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GAO Reports on Child Care Quality Initiatives

"He who has imagination without learning has wings but no feet." —French proverb


The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) recently released a report on the activities undertaken by states using the 4% quality set-aside provided through the federal child care block grant funding, also known as the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). A summary of this report provided by Exchange Strategic Partner, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, highlighted these findings: 

* A national breakdown is provided for state expenditures for quality improvement by type of intervention. Child care resource and referral was cited as the most often utilized resource for improving the quality of child care in States, receiving 20% of child care quality set-aside funds, with enhanced inspections and efforts to help child care providers meet state standards following with 13% and 12% of these funds. The study reports that caregiver training received 13%, caregiver compensation received 12%, safety equipment received 8% and incentives for accreditation received 8%.

* The types of care benefiting from quality enhancement activities were also investigated. Nationwide, the study reported that 72% of quality improvement funds were targeted to center-based care, 25% to family child care, and 3% to after-school care. The study reports that the emphasis on improving quality in center-based care is not consistent with the proportion of children in centers nationally or among the population of children receiving CCDF assistance, with only 32% of children in center-based care and 55% of subsidies-receiving children in center-based care. The report also highlighted a need to devote more funding to quality enhancement for informal child care settings.

* Finally, the study highlighted studies that have shown a relationship between structural attributes of care and child-caregiver interaction and a child’s developmental progress that suggest many state initiatives are targeted on aspects of child care settings that have the potential for enhancing children’s developmental outcomes. The study noted that few States have evaluated their quality improvement initiatives using methodologies that isolate the effect of child care quality, noting the difficult trade-off for State Administrators between providing services for children and families and evaluation. The report calls for rigorous evaluation to provide evidence of initiatives’ effectiveness.   

To view a copy of the GAO report, go to NACCRRA's web site,

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