Child Care Aware of America

Fostering equitable access to child care through infrastructure transformation

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Child care is a critical community infrastructure need in the U.S., but the system is in crisis and families still struggle. Nationwide, 66% of children under age 6 live in families where all parents are in the labor force, yet 22% of working parents earn poverty-level wages. Those who can access it pay an average of $9,600 annually for child care, but the reality is 50% of families cannot access child care and even more are challenged with finding and paying for services. Consequently, children experience unsafe, unhealthy, non-nurturing environments that put their development at risk. Health and well-being disparities suffered during childhood and beyond are symptoms of inequity. Quality early learning opportunities for all level the playing field. We will re-engineer engagement with families, data, and advocacy levers to progress towards equitable access to quality child care, build family capacity, and optimize the lifelong success of generations of children.

Problem Statement

More than 15 million children under age six have parents in the workforce, making child care an essential cornerstone of thriving communities and the national economy. Unfortunately, the U.S. child care system is in crisis. The supply of child care falls grossly short of demand.If families do find child care, it’s unaffordable. According to federal standard, child care should cost no more than 7% of a family’s income, yet our most recent national report shows center-based infant care exceeds 27% of median household income – four times the affordability benchmark.The crisis is more alarming for families who earn low incomes because evidence shows their children gain the most from high quality child care. Further, only 10% of families eligible for child care assistance receive it, a reality that solidifies early and long-lasting inequities for vulnerable populations. Yet, birth-to-five early childhood education yields 13% return on investment. Finally, navigating the complex child care system is confusing and time consuming. Families lack transparent consumer information to make informed child care choices to help ensure their children are in safe and nurturing environments.America’s child care crisis is a result of a broken market. The cost to operate a quality child care program far exceeds the amount families can pay. Since the 1960s, nonprofit CCR&Rs have worked tirelessly to increase family access to high-quality, affordable child care but they cannot do it alone.The most effective levers for change include engaged family and business advocates, data-informed governments and well-resourced child care

Solution Overview

While pieces of our solution are in motion, a fully coordinated, scaled, informed, and evidence-based approach across industries to transform the U.S. child care system has not been accomplished to date. Our solution will allow for the investment that is needed to modernize and align the data system infrastructure that presently is crumbling. The shoring up of this infrastructure is needed urgently to understand child care gaps, get a national perspective on our child care landscape and solve for the problems we are facing in supply and demand. A modernized child care data system will also serve as an enduring springboard for families to get access anywhere/anytime to timely and reliable information supports they need to make child care decisions. Our solution will have broad impact on the over 15 million children across the U.S. and their families who need child care. Through meaningful engagement of families, a national communication campaign, advocacy and consumer information services to assist families with finding and accessing quality child care, research that pinpoints the exact location of gaps in child care supply and informs policy decisions, and collective advancements in family-friendly state and federal policies, families will thrive, especially those at risk for inequitable access to child care.The success of our child care system transformation ultimately will be evidenced through national research that shows enhanced access to quality child care for all children. We look forward to witnessing together the closing of opportunity gaps that exist currently for children at risk.

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Project Funders

  • Department of Army 2016 - 2021
  • Office of Child Care/Department of Health and Human Services 2016 - 2018
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2018 - 2020

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