US Senate bill proposes child care fixes in Indiana | News

INDIANAPOLIS — For Dianna Wallace, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a robust child care system in the United States. Not just for children, who reap the benefits of early education into adulthood, but also for parents who have contributed to the economy.

“Families are unable to truly engage in our economy without the necessary supports for young children, and our young children are unable to succeed, thrive and have joy without (early learning quality),” said Wallace, Indiana’s executive director. chapter of the Early Childhood Education Association.

A US news and world report found that Indiana ranked among the worst states for child care costs, averaging $9,589 per year for a 4-year-old. For a single parent, this represents 35.7% of their income or 10.5% of the income of a married couple.

The high cost to parents is compounded by staffing shortages and a lack of quality providers statewide. In response to a larger plan proposed by congressional Democrats, Indiana Sen. Todd Young, a Republican, introduced a proposal to expand child care options for families with colleagues Tim Scott, R -South Carolina, and Richard Burr, R-North Carolina.

“I understand that the problem of access to daycare services will not be solved overnight. Many factors prevent families from accessing care,” Young said in an email response to questions. “I helped introduce this bill because it is a sensible option to make progress on access and quality, while being mindful of the fiscal challenges our country faces.”

The law increases the number of families eligible under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program to those earning 85% of the state’s median income. Families earning less than 75% of the state’s median income pay no copayments for child care, while families earning 76% and above pay no more than 7% of their income in copayments. -go.

For Indiana, with a median income of $58,235, families earning $49,500 or less are eligible for the program and those earning $43,676 or less have no child care co-pay.

The Center for American Progress (CAP), a nonpartisan political institute, maintains that a market-based child care system cannot adequately serve American families, noting that only one in nine eligible children under age 6 received a child care subsidy in 2019.

States vary in their restriction levels for child care assistance, which means some states serve a higher proportion of eligible children. According to the analysis, only 9.7% of eligible Hoosier children received the grant, about one in 10 children, lower than the US average of 11.6%.

Wallace, who assists providers with ongoing education and researches best practices, described one of the biggest changes under the Young Act, which would change how states calculate the “true cost” of child care. ‘children. Rather than establishing a county-wide “market rate” based on current availability, states could turn to cost modeling, which calculates operational and labor costs of care.

“Indiana is made up of 92 counties, many of which are rural, and those rural counties may not have enough capacity to establish a market rate,” Wallace said.

The state acknowledged it was working to establish a new reimbursement rate but could not predict the impact on providers or families. Young, in an email, said the bill would improve provider reimbursement rates and support the professional development of child care staff, which would encourage the creation of more service providers. of child care.

“Families must have access to a blended delivery system… (which) includes not only licensed centers but also family child care centres, public and private schools, registered ministries and Head Start. The system needs to be very diverse,” Wallace said. “In many places across the state of Indiana, families don’t have that choice.”

Norman D. Briggs