Remarks by Olivia A. Golden
I am delighted to be here and have the chance to speak
to you on so critical an issue.
As President Clinton said in his State of the Union address,
"No parent should have to choose between a job they need and a child they
To make vivid the choices parents make every day, let
me tell you about three families: two I met, and a third I heard about
from an employer.
In New Hamsphire a few weeks ago I talked to a former
recipient---she got her job in November----and the first message from her
story was her pure joy at finishing an office skills training program and
then finding a job---her first job in more than 6 years. She said to me,
"I told my kids and I was jumping up and down, and they were jumping up
and down---I was on cloud 9 for a week."
The second thing that came through in her story was how
important child care was to her success---her youngest child, a 5-year-old,
was in a high-quality child care program identified by the welfare office
and convenient to her daily trip.
And the third thing that came through was that her continued
success absolutely depends on child care---which will suddenly become more
precarious next year. If her success story is to be lasting and real---if
she is to keep that job next year, when her daughter goes to first grade
in a town where to school day ends at 2:20 PM while her job ends at 4:30---she
is going to have to find reliable, affordable after-school care---and she
knows she had better start now.
The second story is from the Employee Assistance Director
of a major hotel chain. Child care is the issue she hears about all the
time. She told me about a typical employee problem---a housekeeper married
to a janitor, two kids, elderly parent. They could afford child care and
elder care. Yet at an income of $36,000, no help is available in most
I met the mother of a toddler at an Early Head Start program---her
little girl goes to the home of a child care provider who is specially
trained by Early Head Start. Before, her little girl went to a family child
care provider who had no special training, one the mother was able to afford
on her own. I asked her about the difference.
When she went to the untrained provider, the little girl
cried on the way there and she was cranky when she came home. Much of the
day she sat in front of the television--the provider was unable to provide
much more stimulation.
Now the little girl is happy in the morning on the way
to care and she is in a good mood when she comes home. The mother says
the child care teacher is "down on the floor, playing with the children,"
has a schedule of quiet time and time for reading and play.
"The difference is," the woman says, "she knows my little
girl, pays attention to her, and cares about playing with her more than
she cares whether the toys stay in a neat pile."
Child care matters to parents and children.
A Huge Issue
It matters to parents because affordable, accessible,
high-quality care is critical to low- and middle-income working parents
and it is critical to welfare recipients just leaving the
rolls and moving into the workplace.
Too many working parents, struggling to make ends meet,
risk losing their jobs because they cant afford child care--or have to
skimp on rent or food or medical care to pay the child care bills.
It matters to children because quality care is essential
to a childs healthy development. Healthy, safe, high-quality child care
matters both to our nations economy and to our childrens education.
Too many children are in care that isnt good enough to
help them grow and develop to their full potential---despite the research
on brain development that says the early years are critical.
Some children are even in care that threatens basic health and safety.
At the Top of the Nations Agenda
At last falls White House Conference on Child Care, convened
by President and Mrs. Clinton, we heard over and over from parents, providers,
business leaders, researchers, and public officials from both parties just
how critical child care is for working families and how limited the choices
too often are for those families and their children.
The numbers tell the story. Today, 70 percent of all mothers
go to work and trust their children to the best child care arrangements
they can find and afford----45 percent of all children under the age of
1 are in child care on a regular basis.
Yet, according to a recent Harris poll, half of these
parents say they found it "very difficult" or "extremely difficult" to
find affordable care. The same proportion said the lack of affordable,
satisfactory care made it difficult for them to do a good job at work,
and a significant 43 percent said they had not taken a job they had wanted
because they could not find adequate care.
Thats why this Administration has put early childhood
development at the top of the nations agenda. Every budget the President
has submitted to Congress has included increases in child care funding.
And thats why the President has proposed the nations
largest single investment in child care, offering quality, affordable choices
and restoring trust in care where their children can learn and be healthy
and safe ($20 billion over 5 years).
President Clinton proposed this historic investment in
child care at the same time he sent to Congress the first balanced budget
in 30 years---a budget that eliminates completely the Federal deficit that
was so ominous just a few years ago.
Making Care Affordable
Now let me talk in a bit more detail about the need and
the Presidents proposal in some key areas.
For families, child care boils down to 3 questions:
Can I afford it? Can I find it? Can I trust it?
Affordability is for many the first hurdle. Child care
takes up a large portion of any familys income, but particularly of low-income
families. For a family making $15,000 a year, child care on average eats
up 25 percent of income---leaving very little to pay the rent or the heat
or the doctor bills.
As both parents and employers constantly tell me, without
help for child care costs, parents cant hold onto their jobs--or else
they are making unacceptable trade-offs in their families well-being.
Yet, right now, of the 10 million families eligible for
federal subsidies, only about 1 million receive them.
Congress, the President, and state governments have made
extremely important investments in child care that helps families on welfare
move to work---and thats a critical first step.
But this proposal is not about welfare. Its about working
families who find themselves constantly worrying about how to pay the child
care bills. Its about working families who dont want to go back on welfare
just to get the child care they need.
A new report just issued by HHS (The Child Care and
Development Block Grant: Report of State Plans), shows that States
have developed innovative strategies to improve child care quality, but
need more resources to help working families afford child care.
States have provided scholarships and training for child
care providers, tax credits for businesses that offer child care services,
initiatives to link the child care and health care communities, support
for resource and referral services, and initiatives to expand school-age
But because of resource restraints, some states are setting
eligibility levels far below what is allowed in Federal law. For example,
in 10 states, a family of 3 with as little as $20,000 in income is not
eligible for any help with child care costs (37 states at the $28,000 income
And its really even harder than that for working families
in most states: Even if eligible, families face long waiting lists---virtually
no state reports that they can serve all the working families who are eligible.
In January, the President proposed increasing subsidies
to low-income working families to help more than 1 million more parents
(doubles the present number by 2003).
These funds will go to the states to help low-income working
parents afford care. Parents choose the type of care---family, center,
neighbor, relative---that best suits them.
For moderate and middle income families, tax credits will
provide relief from the high costs of child care for more than 3 million
families. And parents earning $35,000 (like the housekeeper and the janitor)
who have high child care costs will not have to pay any federal tax.
Making Care Available
After achieving the ability to pay, parents face the hurdle
Subsidies and tax credits enable parents to make the choices
in care they feel are best for their children, including relatives or caregivers
in their home, family-based home providers, or centers.
But as we know, care can be very hard to find. Plus, many
parents, some employed for the first time, work split-shift and night shifts,
and such care, when it is available, can be of a quality that does little
to help the child grow.
To encourage availability, the Clinton Administration
is encouraging public-private partnerships, based on successful local efforts.
The Presidents proposal helps in several ways. It provides
incentives to businesses to offer child care services to their employees
through a targeted tax credit ($500 million over 5 years).
Further, the Administration is expanding Head Start and
Early Head Start (ages 0-3) to provide comprehensive child development
and family support services to 1 million children by 2002. Head Start is
working with the Child Care Bureau to create "continuous care," so that
children do not have to travel from one provider to another.
The Presidents initiative doesnt stop helping parents
when their kids enter school Older children often come home with no adult
there and spend hours unsupervised. An estimated 5 million children are
"latchkey kids" sometime during the week. During these unsupervised times,
children are more likely to engage in crime, drugs, and alcohol use. FBI
statistics show most juvenile crime takes place between the hours of 3
and 8 p.m.
The President proposes putting underutilized school facilities
to work after classes. Community groups will be able to apply for federal
grants to create new activities. At present, 70 percent of public schools
do not offer such programs. The initiative will give 500,000 children the
opportunity to participate in after-school programs.
Ensuring Quality Care
But how good will the care be? The quality of services
is an overriding concern.
We have long known that the first years of life are critical
to a childs development. Now recent findings point to strong scientific
evidence of just how critical those first few years are.
Nurturing and stimulating children in their first years
of life help youngsters brains develop and prepare them for the challenges
of school and later life. The President and the First Lady, hosting a child
brain development conference at the White House last year, brought national
attention to the role of a warm, loving environment and active interaction
between adults and children (such as talking and reading to children) in
fostering healthy development and creating connections/ synapses in the
brain. Thats the scientists way of talking about the kind of experience
the parent in Early Head Start described to me.
A recent study found that "higher quality child care for
very young children (birth to 3 years) relates consistently to high levels
of cognitive and language development." Study after study finds children
who receive warm and sensitive caregiving are more likely to trust caregivers,
to enter school ready and eager to learn, and to get along well with other
children. Smaller group sizes, lower teacher/child ratios, and higher staff
wages do result in quality child care.
The Presidents initiative supports childrens learning
and healthy development in child care by building on what states and communities
have already learned, as well as on the national achievements of the Head
Start program, the Healthy Child Care America campaign, and the military
child care program.
Building on a North Carolina initiative called "Smart
Start", the President has proposed an Early Learning Fund that will go
to communities around the country to make sure that our youngest children
are in care that helps them learn, keeps them safe, and makes them ready
The money can be spent to help both child care centers
and family child care homes provide care that parents can truly count on---by
training staff, helping programs become accredited and licensed, providing
home visits and parent education, and connecting child care programs to
The Presidents initiative proposes unparalleled support
to states for promoting quality care through better-trained staff and enforcement
of their own state standards.
To improve staff training and reduce staff turnover---which
are both closely tied to better results for children in the scientific
research---the President is proposing to make scholarships available to
up to 50,000 early childhood and child care teachers every year, with a
commitment from their program to increase wages once they complete the
And to ensure the kind of vigilant monitoring and in-person
visits that are essential if parents are to trust child care quality, the
Presidents proposal provides resources to states to promote tough enforcement
of state standards.
In the Head Start program, we have learned that the keys
to quality are training and support for teachers and, again vigilant monitoring
to ensure local classrooms meet the programs high standards.
Thats why Head Start recently introduced comprehensive
new performance standards that specify the level of care expected from
all Head Start centers across the country. These standards incorporate
the most current knowledge about the developmental needs of children.
The same lessons come through from the experience of the
military in turning around a weak child care program to become one of the
nations strongest, with a large number of centers and family homes achieving
the high standards of accreditation.
As reported at the October White House conference, the
lessons of the military experience are that if you want excellent child
care, you need to support training for caregivers and monitor programs
Get and Stay Involved
Over the years, there has been bipartisan commitment to
child care as an issue in Congress and around the country. For example,
recent remarks by governors in their state of the state addresses this
year included strong references to the importance of available, affordable,
quality child care.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Almond recently said, "As
our workforce continues to change, child care has become the single most
important issue facing working families....As we set out to create a better
child care system, the key will be ensuring that when our kids are in day
care, they are learning."
The Presidents proposal builds on a history of support
by Congress and President Clinton for working families, including families
where both parents work and families where one parent makes the choice
to stay home.
From the Family and Medical Leave Act to the Earned Income
Tax Credit and the $500 per child tax credit in last years Budget Act,
the President has supported the choices that families make to go to work
and care for their children. This proposal adds one more piece to that
history of commitment. The Presidents proposals support states, local
communities, businesses and parents to nurture creative efforts to meet
the needs of Americas 21st century working families.
This is an issue that for too long did not prompt intensive
policy attention or thought. Parents and childrens experiences were changing,
yet these changes were being ignored. Now we are finally seeing the experiences
of parents and the findings of researchers coming together.
Brain development research is clearly shaping policy news.
The Presidents proposal emphasizes research and data, because they are
key. We are learning more and more how much child care matters. We need
for you to become and stay engaged. If we all do that, I believe we can
make an extraordinary difference in the lives of children and families.
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