The Office of Child Care supports low-income working families by improving access to affordable, high-quality early care and afterschool programs. OCC administers the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) —a block grant to state, territory, and tribal governments that provides support for children and their families with paying for child care that will fit their needs and that will prepare children to succeed in school.
CCDF also improves the quality of care to promote children’s healthy development and learning by supporting child care licensing, quality improvement systems to help programs meet higher standards, and training and education for child care workers. We establish and oversee the implementation of child care policies, and provide guidance and technical assistance to states, tribes and territories as they administer CCDF programs.
CCDF is the primary federal funding source for child care subsidies to help eligible low-income working families access child care and to improve the quality of child care for all children.
2014 Reauthorization: The passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 reauthorized the law governing CCDF. The law defines health and safety requirements for child care providers, outlines family-friendly eligibility policies, expands quality improvement efforts, and ensures that parents and the public have transparent information about the child care choices available to them. Under the law, States continue to have flexibility within federal guidelines over key policy levers—including subsidy payment rates, co-payment amounts contributed by the family, income thresholds for determining eligibility, and quality improvement investments.
- Child Care Services Funded by CCDF: Subsidized child care services are available to eligible families through certificates (vouchers), or grants and contracts with providers. Under the law, States must establish eligibility policies, including a period of at least 12 months before eligibility is re-determined, that promote continuity of care for children and families. The program provides parents with the choice of a range of provider settings and types—including centers, family child care homes, relatives, and faith-based providers. Parents may select a participating child care provider that satisfies applicable state and local requirements, including health and safety requirements. Under the law, States must: ensure that these health and safety requirements address key areas (such as first aid and CPR); require that providers receive training in these areas; complete comprehensive criminal background checks; and conduct monitoring that includes annual inspections. Approximately 1.3 million children receive a child care subsidy from the CCDF program every month.
- Quality Activities: A portion of CCDF funds must be used to improve the quality of child care and other additional services to parents, such as resource and referral counseling regarding the selection of child care providers. The 2014 law increases the minimum amount that States are required to spend for quality activities, and includes new funding for improving the quality of care for infants and toddlers. To improve the health and safety of available child care, CCDF lead agencies provide training, grants and loans to providers; improved monitoring; compensation projects; and other innovative programs. Many lead agencies are making systemic investments, such as developing quality rating and improvement systems and professional development systems. Tribes may use a portion of their funds to construct child care facilities provided there is no reduction in the current level of child care services.
- Coordination of Resources: The CCDF allows states to serve families through a single, integrated child care subsidy program under the rules of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act. States coordinate CCDF with Head Start, pre-k, and other early childhood programs. States can also transfer a portion of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families dollars to CCDF, or spend TANF directly for child care.
- State and Tribal Child Care Plans: All states, territories and tribes must submit comprehensive plans every three years and conduct public hearings to invite public comment.
- Research: A portion of CCDF is used for child care research, demonstration and evaluation activities. These funds are increasing the capacity for child care research at the national, state and local levels while addressing critical questions with implications for children and families. Funds have been awarded to support individual project areas, including policy research, research partnerships, research scholars and a web-based archive called Child Care and Early Education Research Connections.
- Technical Assistance: A small portion of the CCDF is used by the Office of Child Care to provide technical assistance to grantees. Its technical assistance network is designed to address the needs of states, territories and tribes administering CCDF.
Brief History of Program
CCDF is authorized under the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG) which was enacted under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. The CCDBG Act was amended and reauthorized by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, and again by the CCDBG Act of 2014. CCDF made $8.7 billion available to states, territories, and tribes in fiscal year 2020. In addition, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act) provided $3.5 billion in supplemental CCDF monies to address the impacts of the coronavirus.
Shannon Christian serves as the Director of the Office of Child Care at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families. She is a former Associate Commissioner of the former Child Care Bureau at ACF, where she advanced President Bush’s Good Start, Grow Smart early childhood initiative, and shaped the office’s research agenda to better support state policy and spending decisions.
Director of the Office of Child Care
Office of Child Care
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Mary E. Switzer Building
330 C ST SW, 4th floor
Washington, DC 20201
Main Phone Number