Navigating the Child Care Subsidy System

Brief

Navigating the Child Care Subsidy System

Policies and Practices that Affect Access and Retention

Abstract

For low-income parents, getting and keeping child care subsidies can sometimes be so challenging that it undermines a key goal of the system, to work and stay off welfare. Families must do far more to get and keep their subsidies than has generally been recognized. They must apply for subsidies, periodically recertify their eligibility and report any changes in, for instance, job, income, child care provider, residence, or marital status. Most sites required parents to come into the office at least once, though some sites required them to come in repeatedly. Subsidy policies and how they were implemented in practice also did not always match. For instance, even in locations that required recertification every six months, caseworkers could require parents to recertify more often, particularly if the family experienced frequent job related changes. The research is based on interviews with state and local administrators, other experts, and focus groups with child care caseworkers, parents receiving subsidies, and child care providers in 12 states. A more in-depth look at these findings can be found in Getting and Retaining Child Care Assistance: How Policy and Practice Influence Parents' Experiences; Gina Adams, Kathleen Snyder, Jodi R. Sandfort; OP 55; March 2002.

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