Philadelphia PA- After a spate of incidents in Southeastern Pennsylvania underscoring the importance of quality childcare, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called for passage of a new plan that would provide federal standards for background checks on childcare workers. In a letter to Senate leaders, Senator Casey urged Congress to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The bipartisan Senate bill to reauthorize CCDBG contains provisions to strengthen background checks for childcare workers. Casey was joined by advocates from across the region who discussed the need to pass these reforms to better protect children.
“Parents leaving their children in child care should have the peace of mind that their children are being cared for by trustworthy individuals without a criminal record,” Senator Casey said. “Establishing a strong national standard for background checks will ensure that all children in child care, no matter what state they live in, will receive equal protection.”
The Child Care and Development Block Grant provides subsidies to assist low-income families in obtaining child care so that parents can work or participate in education or training activities. Discretionary funding for this program is authorized by the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990, which has not been reauthorized since 1996. CCDBG funds, along with a mandatory child care funding stream authorized separately, are known as the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). The CCDF is the primary source of federal funding dedicated solely to child care subsidies for low-income working and welfare families.
The CCDF provides block grants to states, according to a formula, which are used to subsidize the child care expenses of working families with children under age 13. In addition to providing funding for child care services, funds are also used for activities intended to improve the overall quality and supply of child care for families in general.
In FY 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, Pennsylvania served an average of 59,800 families per month in CCDBG, totaling an average number of 101,100 children.
Pennsylvania currently requires certain background checks, but the approach Casey discussed is a more comprehensive federal standard.
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Republican Leader McConnell:
I write to request that you work together to ensure that the Senate is able to take up and pass S. 1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization Act of 2013, at the earliest opportunity.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) has not been reauthorized since 1996. In the nearly two decades since, our understanding of early childhood development, and the importance of high-quality child care and early learning, has expanded dramatically.
Investing in high-quality early learning opportunities such as child care and pre-K sets children on the path to success. We must update federal standards to ensure that the federal government is supporting high-quality child care for low-income children. S. 1086 sets a new standard for child care in America, making sure that federal dollars are going to providers who are committed to providing child care that meets certain criteria, such as health and safety standards.
One of the important components of S. 1086 is Section 7, which would implement federal standards for criminal background checks for child care providers. While every state requires some form of background check, the records searched and the stringency of the search (e.g. whether the Sex Offender Registry is searched, and whether fingerprints are included as well as the name of the individual when a state criminal background check is run) vary widely. Establishing a standard set of background checks for all states will ensure that children being cared for outside their home are protected from individuals with known criminal records.
I urge you to consider S. 1086 as a priority for passage. This legislation has been carefully developed with significant input from Senators and the wider community, and represents a sensible path forward to improving the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator