During the past year, North Carolina has faced some of the most challenging economic times in the history of the state. County Departments of Social Services, as well as other governmental agencies such as Public Health, have played an important role in providing services for families impacted by this Great Recession. The child care providers of our state have also been providing the critical service of quality early care and education for young children so that families can work, look for work, and go to school for retraining in order to be prepared for new work. Families need to know that their young children are in safe, stimulating environments when they are cared for outside the home. Children, particularly those living in families with low incomes, need high quality early care and education so they are prepared for success in school and life.
We have a nationally acclaimed early childhood system that provides children with early childhood experiences that put them on the path to successful adulthood. It is critical that we do not let the circumstances of the current crisis lead us to dismantling this system that is preparing our youngest citizens to lead our state into the future.
- A consistent system for delivery of services is important, but a one- size fits all system of delivery of services often is not successful. Local communities need flexibility to facilitate services to children and families tied to their special needs and the needs of the community. Not all families in need of child care assistance will ever need assistance for other services provided by local Departments of Social Services.
- Federal laws, rules, and regulations not only encourage but require the use of some public dollars to improve the quality of care (mandated market rate surveys, CCDF Block Grant Quality set aside regulations). Similarly Smart Start dollars were designed to address both access and quality. Public dollars should not be used to fund substandard care.
- Actual data refutes the assertion that rate increases for child care providers have been out of line. In fact, they have not kept up with inflation and mandatory minimum wage increases. A permanent freeze of rate adjustments until North Carolina’s waiting list is eliminated would eventually lead to a system of quality care available only for private paying parents. Child care providers would not be able to provide quality care for the rate the state would pay for children with a subsidy voucher. Unlike other providers whose rates are set by the state, child care providers do not receive automatic inflationary increases.
- There are many reasons why the waiting list is so large. We are a low wage state. The current Great Recession will have the impact of driving wages even lower and, possibly, leaving more working families with only one wage earner. The cost of child care is not the cause of the current waiting list. In addition, the Recession has necessitated cuts to the state budget that have taken millions of dollars away from child care subsidy in order to deal with other state budget crises both within and outside the Department of Health & Human Services.
The Coalition also developed a fact sheet to address the factual errors made in the January 2010 document prepared by the North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services.