The recent passing of new rules by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Child Care (OCC), signals a transformative shift that aims to streamline the child care application process and reduce bureaucratic hurdles making the process easier on families. Through my work as both a licensed clinical social worker and Director of the Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning under the Family and Social Services Administration in Indiana, I have seen firsthand the challenges families have in accessing, selecting, and paying for child care services. Now, as Child Care Practice Lead at Change and Innovation Agency (C!A), I want to help agencies make the most of new rules to benefit as many families as possible.

Driving Positive Change: Objectives of the New Rules

The newly announced rules focus on three primary objectives:

  1. Cost Reduction for Parents: States will cap family copayments at 7% of their income, with considerations for waiving copay for specific groups like children with disabilities and families who are homeless.
  2. Enhanced Child Care Access: States will transition to prospective payments to providers, ensuring timely compensation based on enrollment figures rather than traditional attendance records.
  3. Fair and Sustainable Payment Practices: These rules aim to expand child care supply for various groups, emphasizing fair and appropriate payment practices.

Implementation Guidelines: Pathway to Compliance

States must comply with these rules by April 30th, with the option to apply for a waiver extending up to two years to aid in the transition. Recognizing the need for technological and procedural adjustments, states are urged to adhere to these guidelines, understanding that full compliance may necessitate a transitional period. However, the implementation of these rules poses a significant challenge for child care agencies already grappling with capacity issues. The child care system needs to be modernized and more customer-focused, which can be achieved by first increasing capacity and support for state agencies. The team at C!A specializes in capacity-building within human service and safety net programs, and we are dedicated to assisting states to enhance their capacity to effectively implement these new rules.

To simplify and modernize the child care system, states should also look to other successful service delivery programs — like health insurance enrollment platforms. And that’s exactly what we did when developing our child care exchange solution, which is built on the successful and proven state-based exchange model. The Child Care Exchange offers states the opportunity to meet these new regulation deadlines quickly. The exchange’s unified system simplifies access to child care services for families, streamlining selection and payment processes while leveraging connectivity and data sources to minimize documentation requirements and ensure efficient payment procedures for providers based on child enrollment fora more seamless, accessible, and equitable child care solution for families across the country.

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