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12-Month Eligibility

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 established a minimum 12-month eligibility period for families receiving child care services through CCDF. Lead Agencies must ensure that families receiving CCDF assistance will be considered eligible and will receive assistance for at least 12 months before their eligibility redetermination. The minimum 12-month eligibility period is regardless of temporary changes in parents’ work or activities, and regardless of changes in family income, as long as the income does not exceed 85 percent of state median income. Lead Agency procedures for eligibility redetermination should not require parents to unduly disrupt their employment.

The final rule defines “temporary” to include, at a minimum,

  • time-limited absences from work for an employed parent for reasons such as caring for a family member or illness;
  • any interruption in work for a seasonal worker who is not working between regular industry work seasons;
  • any student holiday or break for parents in training or education;
  • any reduction in work, training, or education hours;
  • other changes to work, education, or job training status less than 3 months;
  • any change in the child's age, including turning 13 years old during the eligibility period; and
  • any change in residency within the state, territory, or tribal service area. 

The intent of this provision is to promote continuity of care and extend the time period that eligible children and families have access to child care assistance. Low-income families can experience rapid and multiple changes within a short period of time and unemployment and job loss are very disruptive to families. Retention of eligibility during a temporary period of unemployment or extended leave due to illness, for example, can alleviate some of the stress on families and facilitate a smoother transition back into the workforce. Stable child care is critical to strengthening parents’ ability to go to work, improve their prospects in the job market, and increase their earning potential.

In addition, continuity is important for creating the stable conditions children need for their healthy development and preparing for school. Research shows that children have better educational and developmental outcomes when they have continuity in their child care arrangements. Concurrently, research has shown that frequent changes in arrangements are associated with higher levels of stress and negative behavior in young children (Dicker, S., and Gordon, E., Zero to Three, 2004). [2]

 


[1] Office of Child Care. (2016). Child Care and Development Fund final rule frequently asked questions. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/resource/ccdf-final-rule-faq

[2] Dicker and Gordon reference: Dicker, S., & Gordon, E. (2004). Ensuring the healthy development of infants in foster care: A guide for judges, advocates and child welfare professionals. Zero to Three.