Childcare Quality

“We cannot say with confidence that America’s children are protected by state licensing and oversight systems. Nor can we say that childcare policies are in place to help young children learn and be ready for school.”

  • Childcare costs more than college tuition in 28 U.S. states.

  • For a single adult without children, childcare worker wages are only considered livable in 10 states.

  • 86% of primary caregivers have said problems with childcare hurt their efforts or time commitment at work.

  • The lack of childcare in America costs the United States $57 billion each year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue.

  • Single parents spend nearly 40% of their pre-tax income on childcare annually.

  • 1 in 7 American children live in poverty.

Childcare is a health and human rights issue.

The United States is one of only two countries in the world without paid family leave.


1 in 4 mothers is forced to return to work just 10 days after giving birth. Without paid family leave, many American parents find themselves with few options, and are forced to place their weeks old infants in group-care of questionable quality for up to ten hours each day. 


Each week, 12.5 million children under the age of five attend some type of regular childcare arrangement, however there are no national standard training requirements for childcare workers. Only 21 states require some training in early childhood education, 12% of center-based programs are accredited, and only 1% of family childcare homes are accredited. 


Laws vary widely state by state and as a result the safety and availability of childcare is variable. There are sixteen states that fully exempt religious institutions with childcare centers from licensing rules. 


Indiana is one of them. In a four-year period, Indiana saw the death of 31 children in childcare centers; 21 occurred at unlicensed or illegal day care centers. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that there should be one childcare provider to every three children ages 6 to 18 months, but this is not the norm in childcare centers across the country. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ranked 38 industrialized countries in children’s well-being, and the United States came in 36th.


States recognize quality childcare programs in a number of ways, including accreditation from early childhood organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and ratings through a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). A Child Care Aware survey showed that only 48% of center-based childcare programs participated in QRIS, and a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development survey found that only 10% of childcare centers across the United States are considered high quality.


Childcare standards for military programs greatly exceed requirements for civilian childcare. The 1989 Military Child Care Act established strict childcare standards for all military program, including:

  • All childcare centers must be licensed

  • Quarterly inspection visits to be unannounced

  • Directors and training specialists must have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education or Child Development

  • Pre-service training in first-aid, CPR, child abuse identification, fire and other health and safety practices prior to working alone with children

  • 24 hours of annual training

  • State and federal background checks with fingerprints

  • Programs to offer learning activities and opportunities to children and address various developmental domains

The Department of Defense understands how important high-quality childcare is for both the health and development of children and the readiness and retention for service members. M.-A. Lucas, Founding Executive Director of Army Child, Youth & School Services, has said that “In the Army, childcare is called a ‘Force Multiplier.’ What this means is that Army leadership recognizes that childcare helps reduce the conflicts between meeting mission requirements and parental responsibilities. I think we would all agree these links also exist in the private sector.” 

Vote Mama Foundation is working with legislators and stakeholders across the country to build a national movement to pass Universal Childcare, but we cannot do it without also addressing quality.

We are advocating for:

  • Creating a national standard to ensure that all childcare centers have a safe child to staff ratio

  • Eliminating the religious exemption so that all childcare centers are licensed and regulated and our kids are protected

  • Investing in our childcare workforce by:

    • Paying our childcare workers a living wage

    • Ensuring safe working conditions

    • Providing access to training and professional development