Child Care Centers, Child Care Vouchers, and Faith-Based Organizations

Research Report

Child Care Centers, Child Care Vouchers, and Faith-Based Organizations


Faith-based providers are key in delivering child care services overall and for children receiving child care vouchers, though data are scarce in this area. Using data from a survey of a representative sample of centers and site visits in five counties in 2003–04, this report examines the role of faith-based organizations in center-based child care, the extent to which centers affiliated with faith-based organizations care for children receiving vouchers, and whether such providers face barriers to working with the voucher system. The paper is part of the Urban Institute’s Child Care Providers and the Child Care Voucher System project.



The first challenge in understanding the role of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in child care is to define the kinds of relationships that FBOs have with child care programs. These relationships can vary widely. On one end of the continuum, some centers obtain physical space from an FBO but otherwise have no other connections with the FBO. At the other end of the continuum, there are centers providing religious instruction and be-ing operated by an FBO as well as receiving funding, administrative or accounting sup-port, and physical space from the FBO. As one California respondent noted, “They’re all so different … there is not one cookie cutter model for faith-based [child care] pro-grams.”

Given the complexity of the relationships between child care programs and FBOs, there does not appear to be consensus on a single definition of “faith-based” child care (Kramer et al. 2005; Ragan et al. 2003). In this analysis, we provide information on three different types of relationships between FBOs and child care centers. These relation-ships, as defined by our survey items and research questions, are described below.

  • Faith-affiliated child care programs are those that report an affiliation with a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or other faith-based organization or group. Past research has typically distinguished between centers operated by FBOs and those that are housed in buildings belonging to FBOs but are independently operated (Bogle 2001b). In this analysis, we assume that centers reporting affiliations with FBOs generally correspond to centers that have been classified in other research as directly or indirectly operated by FBOs.6
  • Faith-housed child care programs are located in buildings that belong to a church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or other FBO. These child care centers may be either af-filiated or unaffiliated with the FBOs that are housing them. We assume that unaffili-ated child care centers housed in buildings belonging to FBOs are operated independently from the FBOs.
  • Faith-infused child care centers provide religious instruction or include organized prayers or worship services. These centers may be either affiliated or unaffiliated with an FBO and they may, or may not, be housed in buildings that belong to FBOs.

These three categories—faith-affiliated, faith-housed, and faith-infused—are not mutually exclusive. Center directors can report being in any, all, or none of the categories.Although all three types of associations are important and will be described at least briefly, the analysis in this report focuses in greatest detail on faith-affiliated providers.

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