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Child Care in New York State - A Patchwork of Policies

November 1, 2002

Author(s):  Wendy Goodale Rolnick

Editor(s): Susan C. Antos, Esq.

In 1992 The New York State Child Care Coordinating Council published Creating a Seamless System: A Look at the Administration of Child Care Funds in New York State Local Social Services Districts, which examined how county (as opposed to state) subsidy administration affected a family’s ability to access child care funding. The report documented problems caused when the State’s day care system was funded by seven different funding streams, each with different rules and eligibility criteria. These multiple funding sources made the system difficult for counties to administer and confusing for recipients of child care services to navigate.

Within each district different departments frequently managed the different funding streams, and not one district had a designated administrative unit that coordinated all child care subsidies. Four of the child care subsidy programs (three of them federally funded) were optional and could or could not be used at a county’s discretion: Title XX Income Eligible Child Care, Low Income Day Care (LIDC), At Risk Low Income Child Care (ARLICC), and Child Care and Development Block Grant. This meant that an LIDC recipient living in Albany County, which used all four options, would very likely lose
child care funding by moving just across the river to Rensselaer County, which participated in the three mandatory programs, Employment-Related Child Care, JOBS Child Care, and Transitional Child Care, but did not participate in any of the optional programs.

Since 1992, New York has made progress towards creating a “seamless” child care subsidy system that is somewhat easier for parents to navigate and counties to administer. New York’s 1997 Welfare Reform Act consolidated the multiple child care funding streams into one block grant eliminating one of the most significant barriers to a seamless system. In December 2001, the Social Services Law was amended to eliminate the burdensome procedures requiring parents to reapply for child care assistance after they leave cash assistance.  In addition, most counties now manage child care funding through one administrative work unit, which further simplifies the system.

Although New York now has a more seamless system for families, there are still three different categories within the block grant: public assistance related child care, transitional child care and income eligible child care. The differences between the rules and eligibility requirements for each of these categories are magnified by New York’s continued commitment to the autonomy of local social services districts.

New York is one of only three states in the country where local districts have the primary responsibility for supervising and administering child care subsidies.  This delegation of policy making to Local Departments of Social Services (LDSS) is spelled out in the administrative component of the 2002 Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Interim Annual Plan Update (APU) Guidelines. The “LDSS is responsible for developing the Child Care Section of the APU that will allow them to meet the needs of the community and to maximize the use of available funds.”

While this flexibility allows districts to address community-specific needs and priorities, it also means that a family’s county of residence plays a significant role in its ability to access child care. County differences also make it difficult for those concerned about child care to get a unified statewide picture of subsidy administration.

The purpose of this Child Care Policy Report is twofold: first, to examine county-by-county differences in child care policies and to look at the impact on access to child care assistance and second, to provide a comprehensive reference source of New York State county-by-county child care subsidy related data.

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