Council Receives OLO Report on Child Care
The Montgomery County Council today received a report from the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) that responds to the Council’s request for an analysis of the need for, and availability of, child care and child care subsidies in Montgomery County. The report, entitled “Child Care in Montgomery County,” also reviews initiatives in other jurisdictions aimed at increasing the availability and/or affordability of child care.
Child care refers to the care and supervision of children by adults who are not the children’s parents and includes care in child care centers and preschools and by babysitters, relatives and other providers. State law requires that child care providers in two categories—child care centers and family child care homes—be licensed or registered with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). Within MSDE, the Office of Child Care (OCC) in the Division of Early Childhood Development is responsible for regulating child care providers in these two categories. Among the major findings of the report is that median full-time child care center costs for two young children exceed 20 percent of incomes for the majority of families in the County. Costs for one infant exceed 20 percent of incomes for most single-parent families.
The State of Maryland and Montgomery County operate separate child care subsidy programs targeted at different populations. The State Child Care Subsidy Program (SCCSP) targets the lowest income families in the State, while the County’s Working Parents Assistance Program (WPA) targets families in Montgomery County with incomes that are too high to qualify for SCSSP, but too low to afford child care without a subsidy. In 2015, the State Child Care Subsidy Program (SCCSP) provided financial assistance for child care to families with annual incomes up to $40,600. For the same year, the County’s Working Parents Assistance Program subsidized child care for families not eligible for SCCSP but with incomes below $58,000.
Other major findings of the OLO report include:
• More than two children under age 5 reside in the County for every State-regulated full-time child care slot, and more than five children under age 2 reside in the County for every regulated child care slot. These data exclude the significant number of unregulated providers in the County.
• Of the 1,556 regulated child care providers in the County, 872 providers with a total capacity of 26,240 children reported being bilingual. There were 132 providers, with a capacity of 1,074, reporting they offered evening care and 96 providers, with a capacity of 780, reported offering weekend care.
• Three geographic areas in the County show both lower levels of child care availability and a higher need for subsidies compared with other areas. In all geographic areas of the County, there are at least four resident children under age 2 for every regulated child care slot for this age group.
• Current Maryland State Subsidy Program (SCCSP) payment rates are lower than the rates charged by the vast majority of child care providers in Montgomery County, which is inconsistent with suggested federal guidelines for states’ child care subsidy programs.
OLO offered three items for future Council discussion based on the report:
• The programmatic, fiscal and policy implications of the County supplementing subsidies provided through the Maryland State Child Care Subsidy Program (SCCSP).
• The potential for increased demand for the County’s Working Parents Assistance Program (WPA) child care subsidies as a result of increases to WPA subsidy rates and income eligibility limits.
• Additional opportunities for the County Government to promote access to affordable regulated child care for infants and toddlers.
OLO’s report on child care data can be found online.