System Improvement Updates

Taking Action to Improve Child Care in Maine

In December of 2019, Congress released spending plans for Federal fiscal year 2020, including a $550 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. CCDBG is the primary funding source for Maine's Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP).

The Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS), which administers the CCSP program, estimates that Maine is likely to receive an increase of approximately $8 million in CCDBG funding (versus the Federal fiscal year 2017 base). This estimate is based on Maine's share of prior CCDBG allocations.

OCFS has worked proactively to plan for this increase in funding, to best meet the specific needs of Maine children and families. We developed the following spending plan for the increased CCDBG funding 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.

We have begun implementation planning for the following initiatives as we await notification of the final revised CCDBG award. This advanced planning and implementation work will allow for quick execution of these initiatives as soon as the additional funding is confirmed, which is anticipated in the next month.

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 through CCSP 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. QRIS, 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 to parents served by CCSP 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 subsidy.

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 quality and expedient 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.