OKLAHOMA CITY – After years of budget cuts which forced stagnant rates, reductions and a freeze to child care subsidies for working families, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) received money from the state legislature to increase child care subsidy rates for licensed child care providers beginning Aug. 1, 2018. Most providers will see a minimum rate increase of seven percent. DHS approved the rate increase following a public meeting with providers on July 27.
"This is a step in the right direction," said DHS Child Care Services Director Lesli Blazer. "Our providers have needed this rate increase for years and we are grateful for the appropriation so we can provide the first subsidy rate increase since 2013."
More than $20 million from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant will also be used to fund the subsidy increase. Child care subsidies help eligible Oklahoma families offset the cost of child care while they work, go to school or participate in job training programs. The rate increase may also provide incentive for small business owners to open or expand child care programs in underserved areas, particularly in rural Oklahoma. Numerous child care providers who spoke at the public meeting have served child care subsidy families for many years and partner with DHS to continue to make improvements in licensing requirements and processes to help ensure the safety of children.
To improve the quality of child care and provide incentives to child care providers, DHS Child Care Services uses a tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). One Star facilities meet minimum licensing requirements while One Star Plus, Two Star and Three Star facilities meet additional requirements for professional development, family engagement, early learning guidelines and national accreditation. The new subsidy rates apply a unified statewide rate for all child care facilities as well as increased rates for infants through three-year-olds in Two Star and Three Star facilities.
DHS currently licenses a monthly average of 3,248 child care centers and homes with an average monthly capacity of 121,063 children. DHS works in partnership with child care providers, Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness, community organizations, tribes, state agencies and other stakeholders to develop quality child care communities and help providers meet maximum standards. Applications to operate a licensed child care facility in Oklahoma can be made at any local DHS office.