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What Congregations Should Know About Federal Funding for Child Care

Aug 18, 2007
As part of the 1996 welfare reform law, the Federal government is committed to support the work efforts of current and former welfare dependent families working toward self-sufficiency. The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) provides Federal funding to States, Tribes, and Territories to support children care services for low-income children whose parents are working or attending a job training or educational program. Eligible families may receive subsidies for child care through the voucher program. Kid care programs in churches, synagogues and mosques may be eligible to accept these government subsidies for children care.

What is the child care voucher (CCV)? A voucher (also called a "certificate") is payment issued by a State or local government directly to or on behalf of a parent for kid care services. Vouchers are flexible enough to allow funds to follow the child to any participating child care provider the parent selects, including faith-based providers.

How does the voucher system works? Voucher systems vary by State, but as long as funds are available States must offer assistance through child care vouchers to eligible families. Being an "eligible family" means children must be under the age of 13 and must reside with a parent who is working or attending a job training or educational program and whose family income does not exceed the State's limit for eligibility.

Parents may apply for family vouchers at the local office of the State agency that administers the funds or at any local agency or provider that has contracted with the State to determine eligibility. Children Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R;) agencies exist in all States to direct parents to different types of child care in their local area, whether the parents use vouchers or not.

Participation of faith-based providers is permitted. Parents using the voucher may choose any legally operating child care provider authorized by the State and willing to participate in the program. A provider is defined as one who provides child care in a center, a group home, a family home, the child's own home, or a relative's home. In some communities, faith-based organizations are an active part of the child care community and receive CCDF funds through the voucher program, making them a valuable resource for families.

Faith-based providers (with the exception of family boys and girls care) using the child care voucher may not discriminate on the basis of faith in the admission of children. Within certain limits, faith-based providers may give preference to members of their own organization in admissions and employment.

Additionally, faith-based providers using the voucher may retain the religious nature of their programs including religious instruction, worship, prayers, and curricula. For more information, see "Guidance to Faith-Based and Community Organizations on Partnering with the Federal Government" at the FBCI website.

How to Become a Participating Child Care Provider? Churches, synagogues and mosques may become eligible to accept vouchers from parents of eligible children by contacting the appropriate agency responsible for administering the subsidy program, often the department of human resources or other social services agency in your state. These local agencies provide information on the guidelines governing the voucher program and the responsibilities of both providers and parents. Although not all States require that every provider meet licensing requirements, States will require some form of registration for payment purposes, and to ensure that the facility and provider meet basic requirements for the health and safety of children.

Licensing is required for the program. Although regulations vary by State, children providers who wish to participate in the voucher program must be operating legally within the State. Some States require all kid care providers to meet State and/or licensing laws while others require only centers and group homes to be licensed. In most States, small family care homes, in-home providers (care provided in the child's own home), and informal care providers (family, friends, neighbors or others providing care) are not required to be licensed. However, they must meet basic health and safety requirements. Typically, these include measures to prevent and control infectious diseases, ensure the physical safety of children, and provide minimum health and safety training for caregivers.

Some States exempt religiously-affiliated child care centers from licensure. In these States, faith-based providers may find that voluntarily becoming licensed increases their reimbursement rate, gives parents a greater sense of security, or provides an opportunity to evaluate their program against an external standard.

What are the reimbursement rates? Levels of reimbursement to family care providers using vouchers vary by locality. Some States pay higher rates to providers that are accredited or offer hard-to-find care, such as weekend and evening hours, or infant care. Reimbursement rates for providers that are exempt from licensing by State statutes may be limited to a lower payment rate.

Families must contribute to the cost of care on a sliding fee basis. States determine a family's contribution based on family size, income, and other factors. Children supervision providers need to determine whether the combined value of the voucher and the parent co-pay is enough to cover the actual costs of providing care. Sometimes it is necessary to make up the difference in other ways.

Questions for Child Care Providers to Ask State or Local Officials.
1. Is there something I need to do to be sure my child care program is able to accept vouchers?
2. How will parents know that I am an eligible provider?
3. Is there a waiting list for child charge vouchers in my State?
4. Does my State exempt faith-based providers from licensing? And if so, are unlicensed providers eligible for the same payment rates as licensed providers?
5. Does the State allow faith-based providers to voluntarily become licensed? What does it take to become licensed in my State?
6. What is the child charge capacity in my area? What is the need for child services?
7. How much will I be paid for the type of care I provide?
8. How does the reimbursement system work in my State?
9. What is the parent application process?
10. What are the record-keeping requirements?
11. What is the timeliness of payments?
12. What are the paid by the care "slot" or by hours the child actually attends?
13. Is pay more for sick children, odd-hour care, or children with special needs?
14. Where can I find out about: Training opportunities and other faith-based organizations that offer child care services in my area?
About the Author
Jerry Johnson owns the Baby Monitor Store and the Nursery Sheet Sets For Sale . Vist the
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