Policy Priorities

Policy Priorities image of kids

Child Care and Development Block Grant

The earliest years of a child’s life are characterized by rapid brain development, and research shows us that high-quality interactions with adult caregivers are crucial to ensuring healthy development in these earliest years. While parents or other guardians are these children’s first caregivers, and play a crucial role in their children’s early development, many have work obligations that prevent them from engaging with their children consistently throughout the day. These parents and guardians need access to safe, high quality and affordable child care so that they can work and provide for their families and their children can have the high-quality interactions necessary for healthy brain development.

Congress passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG) in 1990 in recognition of the fact that while child care is a critical support for families, it represents an unaffordable cost for many. In 2011, the average annual cost of center-based care for infants and toddlers was greater than the annual tuition and fees for an in-state public college in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Under CCDBG, states receive grants to offer assistance to low-income parents to help pay for child care that meets their needs. States can either pay for a certain number of slots in high quality child care programs or give parents vouchers to pay for the care of their choice.

CCDBG is a critically important resource for millions of children and families, however, funding for the program has not kept pace with inflation over the last decade and the program only serves 1 in 4 eligible children under age 6. Moreover, the last reauthorization of CCDBG in 1996 did not take into account much of what we know now about the importance of high quality environments for children’s healthy development. The Children’s Defense Fund supports efforts to reauthorize CCDBG to ensure that all families who need it have access to high-quality, affordable child care.