By Amanda Gress
Director of Government Relations
In 2014, Congress passed landmark legislation to improve and expand high-quality child care. It was a really big deal.
Afterward, two national child policy experts came to Kansas to talk to stakeholders about the new law. They challenged us to “envision Kansas’ ideal child care system.”
I remember writing that down and thinking, “Wow. What an opportunity!”
However, passing a law is just the first step of turning a vision into reality. After the President signed this game-changing legislation, the federal Office of Child Care then had to develop the details for implementing it (wonky people refer to these details as the “final rule”). It was a lengthy process. Finally, after two years of working with stakeholders, the Office of Child Care released the final rule on September 23rd. If you want to read it, it’s here (full disclosure, it is over 600 pages long… I’m still working on it).
Here’s why we’re so excited at KAC:
This federal policy could bring over $50 million to Kansas for child care. Child care assistance helps all Kansas children afford the care they need to nurture their growing brains while their parents work. Under the new federal law, once children become eligible for assistance, they must be able to receive it for a full year – even if a parent starts earning more money or temporarily loses a job. This will make it much easier for low-income Kansas families who need child care to focus on what really matters – making ends meet and helping their children thrive – instead of trying to navigate unnecessary, burdensome, bureaucratic requirements. Kansas has some work to do on this front; the new law sets the stage for a critical review of our current state policies.
Think about it. Kids need as much stability and routine as possible from the moment they’re born. We’d never even consider pulling a child out of a kindergarten class just because his or her parents changed jobs. Why would we make a three-year-old change child care when his or her parent discovers that their boss dropped the number of hours they can work, or when their family hits a “lifetime limit” of assistance that had enabled them to go back to school themselves? The new law will help us build a system where young children can form relationships and routines and thrive in stable child care environments.
The implementation process for this new legislation is not quite over. Now that the final rule has been released, state officials must seek public input about the implications of new regulatory changes.
That’s where you come in. Envisioning our ideal Kansas child care system is a team effort, and any stakeholder has the opportunity to make their voice heard in the next phase of the advocacy process. You can review the proposed changes to state child care regulations at http://www.kdheks.gov/bcclr/ccdbg.htm and send your comments on what you like and what you’d like to see changed:
Contact: Dorothy Tenney
The state will take all your comments into consideration as they craft final regulations for child care providers. I’ve already marked my calendar for the public hearing. It’s December 20, at 1:00 p.m. in the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library in Topeka. I hope to see you there!