Making Maine's Child Care Accessible
Improving quality and affordability
Update: May 2, 2019
The Department partners with parents and child care providers to provide financial support to ensure that Maine families have access to high-quality child care. The Office of Child and Family Services administers the Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP), which helps eligible families with children under 13 years of age to afford child care so parents can work or attend school or training. Eligibility and the amount of the subsidy is based on family income and the family's need for child care due to the parent's work or education schedule.
The Department recognizes the importance of this support and has been working to increase utilization of this service. Currently, CCSP is supporting nearly 600 more families and over 800 more children than in the previous year. As of March 2019, the Department was providing Child Care Subsidy to 3,062 families and a total of 4,902 children.
In 2018, the Department increased the reimbursement rate for providers participating in CCSP to 75% of the market rate across all child care provider types. There are now approximately 100 additional providers participating in the CCSP program. For information regarding CCSP or to apply, call 1-877-680-5866, email CCSP.DHHS@maine.gov or visit www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/provider-subsidy.htm.
Children and families in Maine also benefit from the Quality for ME program, which provides support and financial incentives for child care providers who deliver high-quality services. Research has shown that quality child care programs benefit children's development of language and motor skills, as well as reasoning ability. This type of early development improves a child's likelihood of success throughout their schooling. Quality for ME's four-step Quality Rating and Improvement System takes into account each participating child care provider's licensing status, learning environment, parent and family involvement, administrative policies and procedures, staff and professional development, and program evaluation. Over the past year, there has been a 5% increase in the number of providers participating in the Quality for ME program, bringing the total to 565. Families can go to: https://search.childcarechoices.me/ to research participating providers near them.
The Department supports the early education field through the Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network, which provides professional development opportunities to child care providers across the state. Providers can find more information at: https://www.earlycaremaine.org/.
Maine is also benefiting from a partnership between the Office of Child and Family Services and the Penn State Center for the Protection of Children to implement the iLookOut for Child Abuse program in Maine. The goal of this program is to prepare early childhood education professionals to better identify and help protect children at risk of abuse. Through an online learning program developed at Penn State and designed for those who work or volunteer in child care or Head Start programs, Maine early childhood education professionals receive specialized training regarding the signs or symptoms of abuse, when and how to report suspected abuse, and what they can do to help children and families struggling with life stressors. This meets Maine's requirement for mandated reporter training and provides three hours of professional development credit for providers. This innovative program is made available to Maine as part of a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, and initial results indicate that iLookOut is significantly more effective than standard training at improving providers' knowledge about child abuse and its reporting. Currently, iLookOut is available to almost half of all individuals who work or volunteer in a childcare facility. By spring of 2020, iLookOut will become available to all who work or volunteer in these settings.
The Department has sought to support and strengthen the availability, accessibility, and quality of childcare through a number of initiatives. High-quality child care plays a key role in the success of Maine's families and improves long-term outcomes for children across the state.