In 2018, the District of Columbia fully launched Capital Quality, a new child care quality rating and improvement system. All licensed child development facilities with a signed agreement with the District government to provide subsidized child care are automatically enrolled, whereas other licensed facilities can opt into the new system. Capital Quality rates programs and offers coaching and professional development opportunities to support quality improvement at child care facilities.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the District of Columbia aimed to support affected local child care providers. Providers who had been receiving child care subsidy payments continued to be paid regardless of enrollment, and Capital Quality continued offering opportunities for professional development to support quality-improvement activities.
To learn about child care providers’ experiences with Capital Quality and their perceptions of the pandemic’s impact on their quality-improvement efforts, Urban Institute researchers interviewed 36 child care providers. The interviews occurred during the early months of the pandemic in 2020, when some facilities were temporarily closed and others continued serving families or were starting to reopen.
- Most child care providers reported that pandemic-related facility closures temporarily halted their ability to implement changes and ultimately improve the quality of their programs.
- A sizable share of providers said virtual trainings made it easier for them to participate in professional development opportunities.
- Providers shared that problems with staffing, including supporting staff in the face of decreased enrollment and retaining staff, were a major concern.
- Nearly all child care providers in our study reported enrollment decreased in the early months of the pandemic.