BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Education today started the process of serving 4,500 children in child care programs, removing their names from the waiting list for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which provides financial assistance to low-income families while parents are working or attending school.
The action comes after Congress appropriated additional one-time child care funds to Louisiana. Families eligible to be removed from the waiting list will start receiving digital and mailed notices today and will be able to access child care using CCAP funding in the week following Labor Day at the earliest. In 2017, the Department, which oversees CCAP as a result of the landmark Act 3 legislation of 2012, established a waiting list due to overwhelming demand from working parents.
Approximately 2,500 children will remain on the waiting list after today’s actions. That number will likely return to at least 7,000 when the one-time funds have been spent. Earlier this year, as the result of Congress passing the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, the federal Office of Child Care announced additional money to the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) grant would be made available to states this fiscal year. Louisiana is required to spend its one-time allotment of $39 million on expanding the number of available seats at child care centers, initiatives to improve the quality of care, and infant and toddler-focused programs.
Approximately $28 million of the funding may directly benefit CCAP. “We are grateful for the opportunity to provide affordable child care to thousands more of the hard-working families who have patiently waited for this opportunity,” said State Superintendent John White. “But it is important to remember this money is only guaranteed for one year and is only a small portion of the amount of funding needed to help our most vulnerable children.” In order to completely clear the remainder of the waiting list, it would cost nearly $16 million, about $6,300 per child, for one year.
“Families across our state have a demonstrated need and a desire to participate in CCAP,” said Tony Davis, member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We must not go back; it is of utmost importance that we continue to accommodate the growing number of families who are putting themselves on the waiting list, and while doing so, to ensure the highest quality across all providers statewide.” Even if the waiting list was eliminated, the program would still be serving far fewer children than it was a decade ago, said Melanie Bronfin, Executive Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. In 2009, CCAP served close to 40,000 Louisiana children; today, it serves just over 14,600. “This is due to the huge cuts that have been made in the state funding for the program,” Bronfin added.
“We encourage our state policymakers to prioritize state funding of CCAP so that these families can continue to receive quality child care assistance while they work toward self-sustainability,” said Jonathan Pearce, President of the Child Care Association of Louisiana (CCAL). “CCAL will continue to collaborate with LDOE and other advocates to find ways to fund access to quality early childhood care and education programs.” State and local leaders have committed to working together to develop a long-term statewide strategic plan for early childhood education and to strengthen local governance so communities can expand access, drive quality improvement and address other critical needs of their children. The first step has been the creation of the state-level Early Childhood Care and Education Commission.
In addition to addressing the CCAP waiting list, the commission must take into consideration the maximum number of at-risk children still in need of services. Louisiana is currently serving 56,588 at-risk children through various federal and state funds, but according to state data from October 2017, there are nearly 200,000 at-risk children birth to age five. This means about 70 percent more at-risk children remain eligible for assistance and may be in need of services.
Moreover, the commission must assess the gap in access to high quality, affordable child care and how it differs by age. The state serves 90 percent of its at-risk four-year-old children, for example, but it reaches just 30 percent of its at-risk three-year-old children. The Early Childhood Care and Education Commission will convene for the first time at 1 p.m. today in Baton Rouge.