Legislation Offers Child Care Help for Families in Need

Federal legislation expands assistance for childcare and early childhood education for low-income families and families experiencing homelessness.

An important initiative to provide childcare assistance to families experiencing homelessness, originally included in legislation sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Al Franken (D-MN), was incorporated into the Child Care Development and Block Grant Act of 2013. The act passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in late September 2013 and was signed into law the following year as the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.

The effort was supported by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. The legislation contains several amendments from the Murray legislation to ensure that federal funding supports low-income and at-risk families experiencing homelessness. The Act requires states to:

  • Establish a grace period that allows children experiencing homelessness to receive child care while their families take action to comply with immunization and other health and safety requirements
  • Use funds for activities that improve access to child-care services. These include procedures to permit immediate enrollment of children experiencing homelessness while required documentation is obtained, along with identifying training and technical assistance relevant to providers of homeless families.
  • Coordinate services with programs serving children experiencing homelessness, and with school district homeless liaisons

The Act also requires states to establish a sliding fee scale that is not a barrier to families receiving federal child-care assistance. This provision, while not specific to families experiencing homelessness, will be beneficial for homeless families, who often cannot afford any payment for child care. In addition, the Act requires that children who initially qualify for child care receive services for at least a year, and that parents have the opportunity to prove continued eligibility. These amendments will help ensure continuity of care for all low-income families.

Access to safe, reliable child care for families experiencing homelessness is critical to parents finding and retaining employment. This Act will promote healthy child development and improve quality care for children in areas of concentrated poverty or under-employment. By addressing the holistic needs of children, this provision will set aside quality improvement activities related to health, mental health, nutrition, physical activity and development for children.

“The Senate bill will help ensure access to child care for some of the nation’s poorest, most vulnerable families. By acknowledging and addressing the unique barriers caused by homelessness, it will help parents experiencing homelessness get back on their feet, and increase opportunities for safe, high quality early childhood care for children experiencing homelessness,” said Duffield.

Learn more about the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 at the Administration for Children & Families' Office of Child Care.

Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

Publication Year

Brian Prioleau
Last Updated: 04/19/2016