A year ago this week, Congress passed the first reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant in nearly 20 years, with strong bipartisan support. Today marks the anniversary of when President Obama invited members of Congress and parents to the White House for the signing of the law.
In his most recent State of the Union, the President stressed the need for all families with young children to have access to affordable, high-quality child care. “It’s not a nice-to-have- It’s a must-have,” he remarked. We still have a ways to go to reach the vision of ensuring high-quality child care for all families that need it and want it, but the law represents a big, overdue step in the right direction.
The new law makes big changes to the child care system and when implemented, will expand the availability of quality child care that meets foundational health, safety, and quality standards. Such major changes require hard work on the part of states, territories, and tribal communities across the country who are already hard at work and have made tremendous progress in implementing provisions in the law.
Today, we celebrate the improvements states, tribes, and providers, have made and will continue to make to meet the promise of the law. Because of this hard work, parents will have more stable child care as they follow a path to better jobs or education and training. The law also ensures that we have in place a fairer subsidy system will allow child care providers more stability in their businesses and the improvements in basic health and safety measures mean that children will spend their days in more secure, higher-quality learning environments. As the President has said, these changes will benefit our economy and all of us in the end.
But while an impressive amount of work has been done already, today is also about recognizing the work yet to be done to reach the ultimate vision of ensuring high-quality child care for all working families. Developmentally, we are taking first steps. By partnering together with states, territories, tribes, local communities, and families, we can ensure that each year we have new milestones to celebrate, and that eventually, we can make that vision a reality for all of America’s children and families.
Rachel Schumacher is Director of the Office of Child Care for the Department of Health and Human Services. This blog is cross posted from the Department of Health and Human Services.