State Policies for Assessing Access: Analysis of 2016–2018 Child Care Development Plans

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodMar 21 2018

A large body of research has established that high-quality early care and education (ECE) has benefits for young children’s cognitive and social-emotional development that can lead to improved outcomes later in life, especially for children who are economically disadvantaged. Research also shows that disadvantaged children have unequal access to high-quality ECE programs in the United States, compared to their peers in higher-income families. To address these disparities, there has been a growing effort to develop policies that increase access to ECE. To assess the effectiveness of these policies, decision makers need accurate and comprehensive data on which children have access to services, the quality of these services, and how such factors are changing over time.

This research report examines how states and territories are addressing, or plan to address, new requirements and goals of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) reauthorization law related to access to early care and education (ECE) services described in their 2016–2018 FY state/territory CCDF plans. We summarize state and territory policies related to increasing access to ECE for specific populations defined by the state, determining payment rates for care, and building the supply of high-quality care. We highlight innovative state/territorial policies and practices, and provide recommendations for how states might further address access through more comprehensive data collection and analysis to inform future child care development plans.

Following this introduction, we present key findings across states and territories, then present more detail on each dimension of access measured. We conclude with recommendations to help states strengthen their use of data to assess access for vulnerable populations and their efforts to increase the supply of high-quality care as they look ahead to their 2019–2021 FY CCDF plans.