JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Officials announced the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) removed the child support cooperation requirement for parents and guardians receiving child care tuition assistance through the Child Care Payment Program (CCPP).

According to MDHS officials, the agency instituted the policy change to help families access high-quality child care, assist parents in entering and remaining in the workforce, and strengthen K-12 readiness.

“Child care is essential to the future of Mississippi. Accessibility of quality child care strengthens families, enriches learning, and undergirds our workforce. This policy change is a step towards allowing parents to fully participate in the workforce and is an investment in families, communities, and the economy,” stated Bob Anderson, MDHS executive director.

CCPP provides tuition assistance to qualifying parents and guardians who need help with child care. Once approved for child care tuition assistance, parents choose a participating provider. Upon enrollment in a child care center, the MDHS Division of Early Childhood Care and Development makes payment directly to the provider on behalf of the child.

Parents and guardians are encouraged to apply for the child care payment plan voucher for their child or dependent.

Advocates sought the rule change for years. Chad Allgood, director of the department’s Division of Early Childhood Care Development, said the change happened after a shift in thinking within the agency.

“The key is just having people in policymaking positions that are willing to listen and they’re willing to look at what good data has said,” Allgood said at a news conference Monday. “Looking at the data, listening to those who are served by this program, we determined the policy wasn’t really doing anything other than hurting mothers and their children.”

The change was also set in motion after a council of early childhood administrators voted in March 2022 to recommend that the Department of Human Services do away with the rule.

Allgood also said the move would help address an ongoing labor shortage for employers in the state, as a lack of child care remains a barrier for parents entering the workforce.

“Parents cannot maintain consistent employment without access to stable, quality child care, and that’s a point that I simply cannot emphasize enough,” Allgood said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.