Funding & Finance




States, through their general funds, typically invest in ECE over and above the allocations they receive from the federal government, (e.g. CCDF, TANF, Head Start, SSBG, CACFP, MCHBG).  Part of state funding meets the matching requirements of the , but state funding is not limited to that. In FY 2011, states appropriated over $18 billion in funds to ECE for services such as child care, pre-K, home visiting, and other early learning strategies.1

In many states, the department of education and local school districts provide funds to support preschool and afterschool providers and expand Head Start programs. Departments of education also use their technical experts to develop early learning standards and curricula for ECE. School districts, through their high school curricula, train students to become certified ECE providers. State offices of ECE licensing provide funding for provider training and technical assistance and are responsible for maintaining a system of monitoring and inspection to ensure licensing requirements are met. In some states, universities and other institutions of higher learning partner with state agencies to develop provider training and technical assistance programs and offer degree programs in ECE for providers who desire academic credentials. In some states, the legislature has authorized state funds to develop QRIS for ECE.

States can use their authority to set standards for the CCDF and SSBG to enhance requirements for physical activity, healthy eating, breastfeeding support, and reduced screen time. They can also require parent education and engagement in obesity prevention efforts. States can require ECE providers that receive TANF/CCDF subsidies to implement obesity prevention policies and programs as a condition for participation. Additionally, states can use their MCHBG to provide training and technical assistance for ECE providers and to help implement various obesity prevention curricula. Maternal and child health agencies are generally interested in helping other state agencies implement standards recommended in Caring for Our Children National Health and Safety Performance Standards: Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs, and are also a good source of support to promote breastfeeding.

State Example: Delaware

Delaware (DE), under the leadership of the Department of Education, the State Early Childhood Council, and the DE United Way, created a public-private funding pool to develop and implement its QRIS. The United Way became the fiscal agent to manage the private funding contributed by the DE Business Round Table, PNC Bank, United Way, Rodel Foundation, Nemours Foundation, and others. With a portion of the funding pool, a network of technical assistance early childhood specialists was established and trained to work with ECE centers volunteering to work through the QRIS quality levels.

How It Came About

A governor’s conference on early childhood in 2006 resulted in a DE Early Childhood Plan, which catalyzed a number of efforts to improve the early childhood system. Simultaneously, the DE Department of Education, which staffs the state’s Early Childhood Council, joined forces with the United Way “Success by Six” committee to plan for DE’s QRIS, called Delaware Stars for Early Success. The United Way brought together private and business funders and agreed to be the fiscal agent for the combined funds that became the start up funds for QRIS. The Delaware Legislative Children’s Caucus was a significant champion. Support from the state’s Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) was key to successful implementation. Around the same time the QRIS was being developed, OCCL revised and modernized licensing regulations.


DE’s Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, called the Family and Work Place Connection (FWPC), had a long history of providing training and technical assistance to ECE providers and also had resource centers located throughout the state. This agency became the operational arm of the QRIS to enroll providers, conduct assessments, and provide technical assistance. A QRIS manager was hired by FWPC for day-to-day management of the process. A management committee, consisting of representatives from each of the major funding agencies, was established to make strategic decisions and monitor the program.

To develop the health and obesity prevention components of the QRIS, the Nemours Foundation became a funding partner and member of the management committee. Nemours directed its funds to be used to hire and train technical assistance providers who were health specialists with training and experience implementing healthy eating and physical activity policies and practice. Prior to QRIS development, Nemours provided technical support to the committee that revised the licensing regulations to include nutrition, physical activity, and screen time standards. Nemours also worked with the Department of Education to update the health components of the “Early Learning Standards.” Both of these vehicles were important to establish the health components of the QRIS standards.

Lessons Learned

  • DE’s QRIS is built on the state’s ECE licensing rules. The revised rules set a high standard for nutrition and physical activity making it a challenge to increase those standards within the QRIS system. In addition, the state’s Child and Adult Care Food Program significantly increased its requirements.
  • It is hard to find technical assistance (TA) providers with the needed expertise. State health providers and the state health department may need to help build health expertise among the QRIS technical assistance providers if qualified TA health specialists are not readily available.
  • The QRIS implementers did not immediately see health as an essential component of quality, but rather as a distraction from a primary focus on qualifications and credentialing of the workforce. When including health in the QRIS, be involved from the start to influence the standards for each level of the QRIS and to educate both funders and QRIS management about the importance of health as a component of quality.
  • DE’s QRIS and the health components came about through joint voluntary effort by many players. This was an advantage as nontraditional funders such as businesses and foundations joined forces with state agencies. However, the voluntary nature of the partnership created an unusual management structure with blurred lines of authority and accountability that created some difficulties in financing decisions and management expectations. The governance structure for QRIS was clarified with the Department of Education taking the lead, contracting with the DE Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC) at the University of DE to provide QRIS services. QRIS technical assistance is offered by DIEEC and other nonprofit early childhood organizations.



  1. National Conference of State Legislatures. Early Care and Education State Budget Actions. Available at:
  2. ACF Office of Family Assistance.  TANF Financial Data – FY 2011.  Available at:
The largest federal source of funding to states to improve child care access and quality was authorized by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), reauthorized in 2006. Title I, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Block Grant (TANF) and Title VI, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Amendments of 1996 (now known as the Child Care and Development Fund), are the major titles of PRWORA relevant to ECE funding for states.

States may directly spend TANF funds to provide cash assistance for child care provided in the home or in the homes of relatives. FY2011 TANF funding for child care was estimated to be $550 million, with an additional $1.5 billion transferred to CCDF.2
States are required to use not less than 70% of the total CCDF to provide child care assistance to families who are either receiving benefits under TANF, attempting to transition off TANF assistance through work activities, or are at risk of becoming dependent on TANF assistance. States must also use a minimum of 4% of the CCDF for quality improvement activities, defined as activities designed to provide comprehensive consumer education to parents and the public, increase parental choice, and improve the quality and availability of ECE. CCDF funds are distributed by states to families through child care vouchers, which families use to pay ECE providers of their choice as long as the provider meets state health and safety requirements. States have a great deal of autonomy in deciding how funds are spent.