several specific activities, including providing parents and the general public with information about licensing and regulatory requirements, complaint procedures, and other state policies and practices regarding child care.

States must establish health and safety requirements for all child care providers who receive funds under the program and monitor the providers

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×

for compliance. Although the law does not address several of the standards generally associated with quality (such as staff/child ratios, group-size limits, and staff qualifications), states must set standards for preventing and controlling infectious diseases, for ensuring the safety of the building and of program participants, and for training staff in basic health and safety practices. The law also requires states to review their licensing and regulatory requirements and policies if they have not done so within the past 3 years.

The second new grant program amends Title IV-A of the Social Security Act's Jobs Opportunities and Basic Skills program to provide states with additional funding for making child care services available on a sliding-fee scale to low-income parents who need such care in order to work and who might otherwise require ongoing support from the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.

The child care package also amends the Title IV-A Child Care Improvement Grants program, which provides states with discretionary grants to improve licensing and registration and to monitor child care services provided to AFDC recipients. The new law substantially increases federal funds for the program and stipulates that at least half of the money be used for training child care workers.

Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
This page in the original is blank.
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 1
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 2
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 9
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 10
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 11
Suggested Citation:"PART I THE PANEL'S WORK AND NEW FEDERAL LAW." National Research Council. 1991. Caring for America's Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1839.
×
Page 12
Next: PART II IMPROVING QUALITY »
Caring for America's Children Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $40.00
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Do child care centers and family day care homes provide quality care for the children they serve? Do parents know how to identify quality when selecting a center or family home for their children?

This easy-to-read, accessible booklet provides an overview of what constitutes quality in out-of-home care. Based on the National Research Council's detailed examination of child development and child care, Who Cares for America's Children,this booklet provides practical guidance for parents, child care providers, and policymakers. It highlights what to look for in a center or family day care home, presents what researchers and experts know about the best settings for children, and suggests what characteristics of quality care are amenable to standards or regulations.

Single copy, $6.50; 2-9 copies, $5.50 each; 10 or more copies, $3.75 each (no other discounts apply).

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!