With support from Senator Susan Collins, the U.S. Senate today passed the bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Reauthorization Act, which will help improve the quality of child care for more than 1.5 million children and families nationwide, including 2,600 children from 1,800 families in Maine. The final vote was 97-1.
The bill also includes provisions from legislation Senator Collins authored and introduced last fall, the Child Care Infant Mortality Prevent Act, which is intended to prevent Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) by increasing provider training in sleep practices, first aid, and CPR. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), SUID affects approximately 4,000 infants each year, half of which are due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of death for infants aged 1-12 months. In addition, in 2010, 629 of SUID deaths were caused by accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. Senator Collins' provision seeks to eliminate needless SUID deaths by assisting states in improving the overall quality of child care services.
Senator Collins spoke in support of reauthorization of CCDBG on the Senate floor. Following are her remarks:
"Child care for working parents is essential to families throughout the nation, and Maine is no exception. For years, the CCDBG Program has assisted low-income parents in affording child care. The support provided by this program enables parents to obtain needed care for their children while working or improving their own skills and education.
"Twenty-six hundred children from 1,800 families in Maine received federal child care subsidies through the CCDBG program. Particularly during these difficult economic times, this program goes a long way in helping families in Maine and across the country.
"I have seen first-hand the impact of high-quality early learning on a child's ability to succeed in school. Educare Central Maine, located in Waterville, which I have visited, is a state-of-the-art early learning center that serves more than 200 mostly low-income children from birth to age five. Almost half of those children come from families that are eligible for assistance, and many rely on the CCDBG voucher to help cover the cost of tuition. Educare is a great example of quality child care in the State of Maine, and of the real impact of CCDBG funds at work in our communities.
"As I saw at Educare in Waterville, the CCDBG vouchers that allow parents to choose the best child care setting for their children is an important aspect of this program. Vouchers give parents the flexibility they want to make the best decisions about the kind of care they want - whether that is at a child care center, at a family care home, or with a relative or friend. The voucher program helps keep these decisions in the hands of parents.
"I am also pleased that this Reauthorization requires coordination among the Early Learning Advisory Councils and Head Start and IDEA programs. Aligning these systems will help improve the quality of all services offered for infants, toddlers, and preschool aged children.
"High-quality early learning experiences help ensure that children are well-prepared for school. This bill improves the current program by making sure those providers receiving CCDBG funds are qualified, receive training, and are regularly inspected and monitored.
"I would also like to thank the members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for including in this legislation provisions from the Child Care Infant Mortality Prevention Act, a bill I have cosponsored with Senator Dianne Feinstein. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, half of the approximately 4,500 sudden infant death syndrome cases in the United States are entirely preventable with effective training and implementation of correct sleep practices. I am pleased that the CCDBG Reauthorization Act includes sudden infant death syndrome prevention and safe sleeping practices among the new health and safety training topics for CCDBG providers.
"Child care is not only important to the developmental health of children, but also to the well-being of their parents. When parents know that their children have a place to go where they will be safe and where they will learn, then the parents have more opportunity to earn a living to support their family.
"Balancing the need to work with the need for child care can be very difficult. At times, a parent's salary could be almost completely offset by the cost of child care, and this burden is particularly heavy for low-income families. This bill will help more parents get the support they need while reinforcing the need for high-quality care in healthy and safe environments."