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National Report Critical of KY Child Care Assistance Policies

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October 18, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - For a decade, Kentucky has slid backward in assisting lower-income families with child care, according to a new report by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). The head of Kentucky's leading child-advocacy group says it's a signal that state policymakers should rethink their investments to improve child care access and quality for poor families.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, says the current child care assistance rules hold some kids back from crucial early learning opportunities and create a vicious cycle for families trying to find or keep jobs.

"The real message from this report is that many of our most vulnerable children, those children who most need quality child care, are the exact young folks who are not getting it."

Brooks suggests a lower income threshold for families to sign up for assistance, as well as offering assistance to parents who are job-hunting, and making the state Child and Dependent Care tax credit refundable, so that working families with the highest child care costs relative to their income can receive the full value of the credit.

Brooks says another solution is to provide higher reimbursement rates for child care providers, similar to what's being done in the Medicaid program.

"Medical providers have to get a certain level of reimbursement for it to make it worth their while to serve low-income patients. That is the exact kind of equation that needs to be applied to child care."

Brooks says Kentucky parents searching for jobs are not currently eligible for child care assistance, which makes it harder for them to find work and keeps them on the unemployment rolls.

"We know that, especially for folks who are hourly workers - many of them part-time, many of them making minimum wage - the equation around child care is so important for them to be able to go to work, to be able to work more hours, to be able to keep that job."

The National Women's Law Center report examines policies that determine the affordability, accessibility and quality of child care assistance in each state.

The full NWLC report can be found at www.kyyouth.org

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY