The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) works to ensure all District children from birth to kindergarten receive high-quality early childhood development programs, are well prepared for school and have access to sustainable wellness and nutrition programs. The District prides itself as a national leader in the provision of early learning opportunities for young children by making early childhood a core part of its education agenda.
The Healthy Tots Act and Child Development Facilities
In order to support the growth and development of all children, the District has taken steps to support the availability of nutritious meals and food programs for child development facilities. The Healthy Tots Act of 2014 (D.C. Law 21-36; D.C. Official Code 38-282.01, et seq.) seeks to ensure that child development facilities are a healthy place for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers and that the District's youngest and most vulnerable children have access to healthy breakfasts, lunches, suppers and snacks while they are enrolled in these programs.
The Healthy Tots Act requires licensed child development facilities to participate in the Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP) if 50 percent or more of enrolled children are eligible for subsidized child care for at least six continuous months (D.C. Official Code § 38–282.01(a)). This does not apply to facilities that are on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) CACFP National Disqualification List (D.C. Official Code § 38–282.01(a-1)). The Healthy Tots Act defines a child development facility as a licensed community-based center, home or other structure, regardless of its name, that provides care, supervision, guidance or other services for infants, toddlers and preschoolers on a regular basis, and does not include a program that is sponsored or run by a public or private school (D.C. Official Code § 38–281(2)). An eligible child is a child who is a District resident who occupies a slot funded in whole or in part by the subsidized child care, authorized by section 3 of the Day Care Policy Act of 1979, effective Sept. 19, 1979 (D.C. Law 3-16; D.C. Official Code § 4-402), the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula for Public Schools and Public Charter Schools Act of 1998, effective March 26, 1999 (D.C. Law 12-207; D.C. Official Code § 38-2901 et seq.) or the District of Columbia Public Schools' Head Start program.
Child development facilities that are required to participate in CACFP may appeal to OSSE for a participation waiver if they feel their facility is not equipped to operate the program. OSSE grants CACFP participation waivers to facilities that can prove they have one of the following hardship factors:
- Staffing or Organizational Structure Hardship: The child development facility does not employ enough staff to maintain required children/teacher ratios for when CACFP duties must be completed, e.g., preparing meals or completing paperwork pursuant to 7 CFR §226.6(b)(1).
- Population Served Hardship: Over the past six months, the child development facility did not continuously enroll 50 percent or more children who were eligible for the Child Care Subsidy Program pursuant to 5A DCMR §1000.3.
- Financial Hardship: The child development facility does not have adequate funds within its current budget to cover costs that may exceed CACFP reimbursement, such as paying a cook's salary, upgrading an inadequate cooking area, contracting for meals, paying any debt in the event of a temporary interruption in program payments or repaying a claim that is assessed against the facility pursuant to 7 CFR §226.6(b)(1).
- Serious Deficiency Hardship: The child development facility has been newly declared seriously deficient by OSSE, and the facility has been terminated from CACFP, disqualified from CACFP participation and placed on the USDA CACFP National Disqualification List.
- Application Denial Hardship: The child development facility's application to participate in CACFP was previously denied because it did not meet all of the program requirements of 7 CFR §226.6 et seq.
OSSE determines whether a good cause exists to grant the child development facility a waiver from participating in CACFP based on the facility's application and any other information available to OSSE. If OSSE grants a waiver, OSSE provides written notice to the facility notifying it that it is excused from participating in the program for one year following the date of the notice. Facilities that are on the USDA CACFP National Disqualification List will remain there for a minimum of seven years, per USDA federal rules. Facilities that are granted waivers have the option to apply for participation in CACFP before the waiver expires. OSSE encourages facilities to use the waiver period to prepare for CACFP participation and offers technical assistance to facilities preparing to enter the program.
Enhanced Local Reimbursements Available to Child Development Facilities
The Healthy Tots Act ensures facilities have access to CACFP and additional local reimbursements beyond federal funding. The Healthy Tots Act establishes additional local funding for meals (breakfast, lunch or supper) served by child development facilities that: (1) participate in CACFP and (2) meet the USDA meal requirements in 7 CFR §226.20. OSSE began providing the additional reimbursement to facilities effective Oct. 1, 2015. These Healthy Tots Act reimbursements are detailed below:
- Add10: Child development facilities participating in CACFP may request an additional $0.10 for each eligible breakfast, lunch and supper served to an eligible child (5A DCMR §1001.2).
- Local5: Child development facilities participating in CACFP may request an additional $0.05 per lunch or supper when at least one meal component is comprised of a locally sourced food item, as defined in section 101(3) of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 (D.C. Official Code § 38–821.01) and unprocessed foods, as defined in section 101(10)(A) of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 (D.C. Official Code § 38–821.01). Locally grown and unprocessed foods do not include milk (5A DCMR §1001.4-5).
- Full Day4: Child development facilities participating in CACFP that have maximized the number of daily meal services eligible for CACFP reimbursements allowed, two meals and one snack or one meal and two snacks, are eligible to receive reimbursements from the Healthy Tots Fund for a fourth meal for each enrolled child. To be eligible for these funds, 75 percent of the children enrolled and attending the child development facility must be District of Columbia residents and at least 50 percent of the enrolled and attending children must be eligible for subsidized child care (5A DCMR §1001.7).
Supporting Child Development Facilities
Since the passage of the Healthy Tots Act, OSSE has refined an effective and systematic approach for working with child development facilities that are required to participate in CACFP. When a child development facility has been identified as meeting the Healthy Tots Act requirements to participate in CACFP, OSSE contacts the facility to encourage them to participate in CACFP but also makes them aware of the option to apply for a participation waiver. An employee provides technical assistance visits with the facility to provide face-to-face assistance with Healthy Tots Act and CACFP compliance is scheduled, and facilities that decide to apply for CACFP receive training and reoccurring technical assistance from OSSE throughout the entire application process.
OSSE provides continuous support to facilities already participating in CACFP by offering guidance and technical assistance on nutritious meals, wellness guidelines and access to local produce. If a facility is not participating in CACFP, OSSE provides outreach and support, with a focus on new facilities, facilities struggling with applying for CACFP and facilities newly identified as enrolling 50 percent or more children that are eligible for subsidized care for at least six continuous months. When a new child development facility opens, the facility may choose to apply for CACFP immediately. If the new facility does not participate in CACFP but enrolls 50 percent or more children eligible for subsidized care for at least six continuous months, OSSE begins its coordination with the facility after its first six months to apply for CACFP or to receive a CACFP participation waiver. If a facility becomes unresponsive to OSSE regarding mandated enrollment in CACFP despite extensive communication from OSSE, the Child Care Subsidy Program participation status is moved to "Stop Placement" until the facility becomes responsive to the CACFP team. "Stop Placement" is used as a last resort and prohibits non-responsive facilities from enrolling new subsidized children into their facility until they come into compliance with CACFP participation requirements of the Healthy Tots Act.
Data Collection Methods
The data used to determine whether child development facilities meet the Healthy Tots Act requirements to participate in CACFP are collected by the OSSE Division of Early Learning and reported by the OSSE Division of Data, Assessment and Research (DAR). In accordance with the federally funded Child Care Subsidy Program, the OSSE Division of Early Learning (DEL) collects data on the number of children who participate in the subsidy voucher program within each licensed child development facility in the District. These data are reported quarterly to the federal government and are detailed in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Subsidy Participation
Facility name, address, ward and license number
Monthly, for infants, toddler, preschool children and total (excluding school-age)
Total unduplicated monthly subsidized enrollment
|ACF-801||Monthly, for infants, toddler, preschool children and total (excluding school-age)|
OSSE does not collect total enrollment for individual child development facilities, thus the OSSE Division of Health and Wellness (H&W) utilizes the licensed capacity and subsidy enrollment as proxy data for total enrollment. This data is analyzed quarterly by DAR and shared with H&W to determine which facilities meet the CACFP participation requirements. H&W receives the data four to six months after it is collected to allow DAR ample time to analyze and clean the data. Due to the timing of the Healthy Tots Act’s annual reporting requirement and the amount of time it takes to receive the subsidy data, H&W uses data from the fourth quarter of the preceding fiscal year to inform its CACFP activities and participation requirements for the current fiscal year.