Child Advocates Want Policy Change For Daycare Subsidies To Children Born In U.S.

May 14, 2021

Credit Early Childhood Alliance

Utah’s Childcare subsidy program administered through the Department of Workforce Services helps employed parents with childcare costs. Eligibility to receive federally funded subsidies do not apply for U.S. born children of immigrant parents.

KPCW reports on the impacts the policy has on mixed status families in Utah.

The federally funded subsidy is determined based on income and size of household and is paid directly to the approved childcare provider at the beginning of each month.

Parents who don’t have U.S. immigration documents are not eligible for Child Care subsidies.

Lt. Governor Deirdra Henderson chaired the May 4 Utah Early Childhood Commission meeting. Public input submitted through an email by Park City’s Early Childhood Alliance Executive Director Kristen Schulz asked the commission to address the policy limiting childcare subsidies to mixed-status immigrant families. She said the policy to disallow access to the subsidies ignores two of the Commissions guiding principles, equity and inclusivity. She asked if the Childcare Commission stands by the existing policy.

“According to a recent report from the Utah Foundation Latinos are five times less likely than state residents overall to graduate from high school and half as likely to receive any higher education, this education gap starts early. Minority, low income, and English language learning students score disproportionately lower on school readiness assessments when they begin kindergarten. Investing early in the care and education of our youngest Utahns is essential to setting a firm foundation for future success and offers our state, a great opportunity to maximize its return on investment.”

KPCW contacted Lieutenant Governor Henderson who responded to Schulz’s question during the meeting. However, her office did not respond to KPCW’s request for comment before publishing this report.

“We are of course, aware of the childcare subsidy issue and it is something that we're looking at, we're working on. There is a process to do that, but it is something that we're aware of and looking at removing that barrier.”

Holy Cross Ministries CEO Emmie Gardner said the Utah Compact   on Immigration should be a lived reality in policy, interpretation, and distribution of benefits to Utah families.

“We're asking the DWS, the Governor's office, the legislature to truly live, the State Compact by interpreting the federal legislation in such a way that it promotes inclusivity. You know, as we looked at other states, the way they've interpreted this regulation has been in an inclusive manner where they only consider the US citizenship status of the child, and they don't make this an immigration issue for the parents.”

Gardner said they’ve worked with the National Immigration Law Center. The states of New York, New Mexico and Arkansas have adopted inclusive practices that address mixed status families.

As we've looked at the intermountain west, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona as well.  Really, what they are doing is only looking at proof of U.S. citizenship for the child, not for the parents.”

Gardner said Utah appears to promote the childcare subsidy as an immigration issue. She said immigration status of the parent should not come to bear in deciding which U.S. born children can have access to federally funded childcare subsidies.

“That's that immigration focus, versus just really looking at, is the child who is the beneficiary of this childcare subsidy, a U.S. citizen? And if they are, then that should be it, and then we should work with DWS, the Governor's office others to say, how do we then validate work or education for the parent?"

The Park City Early Childhood Alliance estimates the number of U.S. children living with at least one undocumented parent in Utah, ranges from about 500 to 1200 children.

KPCW news reports, on issues affecting children aged zero through three years old, is brought to you by the Early Childhood Fund at the Park City Community Foundation. For more information go to early childhoodalliance.net.