For many families, child care is a necessity for economic self-sufficiency, as without it caretakers cannot enter and stay in the workforce. However, for many low-income families, child care expenses are so high that they often cannot afford it without government support. Also problematic is that government-supported child care benefits are incrementally lost as a family’s income increases, but often before sufficient income can be sustained to replace that support. This is known as the child care cliff. The focus of this study was to understand how families make decisions about child care and government support when facing this cliff. This article details a mixed-methods study that revealed that families use a combination of resources to make up their income package that they need to manage everyday survival, including government benefits, wages, and social supports. Also, though the cliff effect is a significant barrier to moving from government supports to self-sufficiency, there are multiple other barriers that add to the very real reasons that families have to carefully strategize to survive. The most helpful things for families in strategizing were a flexible job and solid social support networks. (author abstract)
Financially vulnerable families and the child care cliff effect
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