New Federal Bureau Aims To Elevate, Coordinate Child Care

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The Health and Human Services Department is establishing a bureau to help raise the stature of child-care issues and bring more consistency to federal child-care programs and policies.

Mary Jo Bane, the assistant secretary for children and families, announced the plan for the new bureau at a meeting of child-care and human-services professionals convened here last month by the Families and Work Institute, a New York City-based research group, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

"If we are going to serve children and families well, we must make sure we work hard to have a cohesive system," Ms. Bane said. Creating the new bureau, she said, is a small but symbolically important step at the federal level that "sends a message to states that child-care programs ought to be part of the same system."

The move is one of several steps proposed by the Clinton Administration in recent months to build a more coherent system of child care for disadvantaged families:

  • A Head Start reauthorization bill passed this year encourages coordination between Head Start and other child-care providers to offer full-day, full-year care, as well as links to welfare reform.
  • The Health and Human Services Department in May proposed regulations to create more consistency between the federal child-care block grant and child-care programs for families on or at risk of going on welfare.
  • President Clinton's welfare-reform plan would require that the welfare-related child-care programs adopt the same standards on health and safety, parental choice, and unlimited parental access required under the block grant. The plan also would allow states to administer all federal child-care funds through one agency.

Ms. Bane emphasized that the new child-care bureau will try to encourage "seamlessness" in administering the block grant and welfare child-care programs.

The bureau will be housed within the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, which now includes the Head Start Bureau, the Children's Bureau, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, and the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Participants at the conference said they were hopeful that having a federal child-care bureau--on a par with the Head Start bureau--will bring a greater sense of urgency to child-care issues.

"Child care has always been the stepsister; this gives it some important visibility," said Sue Bredekamp, the director of professional development for the young children's group.

"It puts a little extra credibility on the issue of child care," echoed Michele Piel, the director of child care and development for the Illinois Department of Public Aid.

About 330 people from the child-care and early-education fields, as well as from state and local governments, businesses, and social-service agencies, attended the National Forum on State and Community Planning in Early Education and Care, which was the second annual meeting of its kind.

Children's Summit?

Presenters described how other federal initiatives can be tapped to spur collaboration on child-care and early education. They cited the family-preservation bill, which is aimed at revamping state child-welfare systems, and the empowerment zones and enterprise communities program, the centerpiece of the Administration's community-revitalization strategy.

Participants also cited efforts by state and local agencies and parent groups to make children's services more comprehensive.

Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, the chairman of the National Governors' Association, told conferees that his group plans to convene a national children's summit next May or June and that he hopes to enlist President Clinton and members of Congress.

The summit, which would try to mobilize support for children's issues in the same fashion as the 1989 education summit held in Charlottesville, Va., would cap off the Governors' Campaign for Children, announced by the governors' group last month. (See Education Week, Aug. 3, 1994.)

Governor Dean and Gov. Roy Romer, who spoke to the participants via satellite from Colorado, also described efforts in their states--amid pressures to balance budgets and build more prisons--to beef up early-childhood programs.

A new report, previewed at the conference by the Zero to Three/National Center for Clinical Infants Programs, offers case studies on efforts in six communities to improve programs for young children.

More information on "Living and Testing the Collaborative Process: A Case Study of Community-Based Services Integration" is available by calling the Zero to Three Publications Department, at (800) 899-4301.

Vol. 14, Issue 01

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