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The Sequester Deprives Families of Access to Affordable, High-Quality Child Care

The across-the-board cuts implemented under the sequester are undermining critical supports for children and families, including child care assistance provided through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).  CCDBG helps low-income families afford the reliable child care that parents need to work and that children need to grow and learn.  CCDBG also supports efforts to improve the quality of care.  CCDBG funding is already insufficient to provide help to all of the families who need it or to give providers the resources they need to achieve and sustain high-quality care.  The sequester cuts will lead to even fewer families receiving child care assistance and reduced investments in the quality of care.

Low-income families need help affording the high cost of care.

  • The average cost of full-time care for a four-year-old ranges from about $3,900 to nearly $11,700 a year, and the average cost of full-time infant care ranges from approximately $4,500 to nearly $15,000 a year, depending on the type of care and where a family lives.[1]
  • Families with incomes under 100 percent of poverty that pay for child care spend an average of 30 percent of their income on this care, and families with incomes between 100 percent of 200 of poverty that pay for care spend 18 percent of their income, compared with 7 percent for families with incomes at or above 200 percent of poverty.[2]

When parents receive child care assistance, they are more likely to get and keep a job, which enables them to support their families.

  • One study found that single mothers of young children who received child care assistance were 39 percent more likely to still be employed after two years than those who did not receive any help paying for child care.[3]
  •  When parents are able to work and earn more income, they can offer more stability, opportunities, and resources for their children.  Families can live in better neighborhoods with better schools, provide nutritious meals for their children, and buy books and other toys that allow their children to learn and explore.  Increased financial security can also reduce parents’ stress, which can affect how they interact with their children.[4] 
  • The results of one study suggest that a $1,000 increase in a low-income family’s annual income increases young children’s achievement by 5 to 6 percent of a standard deviation.[5]

Child care assistance currently falls far short of providing the level of support families need. 

  • Only one in six federally-eligible children received child care assistance in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available.[6]  Additional funding is needed just to maintain the number of children served by CCDBG at 1.4 million,[7] which is already the lowest level in at least 15 years.[8]
  • Many families with incomes too low to afford child care on their own are not able to receive assistance under their states’ restrictive eligibility limits.  A family with an income above 150 percent of poverty ($28,635 a year for a family of three in 2012) could not qualify for child care assistance in 14 states in 2012.  A family with an income above 200 percent of poverty ($38,180 a year for a family of three in 2012) could not qualify for assistance in 37 states.[9]
  • Nearly half (23) of the states had waiting lists for child care assistance or turned families away without taking their names in 2012.[10] 
  • Only one state set its reimbursement rates for child care providers at the federally recommended level in 2012.[11]  Low rates deprive child care providers of the resources necessary to hire and retain well-qualified staff, purchase toys and books, maintain facilities, and cover other costs involved in offering children a good learning experience.  Low rates may discourage high-quality providers from even enrolling families receiving child care assistance. 


[1] Child Care Aware of America, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report (Arlington, VA: Child Care Aware of America, 2012), 7, available at

[2] Lynda Laughlin, Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2011 (Current Population Reports, P70-13) (Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013), 15, available at

[3] Heather Boushey, Staying Employed After Welfare: Work Supports and Job Quality Vital to Employment Tenure and Wage Growth (Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2002), 10-12, available at

[4] Robert H. Bradley and Robert F. Corwyn, “Socioeconomic status and child development,” Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 2002, 371-399.

[5] Greg J. Duncan, Pamela A. Morris, and Chris Rodrigues, “Does money really matter? Estimating impacts of family income on young children’s achievement with data from random-assignment experiments,” Developmental Psychology, 47 (5), 2011, 1263-1279.

[6] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Human Services Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Estimates of Child Care Eligibility and Receipt for Fiscal Year 2009 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012), available at

[7] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Fiscal Year 2014 Budget in Brief (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013), 3, available at

[8] National Women’s Law Center analysis of data on average monthly number of children enrolled for FY 1998 through FY 2010, from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Care, Child Care and Development Fund Data Tables, available at

[9] Karen Schulman and Helen Blank, Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012 (Washington, DC: National Women’s Law Center, 2012), 8, available at

[10] Downward Slide, 9.

[11] Downward Slide, 11.