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New Report Reveals Michigan's Child Care Gaps

September 16, 2016

LANSING – Quality, affordable child care would be available to more families across the state under a set of recommendations in a new report, released today by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

“This report is a good roadmap, but it shows we’ve got a lot of work to do,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said. “The department is collaborating with Governor Rick Snyder and our state educational stakeholders as we move forward to implement the changes necessary to improve Michigan’s child-care system.” 

Commissioned by the MDE’s Office of Great Start (OGS), the report by the Lansing-based public policy research firm Public Sector Consultants, (PSC) points out the demand for increasing access to quality child-care providers that offer more financial assistance to families, and for supporting the early childhood workforce.

PSC drafted the report’s recommendations from research on how other states structure their child-care subsidy programs, and from a broad stakeholder engagement campaign. More than 1,000 individuals across the state participated in the study, including parents, providers, and advocates from 72 of Michigan’s 83 counties.

The report recommends focusing on five key areas:

  • Increase financial assistance to families
  • Increase access to quality providers
  • Make it easier for providers to improve their programs
  • Increase access to quality information
  • Support the early childhood workforce

 Each area of focus is accompanied by a set of recommendations that detail how the state and its partners can improve access to quality child care. Many of these recommendations focus on potential improvements to the child-care subsidy, such as refining the process for determining eligibility, streamlining the application process, and rationalizing reimbursement policies to make the system fairer and more efficient.

“Improving our child care system is critical for Michigan to improve lifelong outcomes for children, help families escape poverty and spur economic development,” says Susan Broman, deputy superintendent of the OGS. “As a state, we’ve made significant progress increasing access to pre-kindergarten. We must now expand our focus to include helping families access quality child care.”

Michigan helps working families access child care through the state’s Child Development and Care (CDC) program, which invested close to $156 million in state and federal dollars and provided subsidies to nearly 30,000 children in Fiscal Year 2015. According to the report, this investment is the 11th lowest in the country and $280 million less than Michigan invested in 2003.

In 2016, Michigan was forced to return some child care dollars to the federal government due to an inability to allocate this funding. Compared to other states, Michigan ranks near the bottom on several aspects of its child-care program, including income eligibility limits and reimbursement rates.

“Child care costs are rising, and Michigan’s investment in the child-care subsidy is falling,” said Michelle Richard, PSC senior consultant and the report’s lead author. “As we highlight in the report, other states offer examples of how the child care subsidy can be improved to help more children and families.”

Added Bowman, “Too often, our policies make it more difficult for families to access quality child care. We can, and must, do better. For example, out of 82,000 applications for the child care subsidy last year, 60,000 – or nearly 75 percent – were denied. Why is that? We need to identify opportunities to remove barriers and increase access.”

For the full set of recommendations, read Building a Better Child Care System: What Michigan Can Do to Help More Parents and Children Access Quality Care