Sen. Mikulski Pushes For Bill To Improve Child Care Settings - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Sen. Mikulski Pushes For Bill To Improve Child Care Settings

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MARYLAND – More than 1.6 million children across the United States are able to get childcare assistance, thanks to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. However, after not getting re-authorized for about 18 years, a group of legislators argue it's out of date.

The CCDBG was first signed into law in 1990 and was re-authorized in 1996, to provide federal funding that low income families can use through a voucher or certificate to pay for childcare. For a family to be eligible, family income cannot exceed 85% of the state median. In Maryland, this means a family of two cannot have an annual income of more than $24,277, and a family of four cannot have an income that exceeds $35,702.

"Child care has not been reevaluated since 1996. At that time, the program was solely envisioned as a workforce aid," says Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), in a written statement. "What we know today, is that this is also the time of the most rapid period of brain development."

For that reason, Senator Mikulski, along with Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), are pushing for a CCDBG Act of 2014, which would reauthorize the program. Among the many proposed changes, the law would continue to provide protection for children and families who receive assistance, but also improve program quality, address the nutritional and physical activity needs of children in child care settings, and meet the needs of children with disabilities who require child care.

"We need to make sure that child care nurtures their development, prepares their mind and prepares them for school. The current program is out of date," says Senator Mikulski in a written statement. "It doesn't go far enough to promote health and safety, and also to make sure that the staff is ready to meet emergency responses and to take care of the needs of those children."

"It could provide a stable environment for kids to be able to flourish and it allows parents to be able to work at the same time," says Ray Leone, president of the Maryland Parent Teacher Association.

Similar training for child care programs is offered at the Lower Shore Child Care Resource Center, along with 12 other centers across Maryland, but it is not mandatory for the programs to participate.

"We can go out to the program, get their classroom set up, really get them to the place that they want to be so that they are providing high quality care," says Karen Karten, executive director of the Lower Shore Child Care Resource Center. "The reauthorization makes sure that families who are looking for child care are able to get that quality child care they are looking for."

Karten says it is more important than ever for children to enter kindergarten prepared.

"We know that when kids come to kindergarten we want them to have those skills needed to succeed in school," says Karten. "This is a bipartisan reauthorization, it makes sense on both sides, we're talking about kids, this is sort of a no-brainer."

Senator Mikulski spoke on the senate floor Wednesday afternoon to kick off consideration by the full senate for the reauthorization. A full summary of the bill can be seen here.

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