Our Study of the Costs of Providing Quality Child Care is Now Underway


kidsDC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute are collaborating to produce a study to better understand the costs facing child care providers committed to meeting the District’s high quality standards. We are especially concerned that reimbursement for subsidized services for low-income families are not keeping up with the costs, even though the children receiving subsidized services and the nearly 200 providers who serve them are among the District’s most vulnerable and precious resources.

By understanding what quality child care truly costs providers and advocating for this level of public investment from the District, we hope to improve the capacity of child care providers serving infants and toddlers. This will, in turn, benefit low-income working parents who rely on high quality services to prepare their children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

This work is motivated by three key factors:

  1. Extremely low reimbursement rates in D.C.’s child care subsidy program are a significant barrier for providers seeking to offer and for families seeking to locate high-quality child care.
  2. The District is currently revising its licensing requirements and “Going for the Gold” Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), under which providers receive bronze, silver and gold quality ratings and corresponding reimbursement rates. New standards may be important contributors to quality yet require more resources than providers can afford without increased public investments.
  3. Many D.C. early learning teachers will face more rigorous degree requirements by 2017. The District has programs to support education leading to credentials for child care workers – e.g., the TEACH program – but many providers cannot afford to support staff participation. There are approximately 2,400 early learning teachers in D.C. who need to increase their educational attainment in order to meet the District’s quality goals. Most of these workers are women; college degrees will increase their earning capacity throughout their lifetime.

To address these issues, the project team will study the costs of providing daily care and meeting QRIS standards in homes and centers serving infants and toddlers. The team will then compare the current public investment in the child care subsidy and related programs with the projected needs of providers and develop recommendations to fill the gaps. These efforts will inform an advocacy strategy for increased investment in early care and education in the District’s budget for Fiscal Year 2017.

Raising revenues for child care providers, and linking that increased revenue to specific quality requirements,  benefits the workers, the children, and the District overall. First, early childhood education is important work that deserves to be valued and compensated appropriately so that it attracts and retains highly skilled and motivated individuals. Many of the early childhood teachers and aides working in the District are parents (or grandparents) themselves who need to build economic security for their own families.

Higher compensation is linked, in turn, to higher quality services with lower turnover among caregivers and greater continuity of care for children. The District has a large number of low-income families headed by single women who depend on subsidized child care. Having access to subsidies not only allows these parents to work and/or go to school to support their families and improve their own lives, but high-quality care further increases the likelihood that their children will succeed in school and in life.

DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute are both committed to advocating on behalf of low-income families, including years of involvement in the District’s workforce development and education systems, and now for families that rely on child care services in the District. We are grateful to the Washington Area Women’s Foundation for their commitment to this and other issues facing women and families in the D.C. metro area.

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