Maryland Child Care Community Comes Together to Support Providers and Parents
The Family Tree’s Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center (BCCCRC) is proud to partner with other leaders in the child care community including: Baltimore City Child Care Coalition, Maryland Family Network, Maryland State Family Child Care Association, and Service Employees International Union Local 500, to support child care providers. In February, we hosted virtual town halls for 183 family and center child care providers to better understand the struggles providers face with the Maryland Child Care Scholarship program.
“These town halls are part of an ongoing collaborative effort to address systemic barriers to affordable, high quality child care in the state of Maryland, and the Challenge of equitable access to state resources via Maryland State Department of Education’s (MSDE) CCS Program.” -UPD Consulting
A special thank you to Annie E. Casey, The Wright Foundation, and The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund for supporting this important initiative.
At the townhall meetings, a number of issues with the Child Care Scholarship program were identified.
- Poor Communications and Customer Service
- Providers and parents do not have a clear understanding of where to go for help, the website is not clear with the phone numbers provided.
- Payment timelines and the invoicing process are unpredictable
- Wait times have been reported to range from weeks to months; and does not commence on the date of the application.
- Reimbursements do not include information that identifies the child/children who are receiving the vouchers and frequently the amounts do not match the records the child care provider has.
- The application process is complicated and cumbersome for families
- This process is outdated with complicated paperwork and requirements under the child care scholarships.
- Parents are required to print, fill out, scan, and submit as a PDF, this is difficult for a lot of parents and adds additional barriers for parents who might not have access to technology, or might have trouble reading and writing.
- Instructions are not clear, so parents are often turned down because of missing information.
- Providers are absorbing the burden and risk in taking on CCS eligible families
- Providers are often working to help their families deal with MDSE and report spending hours on the phone.
On September 28th, 2022, The Family Tree participated in a press conference with speakers from child care leaders, Delegate Jared Solomon, family child care providers, center child care providers, and child care providers who are also parents. We heard people speak about the importance of child care in our communities.
Child care is critical to parents being able to go to work. It is too expensive for the parents that qualify for the Maryland Child Care Scholarship program to be able to pay for child care without this subsidy. This inconsistency can often lead to parents choosing either to not work, seek unregulated or unsafe care, or the child care provider going months without being paid.
The Child Care Scholarship program exists to help families access quality child care, yet many parents do not know about this opportunity, and those who do, have a hard time navigating the process. One family child care provider said, “we are not considered emergency personnel, and we are not paid as emergency personnel, but we are, because we care for children of those emergency personnel.”
Another speaker told her personal story. She works for a child care center, but qualifies for child care scholarships. She spoke about her personal journey trying to get her children quality care. She mentioned she is lucky enough to be able to bring her children to the center where she works, but still needs the scholarships to afford it. She spoke about how hard she had to fight to get her scholarships approved, she had to call many times, be put on hold, receive call backs and much more. This is a person who knows the system and has access to technology yet still struggled tremendously with this process. From this story we learn two things, we are not paying our child care workers enough and this process is far too complicated.
Here is what we are asking from MSDE:
- Modernize the CCS application and invoicing process
- Transition to online reporting
- Allow for real time processing and ability to flag issues
- Change the vocabulary and complexity of the forms
- Improve accessibility for speakers of other languages
- Provide feedback in a timely manner
- Provide guidance on common mistakes made by families and providers
- Requiring the signature of both parents regardless of marital status
- Requiring death certificate of deceased parents
- Requiring new paystubs for a new year when already in the program
- The complexity of language in the paper application and print resources
- The level of dedicated outreach or support to non-English speaking families
- 60-day attendance policy particularly during COVID
- The calculation of child care coverage
- Transition to online reporting
We are so proud to have supported HB 995/SB 920 Early Childhood Development-Child Care Scholarship Program- Alterations and Study. This bill – the centerpiece of the package – will establish presumptive eligibility for child care scholarship (CCS) applicants, pending final determination. Reports from parents and providers indicate that weeks-long delays in the current CCS application process are common, and those delays can thwart parents’ opportunities to start new jobs or training programs. The bill also removes the requirement that applicants pursue child support enforcement, a major barrier to CCS participation. Further, the legislation eliminates co-payments for parents enrolled in certain safety net programs (such as WIC), mandates prompt payments for providers, and requires streamlining of the scholarship application itself.
As always, if you have additional questions, please call our 24/7 Parenting HelpLine at 1-800-243-7337.