BALTIMORE, MD (July 7, 2023) – The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has announced significant changes to the Child Care Scholarship (CCS) program, aiming to expedite the application process for eligible families. With the introduction of the Fast Track Application process and the Family Portal, the program seeks to provide faster access to high-quality, affordable child care in Maryland.
Governor Wes Moore emphasized the importance of early childhood education, stating, “Expanding access to high-quality, affordable child care in Maryland will provide our children and our families with more opportunities to thrive.”
Effective July 1, 2023, the CCS program now utilizes a fast-track application process to provide expedited assistance to eligible families in covering childcare expenses. Under the new process, eligible applicants receive temporary eligibility determination within three business days. These families will receive 60 days of temporary child care assistance under the CCS program, with a pathway to a full, 52-week Child Care Scholarship. Previously, families had to wait up to 35 days for their application to be fully processed before receiving assistance.
State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury emphasized the need for equitable early childhood education opportunities, stating, “The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future emphasizes equitable early childhood education opportunities that prepare our youngest learners for school and success, and the fast-track process ensures that families can access resources without unnecessary barriers.”
The legislative change mandating the establishment of a process for presumptive eligibility for a subsidy under the CCS Program was introduced through the passage of Article II, Section 17(c) of the Maryland Constitution – Chapter 526, Early Childhood Development – Child Care Scholarship Program – Alterations and Study in May 2022. The new policy allows applicants to self-attest their eligibility, requiring proof of residency and employment or enrollment in a training/education program to submit a fast-track CCS application. Recipients of the 60-day scholarship have 15 calendar days to complete the remainder of the CCS application process to be considered for a 52-week scholarship.
Delegate Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery) praised the changes, stating, “Securing child care assistance is the gateway to success for many Maryland families. By simplifying the eligibility process, we provide an easy on-ramp for parents to find high-quality care for their children, secure employment, and ultimately achieve success and stability.”
In addition to the fast-track application process, MSDE has launched the Family Portal, a one-stop digital platform for the CCS. This online system allows families to check their eligibility, complete the application, upload documents, check their application status, receive messages and alerts, receive personalized support, and access their benefits.
Ruby Daniels, president of the Maryland State Family Child Care Association, praised the Family Portal, stating, “The Family Portal has been a huge improvement for Maryland families receiving the Child Care Scholarship compared to how it was in the past. It was an uphill battle getting this new system in place, but MSDE has been successful in this collaborative effort to launch and implement the portal.”
Since its launch in February 2023, the Family Portal has processed over 5,300 applications and registered 16,000 families. The portal is available in English and Spanish, supporting several other languages.
Laura Wheeldreyer, executive director of the Maryland Family Network, commended MSDE for the initiatives, stating, “We applaud MSDE for taking important steps to make the Child Care Scholarship more accessible to families with two new initiatives: Fast Track and the Family Portal. These tools make the approval process faster, easier, and ultimately work more effectively for families with young children.”
Previously, families had to fill out a seven-page application and mail it to MSDE to apply for the CCS. The process took weeks to finalize, and applicants often faced difficulty identifying if additional information was required. The Family Portal gives applicants more control over the CCS program, directing them to the necessary fields and documents for processing. As a result, more families across the state have gained access to high-quality and affordable child care.
The CCS program is funded through a combination of state and federal sources, providing childcare financial assistance to families who meet the program’s income eligibility requirements and are working, attending school, and/or participating in an approved training program.
Maryland residents can visit money4childcare.com to learn more about and apply for a Fast Track Child Care Scholarship. Families already enrolled in the CCS program must complete the full CCS application process. First-time applicants can submit one fast-track application, listing multiple children on a single submission. Licensed and registered child care programs participating in Maryland EXCELS, the child care state quality rating and improvement system, accept Child Care Scholarships. A directory of participating child care programs can be found at: https://marylandexcels.org/directory/.