Guest Opinion: Making child care assistance work in Grand County
January 29, 2015
Local early childhood experts spent the final months of 2014 beginning the groundwork for optimizing the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) in Grand. Led by Grand Beginnings, this work will result in a 2015 county-wide assessment of the program, complete with guides to educate families, briefs to inform the work of community professionals, and expert recommendations for how the program could be changed to meet the true needs of families and child care providers living and working in Grand County.
CCCAP is a public program that provides child care subsidies to families that are working, searching for employment or are in training, and families that are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program. The goal is to subsidize high-quality child care services to support families to achieve economic self-sufficiency and inter-generational success. Although basic regulations exist at a state and federal level, the actual administration of CCCAP is administered locally through county departments. Counties set eligibility rules for families, reimbursement rates for child care providers, and assume management of a program funded by a conglomerate of federal, state, county, and parent-contributed dollars.
While clear in its intentions, the complex regulations of CCCAP, paired with the diverse and intricate situations of real-life families, make administration of this program anything but simple. According to Grand Beginnings, the unique realities of living in Grand County's rural resort community confound the situation even further. The increased proportion of families engaging in seasonal, service industry-related work results in fluctuating incomes and work schedules heavy with night and weekend hours, creating a mismatch of parent work schedules and actual availability of child care. The high correlation between CCCAP-eligible families and this sector of the workforce creates a heightened challenge for CCCAP administrators who are working to make the declining program funding best serve those who need it most. For many families, the subsidy need is dire, with Grand County touting the 4th highest cost of center-based child care in the state for infants, costing an average of $13,250 a year for care.
With all of these dynamics in play, Grand Beginnings recognizes the necessity of investigating how CCCAP is currently working, where clarifications in information are needed, and what could be done to better align the program with on-the-ground stakeholders in the community. The policy assessment is being conducted in partnership with Bell Policy Institute and the Women's Foundation of Colorado, made possible by the generous support of The Chambers Fund.
The initial 2014 investigation has included three focus groups across the county; one in Fraser, one in Granby, and one in Kremmling. Families, child care providers, and social service representatives were invited to the same table to voice their thoughts on different aspects of the program. Additional perspectives will be sought through a series of key informant interviews in 2015 to increase the number of stakeholders represented in the analysis. The information gained will then be paired with CCCAP usage data provided by the Bell Policy Institute. Grand Beginnings will use the analysis to generate family guides, provider briefs, and informed recommendations for decision-makers at both the local and state level.
All of this is set to be accomplished by November of 2015, hopefully bringing the community one step closer to harnessing the full potential of CCCAP: Creating information for Grand County decision-makers to maximize efficiencies as they administer finite program dollars, expanding the workforce for businesses to thrive and grow, and ultimately making it easier for families to live and support themselves. For more information about this project, contact Grand Beginnings at 970-725-3391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katy Lois is Health Systems Coordinator for Grand Beginnings.
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