Early Childhood Education

Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)


The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) is the primary federal childcare program in the United States. Using block-grants to states, the CCDF provides approximately $4.8 billion annually to assist low-income families and families who are receiving or transitioning from temporary public assistance to obtain child care so they can work or attend training or education programs. The children served by the CCDF range from birth to thirteen years and are cared for in child-care centers, public schools, family child-care homes, as well as in more informal care arrangements with family members, friends, or neighbors. In fiscal year 2004, the CCDF served 1.7 million children. The majority of these children (63%) were under six years of age, had working parents (81%), and were cared for in center- based arrangements (59%) (U.S. House of Representatives, 2004). In addition, the CCDF appropriation includes additional funding for specific purposes: nearly $172 million for quality expansion, $100 million to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers, and $19 million to improve school-age care and Child Care Resource and Referral Services.

The CCDF was created in 1996 as part of a major restructuring of Federal welfare programs. The restructuring ended the welfare entitlement for low-income mothers and replaced it with a time-limited, work-focused program (see Cohen, 2001, for historical account). To provide child-care assistance to low-income, working mothers, the CCDF was created to consolidate and expand other federal childcare programs in effect at the time. With the aim of streamlining programs that had different foci and conflicting rules regarding eligibility, time limits, and work requirements, the newly created CCDF combined the multiple funding streams into one flexible block-grant administered by the states. States determine which families are eligible, the size of payments provided to the child-care providers, and other important elements of the child-care programs. In addition, states must use at least 4 percent of their block-grant to improve the quality or availability of child care but may choose to invest those dollars as they see fit. Thus states vary in their investment in such services as resource and referral counseling for parents and professional development for providers.

As states have responded to the flexibility offered to them under the CCDF, the result has been significant variation among state child-care assistance policies that affect the availability, affordability, and quality of child-care provided to low- income children. For example, in 2002, states’ eligibility levels for a family of three ranged from $15,020 (in New Mexico) to $46,248 (in Alaska). Monthly child-care copayments for a family in poverty ranged from $0 in nine states to $435 a month (in Texas). Monthly reimbursement rates for full-time preschool care ranged from $330 (in Louisiana) to $903 (in New York) (CDF, 2003). This policy variation shapes the level and nature of assistance available to low-income families and leads child-care advocates to call for carefully monitoring to assess equity in the provision of services across states.

Further Readings: Child Care Bureau (June 2004). The child care and development fund (Fiscal Years 2002-2003). Available online at: www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ccb/geninfo/ccdf02_03desc.htm; Children’s Defense Fund (2003). Key facts in child care, early education, and school-age care. Washington, DC: Children’s Defense Fund; Cohen, S. S. (2001). Championing child care. New York: Columbia University Press; National Child Care Information Center (June 2004). Information products: CCDF. Available online at www.nccic.org; U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means (2004). Green book: Background material and data on programs within the jurisdiction of the committee on ways and means. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Elizabeth Rigby