Early Childhood Education Improvement

Child Care Plan for Maine

The Mills Administration is committed to supporting Maine families and investing in our state’s future by ensuring quality child care is available, accessible, and affordable to all Maine parents and children. The vital need for child care has become even more evident during the coronavirus pandemic. 

As a result of historic Federal support, Maine has, and will, receive more than $175 million to support child care improvements – representing the biggest Federal investment in child care since World War II. This will be complemented by an additional $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that Governor Mills recently announced, which will be used to help construct child care facilities to increase availability of early care and education.

The DHHS Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) is poised to implement enhancements already planned before the pandemic, and to reach further to make unprecedented, system-wide improvements that remove barriers to access and ensure that all Maine families have the affordable, safe, and enriching child care options they need to thrive. The progress achieved to date and priorities for future investment are now available in the Child Care Plan for Maine. 

Read the full Child Care Plan for Maine (PDF)

Ongoing Initiatives

Maine’s Zero To Three Workgroup Early Childhood Education Workforce Report

In January of 2022, Maine’s Zero to Three Workgroup released its report on State Policy Options for Early Childhood Educator Compensation which examined three common approaches to increase the compensation of early childhood educators, including tax credits, wage supplements, and education awards. This report summarizes the basic elements of each approach, including their advantages and disadvantages. The report also provides background on the impact of COVID-19 on the early childhood education system, the current industry challenges regarding compensation for staff, and the demand by families for affordable child care. The report is intended to inform policy efforts as Maine seeks to expand the accessibility and affordability of high-quality early childhood education and child care throughout the state. These efforts will benefit early childhood educators and the children and families served by the early childhood education system.

Taking Action to Improve Child Care in Maine 

In December of 2019, Congress passed a $550 million increase in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, including a projected $8 million in additional funds for Maine's Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP).

OCFS, which administers the CCSP program, worked proactively to plan for this increase in funding, to best meet the specific needs of Maine children and families and ensure timely execution when funds become available. We developed spending priorities based on the goals and strategies of the Children's Cabinet, the needs assessment and strategic plan that resulted from the Preschool Development Grant Planning Grant, the child care mapping conducted with the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the three-year CCDBG State Plan.

Expanding infant and rural child care

Multiple assessments have identified the need for additional infant care statewide and child care for all ages in rural areas. As a result, OCFS will:

  • Waive licensing fees for child care providers in rural areas and fees for any new providers statewide serving infants
  • Provide a weekly stipend of up to $100 per infant to all licensed providers participating in the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), who are in compliance with health and safety requirements and are providing full- or part-time care
  • Provide $1 million in mini grants to providers opening new facilities or expanding a current facility. Priority will be given to providers in rural areas.

Improving child care quality

Another primary focus is the need to improve the quality of child care statewide. Maine’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), also known as Quality for ME, provides parents with a way to easily identify high-quality early childhood and education programs. The rating system is based on four steps, with each step leading to higher quality.

OCFS will:

  • Fund $1 million in mini grants to assist providers in moving up the QRIS quality rating system.
  • Provide a 10% "quality bump" payment under the CCSP program for providers participating in QRIS and in compliance with health and safety requirements that are serving infants and toddlers.
  • Provide parents served by CCSP with a reduced co-pay when they choose programs at Step 3 or Step 4 on the QRIS.

Expanding child care capacity

We anticipate additional growth in both CCSP and the number of licensed child care providers based on the efforts outlined above and past initiatives. As a result, OCFS will:

  • Set aside $2 million to help ensure Maine continues to provide child care subsidies without a waiting list for the program. Maine is one of a handful of states nationwide that currently has no waiting list for child care subsidies.

OCFS has also identified the need for additional early childhood education professionals. As a result, OCFS will:

OCFS will use the remaining funding to:

  • Meet the increased demand on Child Care Licensing and CCSP by adding one new position in each area, to ensure excellent customer service in both licensing of child care providers and enrollment in CCSP.

We are targeting funding and actions to address the specific needs of Maine's children, families, and child care providers, which will improve both the availability and quality of care throughout the state.