Child care assistance is a critical support for low-income families. Approximately 1.5 million American children receive child care subsidies through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) each month. With support to pay for child care, parents are better able to participate in the labor market and secure developmentally appropriate, high quality child care programs for their children.
Yet recent studies have found that many enrolled families receive a subsidy for only brief periods, or cycle off and then back on the subsidy program, frequently returning with a new child care provider. Instability in subsidy use may contribute to discontinuity in children’s care arrangements. Given the importance of child care continuity both for promoting children’s development and supporting parental employment, understanding the factors that contribute to instability in subsidy use and child care arrangements is critical.
Researchers from the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago participated in a discussion regarding factors contributing to instability in subsidy use as identified in their mixed-methods, multi-year (2010—2014) study, the Illinois/New York Child Care Research Partnership. Using longitudinal state administrative data from child care payment records in combination with newly collected data from a telephone survey and qualitative interviews with subsidy clients, researchers analyzed the subsidy and child care experiences of a new cohort of subsidy clients residing in four diverse sites in Illinois and New York.
Amy Claessens, assistant professor, Chicago Harris at the University of Chicago
Julia Henly, associate professor, School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago
Alejandra Ros Pilarz, Anna Julia Cooper post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Heather Sandstrom, senior research associate, Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute