Under the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act (IPERIA) of 2012, agencies must periodically review and identify programs that may be susceptible to significant improper payments. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which reimburses program providers for nutritious meals and snacks served to eligible enrollees for care in child care centers, day care homes, and adult day care centers, is subject to this review. This feasibility study focuses on meal claims made by CACFP family day care homes (FDCHs). According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), FDCHs served more than 458 million meals and snacks in FY 2018 to approximately 4.63 million children.
FNS administers CACFP through grants to states. Independent centers and sponsors sign agreements with states to assume administrative and financial responsibility for CACFP operations. Sponsors ensure that FDCHs meet the CACFP eligibility criteria, comply with applicable Federal and state regulations, and offer training and support to providers. Sponsors receive and verify meal reimbursement claims, submit claims to state CACFP offices, receive reimbursement payments, and distribute payments to FDCHs
Providers at FDCHs offer a safe, home-based day care setting for families and provide CACFP eligible children with access to nutritious food meeting USDA dietary guidelines. To participate in the CACFP, FDCHs must be supported by a sponsor; abide by the policies and procedures of USDA, the state agency, and the sponsor; attend sponsor and state agency training; and participate in monitoring visits.
The purpose of this feasibility study is to design and test a data collection method that enables FNS to estimate improper payments (IP) due to meals claimed improperly by FDCHs participating in CACFP. Specifically, the study focuses on accurately measuring meals that are claimed but not served. If feasible, the data collection method needs to be viable for potential national-level implementation.
To fulfill the study purpose, FNS contracted with Manhattan Strategy Group to design, develop, and test the use of digital instruments to facilitate the verification of meal claims. These instruments, the Meal Service Reporting System (MSRS) and the Child Attendance Reporting System (CARS), collect accurate meal-serving and child-attendance information from FDCH providers and parents without intruding into the routine practices of FDCH homes. MSRS allows providers to report meal-serving times for each child in attendance through a user-friendly smartphone mobile application or a website alternative. It does not replace current procedures that providers use to file their monthly meal claims. CARS allows parents to report daily drop-off and pick-up times of their children through a simple real-time text messaging system. We used data collected from MSRS and CARS, in combination with secondary data collected from sponsors, to approximate IP through data triangulation and an experimental study. We tested our data collection methods on a random sample of FDCHs in two states to determine the validity of the method. We analyzed data collected from this field test to estimate the magnitude of improper claims that may result in IP and calculated the expected dollar amount of IP.
This report describes the design and development of MSRS and CARS, the implementation of the two instruments in a field test, and the estimates of IP based on data collected from the field test. We discussed the prospective applicability of the methods and recommendations for a national scale-up study.