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Strengthening Our Investment in Working Families and Child Care

From Rachel Schumacher, Director of the Office of Child Care

In the Office of Child Care (OCC), we know that investing in expanding access to affordable, high-quality child care not only supports the economic stability of low-income working families but also grows our national economy overall.

We also know that it is difficult for many families to pay for high-quality child care. Too many parents still struggle with a choice between the economic security of work and the security of knowing their children are in a safe and nurturing child care setting. Although the median income for families in this country is just over $55,000 a year, the average cost of infant child care is $10,000 a year—a price that rivals in-state college tuition in the majority of states in the country. This is an equation that’s not working for the future of families, employers, or our Nation’s economy as whole.

We’re excited to join the U.S. Department of Labor to kick off a national conversation about how we can further strengthen our investment in working families and child care. Our partnership is helping us highlight links among our national economic security, family employment, and affordable access to high-quality child care. We hope you will share your story and tell us what affordable child care means to you.

New data suggest how big the challenges around finding affordable, high-quality care really are. Recently, I spoke about this challenge with National Public Radio (NPR). We talked about a recent poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Their findings highlight the challenges parents of young children face in finding and paying for high-quality child care.

What was also interesting was that although parents reported that cost was the most significant hurdle in accessing high-quality care, they also overwhelmingly reported that they feel their children benefit once in care. Parents are backed up by decades of brain science research that also tells us how high-quality child care supports development.

Translating what we know from research and data into policies that support programs and providers in delivering high-quality care to children and their families is a priority here at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

The foundation of a quality program is health and safety standards, including those recommended by ACF’s Caring for Our Children guidelines. But once that is established, we know that the most powerful impact on child development and learning is the quality of the teachers and caregivers.

But we know that it’s not easy to create that qualified, trained, and professionally supported early childhood workforce when our overall national investment in high-quality, affordable child care is still too low. Right now, there is little incentive to go into early childhood teaching. On average, the pay for early childhood professionals is lower than that for K–12 teachers, and the median income for child care professionals in every state would make them eligible for food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This is one of many issues that were addressed when the final Child Care and Development Fund regulations were released in September. They strengthen the program’s commitment to quality improvement and help ensure that children get high-quality early learning opportunities, no matter the setting in which they receive care.

But this is just one small step. ACF and the U.S. Department of Labor will work together to push this national conversation on how to realize this vision to increase access to high-quality, affordable child care, and we ask that you join us. This is a conversation to be had at family gatherings, in communities, and with policymakers everywhere.

It is time for this country to help all children realize their full potential and all parents to have peace of mind in knowing they can work or attend school and knowing their children are safe, healthy, and learning.

This content was originally published on the ACF Web site. To read more about ACF programs, visit the Family Room Blog.

Office of Child Care

Administration for Children and Families

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Mary E. Switzer Building, Fourth Floor, MS 4425

330 C Street, S.W.

Washington, DC 20201

General office number: (202) 690-6782

Fax: (202) 690-5600

General e-mail:

Web site:

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