Updates from the Child Development Division

13 January 2022

Hello and Happy New Year!

We wanted to reach out and take the opportunity to share some updates about what is happening here within the Child Development Division (CDD). In this message, we will touch on the following topics:

Expedited Variances for Ratio and Staff Credentials

Due to considerable barriers to hiring and retaining staff in the field right now, we explored filing emergency rules to update licensing regulations for ratios and staff credentials for the program director, teacher associate, and teacher assistant positions. Instead, we decided to implement an expedited variance process, a simplified version of the existing variance process. For this reason, we will no longer be moving forward with an emergency rule filing. Instead, we will propose a permanent rule/regulation revision for ratios; and we will be further evaluating variance data and collecting stakeholder feedback to determine if any revisions to staff credential regulations are necessary. 

Interested in the numbers?

  • 62 programs requested expedited variances from 10/15/2021 through 1/10/2022
  • 44 Ratio Variances
  • 55 Staff Credential Variances

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Child Care Stabilization Grants

The ARPA Child Care Stabilization Grants are to help regulated child care providers:

  • Cover unexpected business costs associated with the pandemic, and
  • Stabilize their operations so they can continue providing care.

The funding is dispersed in 12 monthly payments starting November 2021 and ending October 2022. We will continue to accept new applications until we have obligated all funds. 

Apply Today!

Interested in the numbers?

  • As of January 9, 2022, 925 providers received funding, totaling 77% of eligible programs. 
  • Of the 925 applicants, 808 programs indicated they will use the funds to compensate staff, and 509 indicated they will use the funds for recurring staff bonuses. 

Act 45 (H.171) Workforce Investments

We have been focused on both the Early Childhood Systems Analysis, led by Building Bright Futures and their contractor, Foresight Law, and the procurement process for workforce programs. The workforce programs include:

  • a new program for loan repayment, and
  • a new scholarship program for prospective students interested in entering the early childhood workforce. 

Successful bidders have been chosen for both workforce programs, and we will provide further updates as we can.

Also, we wanted to share that additional investments have been made to the T.E.A.C.H program via Act 45. 

ARPA Discretionary Funds

We will be increasing the amount of funding to Let’s Grow Kids for capacity-building efforts, and we will also be looking to procure additional capacity-building agreements. Total spending in this area will be $1.8 million per year.

We will also be using ARPA discretionary funding to procure business practices services for providers, which is $500,000 per year. $500,000 per year, for two years, will be added to the base of $300,000 annually to expand Inclusion Support Funding (the new name for Special Accommodation Grants.) We are currently seeking an organization through our Request for Applications (RFA) process to develop and implement this grant program to award funds to regulated early care and education/after school providers to support the safe and successful inclusion of a child or children who have specific needs due to medical, physical, behavioral or emotional conditions. 

Child Development Division Information System (CDDIS)

The rollout of our new IT system has been temporarily paused. Along with the Agency of Digital Services (ADS), we are working with the vendor to discuss rescoping some aspects of the system that had been descoped in order to meet an earlier timeline. The functionality known to many as backdating is being brought back into scope, and how long that will add to our time for rollout is still being assessed. We are concurrently exploring the ability to increase rates in our existing IT system, BFIS, as our primary goal is to support families and providers during this challenging time with the increased rates that will come with the launch of the new system. 

STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS)

We have begun work with federal technical assistance partners to restructure STARS, Vermont's Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). We will be engaging in planning and execution over the course of the next 18 months with a target date of 7/1/2023 to fully implement changes. This process will involve Vermont stakeholder feedback and consultation from other states. We will share a planning schedule and key dates when established.  

Regulated Child Care COVID-19 Tests for Tots Program

This program aims to reduce the impacts of widespread quarantine on children, their families, and child care providers.

  • Children ages 2 – 5 years old enrolled in the eligible child care program, and staff who are close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case or who become symptomatic are eligible to participate.
  • Non-symptomatic close contacts who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine and do not participate in Tests for Tots.

The initial distribution of kits is happening today and Thursday, January 20th, at 21 Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) locations all over the state (unless it snows).

  • 471 programs completed the “intent to participate” before the first deadline, Monday at noon.
  • The next deadline for a program to order an initial supply of kits is tomorrow, Friday, at noon.

Sign up now for your intital supply of test kits?

We are in continuing discussions with the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) and the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) to answer questions and create solutions to any obstacles that arise. Frequently Asked Questions will be available on our Tests for Tots webpage by early next week.