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Help Delaware Families Access Child Care!

Help Delaware Families Access Child Care!  

Last year, Governor John Carney and the General Assembly stepped up and invested over $20 million in Purchase of Care (POC) subsidies, pre-K, and special education pre-K! These investments:  

  • brought the POC rate up to the 2021 market ratea 15 percent increase—which better helps programs keep up with rising costs, including staff  
  • increased access to pre-K for 400 more children and funded per-child rates at the 2021 cost of care estimates; meaning these programs now serve about two percent of children under age 5, in school day /school year programs 
  • are intended to increase eligibility to families within 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (about a $60,000 annual income for a family of four) 
  • reduced child: adult ratios in special education pre-K 


We thank the governor and General Assembly for these investments—progress is being made, and there are still significant child care needs today in Delaware:  

Too few families are served in public programs 

  • Only 16 percent of children under age five are served in publicly funded child care (about two percent in pre-k, ten percent through POC; one percent in special ed and three percent in Head Start). 

Many vulnerable families cannot afford care 

  • Only families earning up to $40,500 (or 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Level) and $55,000 (185 percent of FPL) qualify for state funded pre-K (Early Childhood Assistance Program, or ECAP) and POC, respectively.  
  • Many vulnerable single and dual-income working families – those making less than $88,000 per year (or around 300 percent of FPL) cannot afford child care. Eligibility levels have not been updated to reflect minimum wage increases and inflation. 
  • All our neighboring states and most other states serve many more families by extending eligibility to 250 percent of FPL and beyond. 
  • Even families eligible for subsidized child care cannot afford the required copayments, which can be up to nine percent of their income—even for families who qualify for SNAP benefits (food stamps). 

Lack of access is holding back our economy:  

  • Most (97 percent) Delaware parents say they would increase their hours at work, take a job, start a business, or go back to school if they could find affordable child care.  
  • Delaware employers have called on policymakers to take action to increase child care access, noting limited productivity and growth due to workforce shortages. 

Child care providers continue to operate with limited openings due to low rates of reimbursement and staffing shortages. 

  • State reimbursement rates for POC reflect 2021 market rates, which are out of date and do not cover the cost of care or the cost of quality. These already-low rates are 30 percent lower in Kent and Sussex counties despite equivalent costs. Low rates contribute to significant challenges for compensating and retaining staff. 
  • The state is not paying for early care and education based on the cost of care, which is based on the costs of quality programming--  rather than the prices parents and the state can afford. 


Contact Gov. Carney directly or through this platform to say:  

Thank you, Gov. Carney, for investing in early care and education for young children in Delaware!  Please continue to make this a priority in your final year and build on the investments you have made by including funding in your budget to expand access to serve more families and increase the value of the services provided: 


Department of Education: Increase access to state-funded pre-K(ECAP), by: 

  • Investing in additional openings for children in pre-K programs 
  • Expanding eligibility to serve families up to at least 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level  

Department of Health and Social Services: Increase access to child care (Purchase of Care) for more families by: 

  • Increasing per-child Purchase of Care rates so programs can open more classrooms and increase staff pay and benefits 
  • Expanding eligibility to serve families up to at least 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level  
  • Paying based on enrollment (instead of attendance) to stabilize staffing in child care programs 
  • Making child care more affordable for the highest-need families by reducing copayment requirements  and removing barriers to access 



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