Category: Early Childhood

Nearly 103,000 Arizona kids lost AHCCCS, but KidsCare expansion brings hope.

Since the end of the public health emergency a year ago, 103,000 fewer Arizona children are enrolled in AHCCCS coverage with the return to regular renewal requirements, according to a new report from Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. AHCCCS and its companion KidsCare provide child-specific health insurance for nearly 900,000 children, including routine preventive care, developmental screenings and treatment, vaccinations, behavioral health, and vision and dental services.

While some of these children may have gained other coverage, through a parent’s employer or the Health Insurance Marketplace, more Arizona children likely have become uninsured in the past year.

But there is good news. On April 1, the income limit for KidsCare increased by nearly $10,000 a year for a family of four, meaning 10,000 additional Arizona children will become eligible. Also, at the beginning of this year, new federal requirements took effect providing 12 full months of continuous coverage for children in AHCCCS and KidsCare, meaning fewer administrative requirements for families to maintain their healthcare coverage.

Children’s Action Alliance continues working with our community partners and AHCCCS to increase children’s access to coverage. If you or someone you know needs health insurance, visit Cover AZ’s website to find a local community-based organization to help.

Click here for the full report.

Equity in Early Childhood Education: Arizona's Call to Action

This past week, Southern Arizona advocates gathered in Tucson to discuss how to make our early care and education (ECE) systems more equitable.

Children’s Action Alliance partnered with Child and Family Resources and United Way of Southern Arizona to highlight ASU Children’s Equity Project’s landmark report “Start with Equity Arizona: Increasing Access, Improving Quality, and Advancing Equity in Arizona’s Early Care and Learning Systems."

The report ranks the state on child wellness. It examines early care and education, including child care and preschool, with an emphasis on how many Arizona children and families lack access to those systems, particularly those from historically and contemporarily marginalized communities such as children who are Latino, Black, Indigenous, as well as children who live in rural communities and low-income households, and dual-language learners.

Pima County and Southern Arizona leaders are showing the way through new innovative programs, such as Preschool Promise and Pascua Yaqui Early Care and Learning Center. In addition, Children’s Action Alliance’s emerging work with Spanish-speaking child care providers and dual-language families is focused on understanding paths to meaningful access to high-quality early learning programs and identifying barriers that exist in receiving needed assistance.

The data tells us that state solutions are needed if we are to fulfill our vision of an Arizona where all children and families thrive. The report confirms that early care and education in Arizona have lacked sustained investment over the past two decades, at a time when other states have increased investments in young children. The impacts of these systemic shortfalls have impacted both access to and quality of care for Arizona's youngest.

While many solutions are important for the success of Arizona’s youngest children, one immediate call to action is clear. Governor Hobbs has presented a balanced budget plan that prioritizes $100M in general funds to keep access to affordable child care within reach of thousands of working families and to help child care providers keep their doors open and sustain wages for child care workers.

These state funds are critical as the federal pandemic funding expires. Investing our tax dollars in our children and families is investing in the future of our state and economy. Let’s be sure to let elected leaders know that the consequences of failing to invest are too great - this $100M general fund investment must be in this year’s budget.

Graphics by Meek, S.E., Alexander, B.L., Bucher, E., Soto-Boykin, X., Catherine, E., Palomino, C., Ameley-Quaye, A. (November, 2023). Start with Equity Arizona: Increasing Access, Improving Quality, and Advancing Equity in Arizona’s Early Care and Learning Systems. The Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University. Retrieved from:

Our Priority: Child Care Funding Gets a Hearing

This morning, a House Appropriations Subcommittee listened to early childhood advocates discuss the urgent need for state investment in child care. Arizona faces a child care crisis due to a prolonged lack of investment, compounded by the expiration of federal funds that stabilized the system during the pandemic. The Department of Economic Security estimates that $100 million in SFY25 is needed to maintain child care assistance reimbursement rates and prevent a waitlist for services. Governor Hobbs included this funding in her proposed budget plan earlier this year. Advocates, including CAA’s Vice President of Policy, Kelley Murphy, argued to the subcommittee that this funding should be included in the final state budget proposal.

They emphasized that this would not only benefit children and families but also have positive impacts on Arizona's economy. Other panelists included Chris Herbst, Professor of Public Policy at ASU; Angela Rabago, Chief External Affairs Officer at First Things First; Ericka Mach, Vice President of External Affairs with the Women’s Foundation for the State of Arizona; and Shakesha Shelton, a participant in the Women’s Foundation's Pathways for Single Moms program, which provides child care services to women seeking college degrees. HB2808, sponsored by Jennifer Pawlik and introduced this year, aims to expand that pilot program statewide. 

“We are here because child care is vital to Arizona’s economy, and the child care system is in crisis. The system has been in crisis for a long time, it was on the brink before the COVID crisis. The pandemic made it clear that not only is child care an essential public function, but that we need to rethink the way we, as a community and an economy, support it.” - Kelley Murphy, CAA. 

All presenters agreed on the importance of prioritizing this issue as the legislative session continues and budget negotiations between House and Senate Leadership and the Governor’s Office begin. Three bills were introduced this session to appropriate the $100 million to the child care program (HB2266, HB2752- both sponsored by Rep. Analise Ortiz, and SB1363- sponsored by Sen. Priya Sundereshan). We will continue to monitor these bills as they progress through the legislative process. 

Click here to view a list of all CAA’s priority bills for the legislative session.

Early Childhood Day at the Capitol Advocates for Gov. Hobbs’ $100 Million Proposal

The Arizona Early Childhood Alliance (AZECA) hosted its 8th annual Day at the Capitol for parents, advocates, and legislators to raise awareness of the importance of a child’s earliest years.  Children’s Action Alliance is a member of the alliance.  This year’s event focus was centered around the Governor’s budget proposal of $100 million in child care assistance to stave off a looming funding cliff facing child care providers and parents in Arizona.  Attendees toured the House of Representatives Floor with Rep. Consuelo Hernandez, met with legislators privately on the issue and were encouraged by the bipartisan panel discussion with Rep. Pawlik, Rep. Ortiz and Sen. Bennett with a special welcome from Rep. Alma Hernandez.  The lawmakers agreed child care assistance is a top priority for this legislative session as it intersects with the topic of housing availability and housing costs. Rep. Ortiz sponsored bill HB2266 (Appropriation; childcare assistance) will put the Governor’s plan into fruition by providing funds to the Department of Economic Security to provide child care assistance to eligible families. Also, Sen. Sundareshan is sponsoring the senate bill in support of the Governor’s proposal.

CAA stands with lawmakers and communities who are working on this issue to stabilize Arizona’s early care and education system.  Without child care funding assistance and the federal child care relief sunsetting in September, as many as one-third of Arizona’s child care programs could close and nearly 100,000 children and their families could lose the child care they depend on.

$100M in Gov. Hobbs budget proposal for child care.

Our thanks to Governor Hobbs for prioritizing child care in her budget proposal. On Friday afternoon, the Governor released her budget proposal signifying her priorities for the upcoming legislative session.  Included in that budget was $100M to stave off a looming funding cliff facing child care providers and parents in Arizona.   

During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal child care relief stabilized Arizona’s early care and education system. It helped child care programs keep their doors open and improve wages, benefits, and professional learning for their workforce. However, these funds will sunset in September 2024, resulting in a child care fiscal cliff that could see as many as one-third of Arizona’s child care programs close and nearly 100,000 children and their families could lose the child care they depend on. 

We can’t let that happen for families, providers, or our economy. Yes, the $100,000 million in Governor Hobb’s budget is just as vital for the Arizona economy as Arizona’s families. A recent report by the Century Foundation showed that without sustained childcare funding: 

  • Arizona employers will lose $278 million in employee productivity. 
  • As many as 5,000 child care jobs will be lost. 
  • Arizona parents will lose a combined $257 million as a result of cutting hours or leaving the workforce altogether. 

This proposed funding is a great first step to address this crisis. Now, that Governor Hobbs has prioritized child care, we’ll be working with legislators, partners, and community members like you to get this proposal across the finish line for Arizonans

For more information on the Governor’s Budget Proposal click here.

The Child Care Cliff: What Arizona Needs to Know

A new report is sounding the alarm that many families may be facing the loss of child care services in the next year. The report titled "The Child Care Cliff: What's at Stake for Families, Businesses, and State Economies" highlights the impending drop-off in federal child care investment starting September 30, 2023, and the dire consequences it will have if no action is taken. The analysis by The Century Foundation examines the potential impact of the funding cutoff on children, families, and state economies across all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

The report predicts that more than 70,000 child care programs, about one-third of those supported by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) stabilization funding, will likely close nationwide, resulting in approximately 3.2 million children losing their child care spots. In Arizona alone, 1,149 child care programs are projected to close, leading to 99,691 children losing access to child care.

The loss of child care programs will have a significant economic impact, with states estimated to lose $10.6 billion in economic activity annually. Millions of parents will be affected, potentially leaving the workforce or reducing their work hours, resulting in a loss of $9 billion in annual earnings for families. The child care workforce, which has been slow to recover from the pandemic, is also expected to lose 232,000 jobs.

The report emphasizes the urgent need for immediate funding and comprehensive long-term solutions at the federal level to provide safe, nurturing, and affordable child care options for every family. It highlights the high cost of child care, which exceeds $10,000 per year for one child on average and can reach as high as $15,000 to $20,000 in some states. The low wages in the child care sector make it increasingly challenging to attract and retain qualified and passionate early educators.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the existing challenges in the child care sector, leading to the closure of an estimated 20,000 child care programs in the first two years of the pandemic. The ARP stabilization funds provided temporary relief, but their expiration in September 2023 will create a funding cliff, risking further contraction of the child care sector.

The report underscores the far-reaching implications of the child care cliff, including the impact on children's well-being, family economic security, racial and gender equity, and local and state economies. It calls for increased investment in child care and early learning to ensure affordable and high-quality options for families and support parents' workforce participation.

Read full report here.

Arizona Ranks 39th In Child Well-Being But Inaccessible, Unaffordable, Child Care Pushes Parents To The Breaking Point.

Arizona ranks 39th in child well-being, according to the 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring. However, our country’s lack of affordable and accessible child care short-changes children and causes parents in Arizona to frequently miss work or even quit their jobs, while those who can find care are paying dearly for it. These child care challenges cost the American economy billions of dollars a year and stymie women professionally.

The Data Book reports that too many parents cannot secure child care that is compatible with work schedules and commutes. The Data Book reports that in 2020–21, 16% of Arizona children under 6 had a family member who quit, changed, or refused a job because of problems with child care. And women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences related to caregiving.

Nationwide, children birth to five of color are disproportionately affected as family members are forced to make job changes because of child care at higher rates: Black children (17%), Latino children (16%), and Asian and Pacific Islander children (14%); compared to the national average of 13% of children.

“Child care is an essential service like health care and education,” said Interim President and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance (CAA), Kelley Murphy.  CAA is the Arizona member of the KIDS COUNT network. “That is why it must be affordable and accessible for parents to make a decent living to care for the children, and to build a stronger economy.”

Even if parents can find an opening at child care near their home, they often can’t pay for it. Arizona’s      average cost of center-based child care for a toddler was $10,883, 11% of the median income of a married couple, and 31% of a single mother’s income in the state.

While the cost of care burdens families, child care workers are paid worse than 98% of professions. Median national pay for child care workers was $28,520 per year or $13.71 an hour in 2022, less than the wage for retail ($14.26) and customer service ($18.16) workers.

The failings of the child care market also affect the current and future health of the American economy, costing $122 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity and tax revenue, according to one study. All these challenges put parents under tremendous stress to meet the dual responsibilities of providing for their families and ensuring their children are safe and nurtured.

“A good child care system is essential for kids to thrive and our economy to prosper.  But our current approach fails kids, parents, and child care workers by every measure,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  “Without safe child care they can afford and get to, working parents face impossible choices, affecting not only their families, but their employers as well.”

Each year, the Data Book ranks the states according to how children are faring, presenting national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains — economic well-being (Arizona ranked 33rd), education (45th), health (32nd), and family and community (40th). Arizona’s overall rank of 39th reflects both some areas of strength and many ways the state can bolster its policies that support child well-being.

Transitioning from a faltering child care system to creating a flourishing one will take new thinking and investing at the local, state, and national levels. An executive order issued by President Biden in April is aimed at expanding access, lowering costs, and raising wages. It could prove to be a helpful framework, but more is needed:

  • Federal, state, and local governments should invest more in child care. State and local governments should maximize remaining pandemic recovery act dollars to fund needed child care services and capacity. Congress should reauthorize and strengthen the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, and increase funding for public pre-kindergarten and Head Start.
  • Public and private leaders should work together to improve the infrastructure for home-based child care, beginning by lowering the barriers to entry for potential providers by increasing access to start-up and expansion capital.
  • To help young parents, Congress should expand the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which serves student parents.


2023 National Kids Count Report

Huge Win for AZ Child Care System-DES Provider Rate Adjustments!

On Friday, March 24th, the Department of Economic Security (DES) shared a message with early childhood educators throughout Arizona announcing new, exciting updates for the early childhood system statewide. 

These improvements are important to continue to strengthen Arizona's early childhood system. The updates include DES provider rate adjustments, an education workforce scholarship program, and targeted childcare provider grants. These improvements will facilitate greater access to high-quality childcare, supports for the early childhood workforce including providers, and incentives for new providers to contract with DES or become a DES Certified Family Child Care provider.  

Effective April 1, 2023, the DES Division of Child Care will implement a rate increase for all DES childcare providers through June 30, 2024. The reimbursement rate for infants will increase to the 75th percentile of the 2022 Market Rate Survey, and district rates will change to one statewide rate for each age group by care setting. These changes will bring most rates to the cost of providing care at the minimum health and safety standards, and to the cost of high-quality care when including the enhanced quality reimbursement rate of 50 percent.

Historically, childcare reimbursement rates have usually been calculated by geography and age, resulting in rural providers receiving reimbursement at devastatingly low rates. This adjustment will create a level playing field throughout the state, with potential triple reimbursement rates for providers in rural and underserved communities. 

We would like to give special thanks to the Arizona Early Childhood Alliance (AZECA) Leadership team for their collaboration with DES in reviewing and making priority recommendations on how Arizona could most effectively distribute the remaining CCDF relief funding. These changes will serve as mechanisms to sustain the Arizona early childhood system and strengthen Arizona families statewide.   

AZECA’s Full Partnership Meeting and the Rollout of the New Membership Model

The Arizona Early Childhood Alliance (AZECA) will hold a full partnership meeting on August 29th, 2022 to discuss the roll out of the new membership model and updated website.  

AZECA is an alliance of 50+ cross-sector partners statewide who are working together to give every Arizona child a great start in life. AZECA serves as Arizona’s shared and unified voice on early childhood, providing informed messages and credible resources that help leaders create positive change for Arizona’s children. These efforts are designed to ensure that all Arizona children are prepared for kindergarten and are on track to succeed by the end of third grade.   

Starting in 2023, AZECA’s new membership model will offer partners exciting new benefits including access to the AZECA Children’s Policy Institute and an opportunity to participate in the annual Early Childhood Day at the Capitol lobby event.    

AZECA welcomes new partners to join in on their critical work of directly influencing program and policy solutions for early childhood by collectively working together with lawmakers, practitioners, foundations, businesses, and other supporting collaboratives. 

Please join AZECA virtually for the Full Partnership meeting:  

  • When: August 29th, 2022 from 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.    
  • Where: Zoom   

 Discussion and Insight on:    

  • Legislative Update   
  • The rollout of the new AZECA Membership Model   
  • AZECA Member Benefits   
  • Membership Drive Activity    
  • Leadership Team Nomination Process   
  • Partner Information, Celebrations and Announcements    

 Click HERE to register for the meeting