The passage of the federal Family Support Act of 1988 posed a serious concern for Texas's Department of Human Services (DHS). In order to meet its revolutionary mandates, DHS needed to effectively implement an entirely new set of child care provisions. For years, the State of Texas had been meeting child care demands by directly contracting specified child-care providers. This procedure impeded on parental choice by limiting the number of available providers. In order to obtain child care, parents were required to complete multiple applications and to decipher complex eligibility requirements. The Family Support Act established child care as an entitlement to certain families and also permitted parents to make their own child care arrangements rather than being limited to state-contracted providers. In order to meet the new demands, DHS needed to increase substantially the number of child care options for families to make it possible to procure services quickly in locations as diverse as the inner city of Dallas and the vast rural areas of West Texas.
In 1991, DHS created the Texas Child Care Management Services (CCMS), the first statewide fiscal management and service delivery system in the nation, to coordinate all the major sources of state and federal child care funds. DHS directly contracts with 27 community organizations across Texas, each serving a specific geographic area. Following state guidelines and procedures, the community organizations then contract with individual child care vendors within their regions. The community organization responsibilities include determining eligibility, managing standardized billing and payment, and assisting parents in locating and enrolling their children in certified child care programs. In order to effectively complete these goals, every organization is supported by a comprehensive automation system, which is designed to serve a number of purposes, including matching funding sources with client eligibility categories, managing waiting lists, and performing child care resource and referral activities. The automation system has brought forth more uniformity in procedures and standards and has reduced arbitrary decisions and favoritism.
Under CCMS, parents are given the freedom to choose programs that provides best care for their children. Parents may choose any licensed or registered child care provider they desire, or they may opt to have a child's grandparent, aunt, or uncle provide the care, regardless of the source of funds used to pay for the care. Because the system is highly automated, parents have direct access to eight different funding sources and receive information about various child care options by completing a single application, which may be submitted by either mail or telephone.
The program has been welcomed by both parents and child care providers who previously had no opportunity to receive government funding. Any child care provider who complies with state licensing standards and carries liability insurance may participate in the program as a vendor. CCMS encourages more providers to contract with the government by reducing the paperwork burden and by offering timelier payments. In addition, scholarships for staff training and the permanent loan of developmentally appropriate classroom materials are offered to vendors who voluntarily work towards meeting specific program quality criteria.
In addition to parents and child care providers, the United Way of Texas has also been an ardent supporter of CCMS, often supporting the system in public testimony. Moreover, Texas State officials assert that CCMS has enabled them to efficiently utilize increased federal child care funds that might otherwise have been squandered. From 1991 to 1993, the number of children receiving care per day in Texas has risen from 26,454 to 53,715, and the number of CCMS child care providers has more than doubled, from 2,000 to 4,207. Over 15 other states have expressed strong interest in replicating CCMS, and Texas is considering applying the concept to a wide range of other policy areas, such as job training and vocational programs.