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Subsidized Child Care Program - Improved Changes

Authored By: Northwestern Legal Services

The Department of Human Services has recognized that barriers in the current subsidized child care program have been a significant concern to low-income families and allowed many to fall between the cracks. Key Policy Changes in the department's Child Care Subsidy Regulations have made it more parent friendly and a positive program that will make a big difference to parents striving for self-sufficiency.

  • First major change was automated referrals by the local county assistance office if you are on Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
     
  • Second major change was restoring the 20 hour per week work requirement as well as allowing those parents who are attending an educational or training program while they are working at least 10 hours per week, count the time they spend in class toward the 20 hour per week work requirement.
     
  • Third major change is that parents are encouraged to file for support and there was the elimination of Mandatory Support Cooperation.

    By doing this it has replaced the current mandate that all parents file for court ordered support with a program that informs parents about the benefits of pursuing court ordered child support, it encourages and helps them file support actions, but leaves the decision about whether to pursue court ordered support, a decision that can have profound implications for children -- to be made by the parent, not the state.

    Single mothers were forced to leave the subsidized child care program, or elected to abandon their applications for subsidy, rather than pursue court ordered support and risk upsetting carefully negotiated voluntary support agreements that keep fathers financially and emotionally involved in their children's lives.
     
  • The third area of major change was streamlining and simplifying the verification process. There are now three ways to provide the necessary verification to complete an application.
    • Preferred verification. Preferred verification includes any document from a list of acceptable documents specified for each factor of eligibility.
       
    • Collateral contact/agency assistance. If the parent cannot obtain one of the listed documents, the eligibility agency worker will, with the parent's consent, attempt to contact a third party (e.g., an employer) or agency by phone to verify the information needed.
       
    • Self-declaration. If the attempted collateral contact does not succeed, then the parent will be permitted to self-declare the information needed, using a form provided by DPW, which the parent signs under penalty of perjury. Child care will be authorized or reauthorized to an otherwise eligible family based upon the parent's self-declaration.
       

The new regulations include many other helpful policy changes. Some highlights include:

  • Improved process for eligibility redeterminations. The new regulations retain a 6 month redetermination, but provide a more streamlined process. Under this process, families must verify their earned income at each 6 month redetermination, but other factors of eligibility will not have to be verified unless there has been a change. A subsequent increase in earned income would not have to be reported until the next redetermination.
     
  • Provisions paralleling the federal Family Violence Option adopted by DPW for the TANF and GA programs providing for waivers of certain subsidized child care program eligibility and verification requirements for victims of domestic violence. These new provisions allow the special circumstances of victims and their families to be accommodated.
     
  • More streamlined and inclusive TANF transfer provisions permitting families exiting TANF a 183 day time period to enroll in subsidized child care with priority status maintained. No waiting list.
     
  • Special provisions to support children from low-income families enrolled in Head Start or a pre-kindergarten program and who need extended hours or days of care. Under these rules, eligibility will generally be maintained as long as the child is participating in the program. These new provisions allow for continuous, uninterrupted care helping to ensure that these children remain in programs designed to prepare them for school.
     
  • Expansion of subsidy continuation from 30 days to 60 days due to involuntary loss of work or the parent's completion of an education or training program.
     
  • Elimination of the requirement to count the income of live-in companions and inclusion of a step-parent deduction in calculation of family income and co-payments.
     
  • More flexible requirements and an extended 30-day time-frame for face-to-face interviews to better accommodate working parents and caretakers.
     
  • Provision of subsidy to two-parent families where one parent works and the other parent has a physical or mental disability or need for treatment that results in an inability to work or care for the child.
     
  • Provision allowing for suspension of subsidy over a parent's summer break in education so the child can be at home with her parent over the summer, but continue in the subsidy program the in the fall.
     
  • Inclusion of travel time in the hours for which child care will be paid.
     
  • Expansion of the hours of uninterrupted sleep time during which a parent or caretaker who works a night shift is eligible for subsidized child care.
     
  • Elimination of the 50 hour per week cap on hours of care for which subsidy will be provided.
     
  • An improved definition of disability for children between 13 and 19 who are over the program's normal age limit and would otherwise not be eligible for subsidy.

These changes in the regulations should bring substantial improvement to every aspect of the child care subsidy program!

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Human Service's child care subsidies and other child care information, visit their website at:

http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/childcareearlylearning/

Please call Northwestern Legal Services at the phone number below if you have any questions about this pamphlet.

1-800-665-6957
In Erie County, PA call 452-6957.


Disclaimer

We have attempted to insure the accuracy of the information in this pamphlet at the time it was created or revised. However, the law does change, sometimes quickly and unexpectedly. Therefore, you should consult an attorney before taking or refraining from any action based on the information in this pamphlet.

Last Review and Update: May 03, 2010