About Us
Child Abuse Training
International Activities
Rossi Award for Program Evaluation
UMD Capstone Courses
Mailing List
Contact Us

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 love."

Three Families

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 states now.

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 can’t 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 child’s healthy development. Healthy, safe, high-quality child care matters both to our nation’s economy and to our children’s education.

Too many children are in care that isn’t 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 Nation’s Agenda

At last fall’s 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.

That’s why this Administration has put early childhood development at the top of the nation’s agenda. Every budget the President has submitted to Congress has included increases in child care funding.

And that’s why the President has proposed the nation’s 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 President’s 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 family’s 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 can’t 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 that’s a critical first step.

But this proposal is not about welfare. It’s about working families who find themselves constantly worrying about how to pay the child care bills. It’s about working families who don’t 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 care.

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 level). 

And it’s 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 of availability.

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 President’s 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 President’s initiative doesn’t 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 child’s 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. That’s 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 President’s initiative supports children’s 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 for school.

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 health professionals.

The President’s 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 education.

And to ensure the kind of vigilant monitoring and in-person visits that are essential if parents are to trust child care quality, the President’s 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 program’s high standards.

That’s 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 nation’s 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 frequently.

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 President’s 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 year’s 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 President’s proposals support states, local communities, businesses and parents to nurture creative efforts to meet the needs of America’s 21st century working families.

This is an issue that for too long did not prompt intensive policy attention or thought. Parents’ and children’s 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 President’s 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.

Back to top