Dr. Kathy Modigliani leads the Family Child Care Project in Arlington, MA. She has studied family child care for 25 years, visiting more than 400 providers’ homes and evaluating over 50 community family child care initiatives. At Wheelock College, Kathy led the development of the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) Accreditation system. Always focused on supporting provider-educators and enhancing the quality of family child care, Kathy has consulted with numerous national organizations, foundations, advisory boards, and governmental agencies; conducted research and evaluation projects; taught at several colleges; and offered trainings for NAFCC, community Resource and Referral Agencies, and FCC networks. Recently she has piloted a course and is currently preparing the publication of Ways with Words: Family Child Care Language and Literacy Training. These days her four granddaughters are central to Nonna Kathy’s life. Please describe how and why you got involved in family child care? After majoring in zoology, I was bored stiff working in a lab. When my daughters were born, I became interested in young children and their development. After getting my Master’s and teaching preschoolers for a couple years, I had the opportunity to set up a wonderful multi-cultural child care center on the University of Michigan campus where I loved being the Head Teacher of the older children, as well as the Center Director – with a great administrative assistant! After seven years I went back to school for my Doctorate to study adult education because I wanted to learn about teaching teachers and conducting qualitative and quantitative research. That’s when I discovered family child care (FCC) through a part-time job as the campus Child Care Coordinator. I found out that there was a lot of nearly invisible FCC providers in the campus family housing apartments. I found myself coordinating a support group for women running child care in their homes and discovered this whole new world. After several years evaluating community efforts to enhance the quality of family child care, I realized the importance of accreditation as a quality improvement strategy, but there was no program assessment tool that captured the essence of this form of care (every existing tool had been developed for child care centers and then tweaked for FCC). So I secured funding for and led a four-year project to develop the Family Child Care Accreditation System which was launched in 2000 by the National Association for Family Child Care. What are some of the primary successes that family child care has achieved over the past 10-20 years? There has been a transformation from invisibility and lack of support for family child care twenty years ago, to today’s situation where we are positioned at least at the edge of the early childhood education table—so that’s progress! States began to pay attention when welfare reform came along. For the first time the government was paying stipends to unregulated family child care providers. Then people started paying attention to training and quality, in some states more than others. If you compare the statewide data for the last twenty years, MA has been one of the weakest states in supporting family child care, with the exception of the FCC Systems. But beginning with Governor Patrick’s administration and the appointment of Commissioner Killins, and with the involvement of Early Education for All, family child care began to be included. For example, Massachusetts has begun to shift gears and catch up with other states that spend their Federal Community Development Block Grants and other funding not just on center-based programs, but also on family child care as part of their overall child care delivery system. We’re beginning to have support for professional development and to be better integrated into the overall system, but also we still have a long way to go. What do you see as the primary challenges for family child care within the larger system of early education and care at the state and/or federal levels? One challenge is that we don’t know how to support family child care as well as centers. So many early childhood resources and programs have been developed for center-based programs and then tweaked to include family child care. There’s a mismatch because often more than a tweak is needed. Research for FCC has been severely underfunded, so we just don’t know as much as we should about what works for this fairly different situation. Another challenge in the state, and many other states, is that we’re in danger of heading toward a schism between subsidized family child care (including the family child care systems), and those programs that are independent, unaffiliated, and often quite isolated (which make up close to 70% of the state’s FCC programs). What are some of the ways that MA could better support family child care providers, and how would that benefit children and families in the Commonwealth? I would like to see the regional training offices and others fund and develop more CEU courses that meet for at least four sessions, specifically for FCC provider-educators. Early educators improve their practice so much through ongoing training and peer interactions. Lack of communication is another real problem – I’d like to see the Department of Early Education and Care support a monthly or quarterly newsletter (as they did in the ‘70s) that provides accurate information to all family child care providers updating them on new regulations, curriculum, assessment, etc. There is so much misinformation out there now. Many providers don’t know about or understand the FCCERS or QRIS. They need more support in implementing these systems. I’d like to see the numerous provider-educators in MA, who may or may not know someone else who does their work, interacting with each other and receiving more support. Family child care programs supply a majority of our infant-toddler care – and much of our preschool and school-age care. if MA is going to be successful at preparing children to succeed in school and in life, we must see to it that they have a strong foundation. It doesn’t make sense to short-change our youngest ones and then play catch-up later. Prepare and prevent, not repair and repent. I wish I could wave a magic wand and build a MA affiliate of the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), which has contributed greatly to professionalism in other states, especially those where the state has funded some of their activities. We need to create a more organized system of communication and support for family child care providers. Such a group would bring forward the high-quality leadership to bring the field together to develop their voice.
The Children’s Investment Fund (CIF) was founded in 1991, with a mission to help non-profits in Massachusetts to develop high quality facilities for early learning and youth programs. Their mission is grounded in the belief that children’s healthy growth and development depends on a safe physical environment. The quality of an early education program’s indoor and outdoor space contributes greatly to the overall quality of the child’s educational experience. For example, research demonstrates that facilities lacking in adequate space or appropriate heating and cooling systems detract from children’s ability to learn effectively. CIF offers loans and grants to programs for renovation, expansion, and/or construction of new spaces for early education and youth programs. CIF’s loan programs offer borrowers more flexible terms then other lenders, and their grant programs include emergency facilities grants and small equipment grants. Since its inception, CIF has invested in 500 early childhood education(ECE) and out-of-school-time (OST) programs’ facilities improvement or expansion projects. This November, CIF distributed grants to six programs on the North Shore in the Lynn and Haverhill areas, for facilities improvements ranging from new windows to sinks in the classroom. In some cases, the grants made it possible for programs to apply for National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation and will help with QRIS compliance. By targeting non-profit programs, CIF aims to impact programs serving high-needs children who are more apt to attend a non-profit ECE or OST program. In this way, BTWIC and CIF are aligned in their efforts to improve the quality of early education for this vulnerable population. CIF has released several important papers and reports documenting the condition of early learning and youth program facilities in MA. Most recently, CIF published the report: Building an Infrastructure for Quality: An Inventory of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Time Facilities in MA. The report is available here. CIF will file a bond bill for facilities financing in January 2013, either as a stand-alone bill or as part of a larger community development bond bill sponsored by another advocacy organization. The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Merrimack Valley has agreed to work with CIF in its “Building Quality” campaign with the goal of securing funding to support the development costs for ECE and OST facilities across the Commonwealth. A copy of the bill and more information will be available soon.
It is getting close to tax season again, and with it BTWIC is preparing to disseminate to early educators throughout MA the 2012 Federal Earned Income Tax Credit income guidelines and credit amounts that eligible families can anticipate. Early educators with dependent children are often eligible for this sizable credit. Remember as you prepare to file your taxes, you can save money by visiting one of the free tax preparation sites located throughout the state instead of paying H&R Block or one of the tax preparation services that takes a percentage of your refund. BTWIC has a link to free tax prep sites on our Earned Income Tax Credit Help page. The link will be updated in mid-January when the IRS publishes the official list, so re-check the link to be sure the site nearest you is operating for the 2012 tax season. Planning ahead by opening a checking account and remembering to bring a cancelled check to your free tax prep appointment will allow you to file electronically and can result in a shorter waiting period for your refund. See below for this year’s income eligibility guidelines. Depending on your income and family size, this year you could be eligible for a tax credit of between $475 and $5,891. This is only the Federal EITC, so be sure you also collect the state EITC if you are eligible.
|Single/ Head of Household||Married Filing Jointly||Maximum Credit|
|With 3 or more childrenMaximum income$45,060||With 3 or more childrenMaximum income$50,270||$5,891|
|With 2 childrenMaximum income$41,952||With 2 childrenMaximum income$47,162||$5,236|
|With 1 childMaximum income$36,920||With 1 childMaximum income$42,130||$3,169|
|No childrenMaximum income$13,980||No childrenMaximum income$19,190||$475|
In October, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released its annual report reviewing state policies on child care subsidies. The report, Downward Slide: Child Care Assistance Policies 2012, shows that low-income families in most states are worse off than they were in 2011 and in 2002. As with their past reports, NWLC examined several indicators including the size of the waitlist for child care subsidies, the reimbursement rate compared to the market rate for child care, and the income eligibility guidelines for subsidies. The dismal results are indicative of the lack of state and federal dollars committed to early education throughout most of the country. Federal funding for child care through the Community Development Block Grant and Temporary Assistance to Needy Children has decreased by $2.424 billion since 2001, when adjusted for inflation. How have families in MA fared since 2011? Families in MA are eligible for subsidies at 50% of state median income and 220% of the federal poverty level ($19,090 for a family of three). While that eligibility level is high compared with many other states, the waitlist for subsidies in MA kept thousands of eligible families from receiving assistance. According to the NWLC report, the child care subsidy waitlist in MA currently has over 31,260 children compared to 19,451 children in 2011. This means our waitlist grew by 61% in only one year. While studies indicate that many of the children on subsidy waitlists are not eligible, clearly MA needs to do something to improve access. The other concerning indicator for MA is the state reimbursement rate. The federal government recommends that states reimburse programs for subsidies at our above 75% of the market rate. In 2012, the MA reimbursement rate for family child care providers was between the 3rd-43rd percentile of the 2010-2011 market rates, and for center-based care between the 3rd and 31st percentile of market rates. Our reimbursement rate has not been adjusted since 2009. State and federal lawmakers must direct more funding to child care subsidies in 2013 so that low-income families can gain access to quality early education for their young children.