States Describe Child Care Quality Investments

Washington, DC– A new report, Investing in Quality: A Survey of State Child Care and Development Fund Initiatives, finds that states are investing in child care quality, and not only exceeding the minimum funding requirements in many instances, but also launching initiatives with a set of objectives that research indicates can contribute to child care quality. There is substantial variation among states in terms of focus on specific objectives and target groups. However, this variation occurs within the framework of a relatively small set of objectives with grounding in research. Further, a consistent focus on certain goals emerges, such as improving health and safety and strengthening the professional development of the early childhood workforce.


The survey was developed at the initiative of the members of the National Association of State Child Care Administrators (NASCCA), an affiliate of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA). It was designed by Child Trends and NASCCA with the Bank Street College of Education and conducted by Child Trends.


According to Jerry Friedman, Executive Director of APHSA: “High quality child care can help children prepare for and excel in school. This report demonstrates that states are systematically making research-based investments to improve the quality of child care.”


According to Martha Zaslow, Vice President for Research at Child Trends: “The findings point both to variation across states and a set of common priorities. The priorities that emerge most clearly are improving health and safety in child care and strengthening professional development for the early childhood workforce.” According to Bridget Lavelle, Research Analyst at Child Trends: “States are also supporting progress towards accreditation and investing in the development of summary ratings of child care quality to improve the information available to parents when choosing child care.”


According to Toni Porter, Director of the Institute for a Child Care Continuum at the Bank Street College of Education: “This report provides a valuable summary of current state investments in quality. An important next step will be to undertake evaluation studies to help identify the approaches that are most effective in improving the quality of care and helping children prepare for school.”



Key Findings:




  • Although states invest in a wide variety of quality initiatives, there are commonalities across states in terms of the objectives of these diverse initiatives.
  • A majority of states addressed most of the 17 research-based objectives included in the survey.
  • Promoting healthy and safe environments is a major focus of state child care quality activities.
  • Professional development, including increasing caregiver training and formal education, and strengthening state professional development systems, is also a major priority in states.
  • The survey data indicate a balance in state child care quality initiatives that aim at increasing emotionally supportive and responsive caregiving and those that support early learning.


Target Populations

  • An equal proportion of state quality initiatives aimed to serve center-based providers and regulated family child care providers.
  • Parents are a target population for a substantial proportion of quality initiatives.


  • Initiatives to improve health and safety and to help child care programs achieve national accreditation or a state quality rating accounted for the highest proportions of total budgeted quality funding.
  • The funding data provide further evidence that professional development is a high priority among states. Initiatives aimed at increasing caregiving training or formal education and those aimed at strengthening professional development systems accounted for a large proportion of budgeted quality funding.

Data Collection

  • Data were collected on a large majority of child care quality initiatives. Most of the data collection focused on service delivery.


Background. The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) is both a critical work support for low-income families, and a key component in national and state efforts to support early childhood development and promote school readiness. The program is structured as a block grant to states with combined federal and state expenditures of $9.4 billion in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2004. States are required to set aside a minimum of 4 percent of their CCDF grant for initiatives to improve the quality and accessibility of child care, but federal law gives states broad discretion on how to invest quality funding.


Initiated by state child care administrators, the current study attempts to create a more complete picture of quality expenditures and objectives undertaken in the states. With funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, NASCCA and Child Trends, with the Bank Street College of Education, developed the methodology to describe state quality investments, and Child Trends carried out the survey. The survey asked states to identify the objectives of their quality activities based on a list of 17 objectives that research suggests have the potential to enhance child care quality. The study also collected information regarding funding amounts and sources, target populations, and types and sources of data collected for each quality initiative. The resulting data, from 35 responding states, provide an examination of priorities across these states in terms of quality objectives and target




About Child Trends

Child Trends, founded in 1979, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families by conducting research and providing science-based information to the public and decision-makers.


About the National Association of State Child Care Administrators

The National Association of State Child Care Administrators (NASSCA), an affiliate of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), is a nonprofit, bipartisan professional association of public administrators of state child care and early education programs. NASCCA’s mission is to support its members to develop, implement, and evaluate child care programs that are responsive and accountable to the needs of the communities and people they serve; and to enhance and sustain legislative, regulatory, and fiscal policies supportive of effective child care programs.



About BankStreetCollege of Education

Bank Street College is a small, vibrant institution, passionately devoted to improving the education of children. The Institute for a Child Care Continuum, part of the College’s Division of Continuing Education, engages in policy research and evaluation with a focus on early childhood education and child care.