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Hartford Foundation Testimony on Bill No. 7006, and Oversight of the Care4Kids Program

On Tuesday, February 7, the Hartford Foundation submitted the following legislative testimony to the legislature’s Human Services Committee in opposition to House Bill 7006, which has proposed that the state shift oversight of the CARE4Kids program and transferring the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant from the Office of Early Childhood to the Department of Social Services. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and other philanthropic partners have been strong supporters of the Office of Early Childhood from its earliest stages of development and are concerned that this proposal appears to be an attempt to reverse the state’s commitment to creating a high-quality, integrated early childhood system that meets the needs of Connecticut’s children today and in the future. 

The Foundation’s testimony expresses the Foundation’s concern that the proposed legislation effectively eradicates the ability of the Office of Early Childhood to meets its mandate with little cost savings and moves critical funds, programs and relationships to a state agency that lacks the focus and expertise to prioritize early child development and system-building identified as needed to achieve equitable opportunities for our youngest residents and their families. By reassigning the Department of Social Services as the new lead agency for child care services, the bill removes critical programs and providers from the expert oversight, professional development and early childhood information system of the OEC and leaves the agency without the funds and authority required to meet its responsibilities. 

 

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Testimony Regarding Bill No. 7006, An Act Restoring Oversight of the Care4Kids Program to the Department of Social Services and Allowing for the Transfer of Federal Block Grant Funds to the Program

Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

Human Services Committee

February 7, 2017

 

Good afternoon, Senator Moore, Senator Markley, Representative Abercrombie, and members of the Human Services Committee:

My name is Elena Trueworthy and I am the Associate Director of Early Childhood Investments at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. 

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Greater Hartford region.  We are the largest community foundation in Connecticut, and among the largest 20 community foundations in the country.  With a mission to put philanthropy into action to promote equitable opportunity for all residents in our region, we have long prioritized investments in high-quality early childhood programs and system building.  Since 1987, we have invested more than $40 million in early childhood in the Greater Hartford area, primarily through the Brighter Futures Initiative and the Hartford Area Child Care Collaborative.  In 2016, the Foundation approved grants totaling $33.5 million, of which approximately $2 million was dedicated to early childhood system building in our region and statewide. 

Our investments included a significant role in the creation of the Office of Early Childhood (the OEC).  As you know, the OEC resulted from extensive study of national and statewide research and a stakeholder process that included early childhood experts, legislators, philanthropy, providers and parents throughout the state which concluded that a unified child and family-centered agency with a dedicated focus on early childhood policy, funding and program quality is necessary to ensure optimal safety and learning outcomes for children and pathways to economic security for their families and caregivers.  The national and statewide research and best practice also confirmed that achieving these outcomes requires an unrelenting and long-term commitment.  The OEC is still in the early phase of its development as an organization and we believe its promise can accelerate now that its staff is co-located and has completed strategic planning and culture-building efforts.   

Bill 7006 ignores extensive research and undermines the leadership and progress in building Connecticut’s high-quality early childhood system.  By moving the oversight of the CARE4Kids program and transferring the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant to the Department of Social Services, the bill retreats from best practice, halts progress and weakens the long-term commitment to creating a high-quality, integrated early childhood system that meets the needs of Connecticut’s children today and in the future.  In just a few years, the OEC has demonstrated the promise of a unified agency for young children through strategic planning and culture building to bring together staff from five agencies with a shared vision.  OEC has partnered with the statewide Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, secured funding from private philanthropy and leveraged federal funds including the federal Preschool Development Grant.  The OEC built important relationships with home-based early childhood providers, made progress in developing a Quality Recognition and Improvement System and recently released a draft of an extensive unmet needs study to understand how early childhood and education programs should be funded and structured to provide universal access to children through age five. 

Bill 7006 effectively eradicates the ability of the Office of Early Childhood to meets its mandate with little cost savings and moves critical funds, programs and relationships to a state agency that lacks the focus and expertise to prioritize early child development and system-building identified as needed to achieve equitable opportunities for our youngest residents and their families.  By reassigning the Department of Social Services as the new lead agency for child care services, the bill removes critical programs and providers from the expert oversight, professional development and early childhood information system of the OEC and leaves the agency without the funds and authority required to meet its responsibilities.

We recognize the critical need to support the CARE4Kids child care subsidy program for Connecticut’s families with greatest need and working families who depend on subsidies to maintain their employment.  CARE4Kids is both an early childhood and workforce support program.  We urge the Committee to reconsider moving the Child Care Development Block Grant and Care4Kids away from the agency with early childhood program quality expertise and focus.  Rather, we encourage exploring new strategies that enable the Office of Early Childhood and the Department of Social Services to work together to creatively harness the child development block grant, TANF and other funds to support the child care subsidy program.  The Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, of which the Hartford Foundation is a founding member, has been, and can continue to be, a thought partner and resource in this exploration. 

We urge the Committee to maintain Connecticut’s leadership and commitment to building a comprehensive, integrated early childhood system through the Office of Early Childhood.  For more than five years, broad stakeholders have worked together in recognition that a unified governance structure for our youngest citizens and their families is the best strategy.  Research highlighting the benefits of a unified approach to early childhood system building has not changed since the establishment of the OEC and decisions that we all must make during challenging fiscal times must be based on the evidence of what works and has the best promise for sustainable, long-term positive outcomes for our youngest residents. 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. 

 


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