After several years of petitioning lawmakers and agency staff, children’s advocacy groups worked successfully to change a Utah Department of Workforce Services policy barring certain immigrants and refugees from access federal child care subsidies for their US-born children.
Holy Cross Ministries executive director Emmie Gardner said a coalition of advocates, including the Early Childhood Alliance, Voices for Utah Children, Holy Cross Ministries and state lawmakers, were responsible for the policy change at the DWS.
“Many of the families we serve who may have mixed status are undocumented families who have children born in the United States who are now eligible because what we have been able to do is work with DWS to interpret the regulations of the manner in which it was intended to be a benefit to the child. And so, to be eligible, the parents must be the legal guardians. Of course, their child must be a U.S. citizen, have refugee status, or permanent resident in order to be eligible. prove that he works at least 15 hours minimum.
The amount of the benefit depends on the number of children in a family and the income of the family. The child care facility receiving the grant must be licensed or meet state qualifications for licensed centers. Parents can go to CAC.gov to find out which child care centers are approved
“You know it says you may be able to select a family or friend or neighbor but they have to meet all the requirements of the Department of Health child care license so that’s still a licensed daycare.”
Gardner said they are working with DWS to modify the agency’s website so that it does not ask for a person’s identity. social security number or immigration status to complete applications. Gardner hopes this will encourage more eligible families to apply for child care assistance. She wants to reassure families that child care subsidy funds have nothing to do with a parent’s immigration status and everything to do with the status of the child.
“They actually sent us a draft of some sort of fact sheet. We will put this information sheet in Spanish. People like us at Holy Cross with our preschool programs, with our parents and teachers, everyone is busy trying to spread the word, reassuring families that they won’t need to provide a social security number . They will not have to provide their immigration status. So it’s a lot of word of mouth, it’s a lot of fact sheets being handed out.
Last year, Utah received $139 million in federal funds and an additional $40 million in one-time CARES Act funds for child care subsidies. Before the DWS policy change on April 1, advocates and lawmakers feared that federal funds could be at risk if DWS policy did not change.
Click here to learn more about eligibility or apply for grants from the Department of Workforce Services.