PROJECTState Snapshots of Potential Demand for and Policies to Support Nontraditional-Hour Child Care

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Demand for child care for parents who work early in the mornings, evenings, nights, and weekends is a concern for policymakers trying to increase access to child care. Families working these nontraditional-hour (NTH) schedules can face extra challenges finding child care, and public funds less often support the care arrangements they use. The child care crisis brought on by the pandemic has amplified the challenges of accessing NTH care and the impact of race on families’ risks and opportunities.

Between 2015 and 2019, there were approximately 483,500 Tennessee children under age 6 each year. Of these children, 275,500 had working parents, and 114,000 had parents working nontraditional hours—defined here as working before 7:00 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m. during the week, or anytime on weekends.


Share of Tennessee Children, Younger Than Age 6 and with NTH-Working Parents, Whose Parents Work in Different NTH Time Frames

The figure below shows the share of children, under age 6 and with NTH-working parents, whose parents work in different NTH time frames. Understanding the hours that parents are working allows policymakers to tailor policies to those times when parents are most likely to need care. For example, policies that incentivize child care providers to open early might differ from incentives for providers offering evening, overnight, or weekend care. And standards for programs operating at different times might differ.



Children in Families Facing Structural Barriers More Often Have NTH-Working Parents

Parents of all types and income levels work NTH schedules, but parents in some groups are more likely to have NTH schedules (see figure below). Research shows that people with lower incomes, who are Black and Latino, who have lower levels of education, and who are single parents face structural barriers to employment, education, and access to services. In most states, children in families that have historically experienced these structural barriers are more likely to have NTH-working parents. Understanding which families are working NTH schedules allows policymakers to develop and implement policies that are equitable and meet different groups’ needs.



Tennessee’s Proposed Policies for Child Care during Nontraditional Hours

States can take actions to increase the supply and quality of care offered during nontraditional hours by using contracts or providing differential rates. Moreover, states can remove restrictions for care provided during these hours. Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) state plans provide insights into a state’s intentions around NTH policies in a few key areas, including whether they report planning to use contracts or grants to support NTH care, pay higher rates for NTH care, or have policies that might restrict the supply of NTH child care. The table below shows the policies related to child care offered during nontraditional hours that Tennessee proposed in the state’s CCDF plan (2019–21).

Tennessee Child Care and Development Fund Plan (2019–21) Proposed Policies for NTH Child Care
Policy Answer in CCDF plan
Policy that could affect supply or quality of NTH child care
Use grants or contracts to increase the supply of programs serving children during nontraditional hours No
Use grants or contracts to increase the quality of programs serving children during nontraditional hours No
Has differential rate for nontraditional hours No
Policy that could restrict supply of NTH child care
Restrictions on hours of care during nontraditional hours No
Methods state uses to increase supply and improve quality for children who receive NTH care Family child care networks: the Lead Agency and its partners are providing statewide prelicensing/orientation and new rules training for new and existing family child care providers who also receive on-site coaching and mentoring supports to improve child care quality, and the Lead Agency will target accessibility and availability of quality child care services locally by promoting NTH care; technical assistance; recruitment of providers: the Lead Agency is increasing the number of statewide prelicensing/orientation trainings to recruit providers who will provide NTH care; tiered reimbursement rates, support for improving business practices, accreditation supports, child care health consultation, mental health consultation: through participation in the Administration for Children and Families’s strengthening family child care quality peer-learning groups, the Lead Agency is developing strategies for increasing the supply of care during NTH
Source: Reviews of each state’s CCDF plan (2019–21).
Notes: The state indicated plans to address the items listed in the table, so they do not reflect implementation of the policy. Plans will be updated in 2021.


This snapshot was supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (US) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award (Grant Number 90YE0241) totaling $105,000 with 100 percent funded by ACF/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACF/HHS or the US Government. For more information, please visit the ACF website. We thank them for their support but acknowledge that the findings and conclusions presented in this snapshot are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the funder or the Urban Institute. Further information on the Urban Institute’s funding principles is available at principles. Additional information on the data and methodology, including definitions of children with working parents and with NTH-working parents, is available here.

Copyright © July 2021. Urban Institute. Permission is granted for reproduction of this file, with attribution to the Urban Institute.

Research Areas Children and youth
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population