The National Study of Child Care for Low-Income Families was a ten-year research effort that was designed to provide policy-makers with information on the effects of Federal, state and local policies and programs on child care at the community level, and the employment and child care decisions of low-income families. It also provides insights into the characteristics and functioning of family child care, a type of care frequently used by low income families, and the experiences of parents and their children with this form of care. Abt Associates Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University’s Joseph Mailman School of Public Health in New York City conducted the study under contract to the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The study was initiated in the wake of sweeping welfare reform legislation enacted in 1996. The first component of the study examined how states and communities implemented policies and programs to meet the child care needs of families moving from welfare to work, as well as those of other low-income parents. A second study component investigated the factors that shaped the child care decisions of low-income families and the role that child care subsidies played in those decisions. Finally, the study examined, in depth and over a period of 2½ years, a group of families that used various kinds of family child care and their child care providers, to develop a better understanding of the family child care environment and the extent to which the care provided in that environment supported parents’ work related needs and met children’s needs for a safe, healthy and nurturing environment. To address these objectives, study staff gathered information from 17 states about the administration of child care and welfare policies and programs, and about resource allocations. Within the 17 states, the study gathered information from agency staff and other key informants in 25 communities about the implementation of state and local policies and the influence of those policies and practices on the local child care market and on low income families. Information on states was collected three times: in 1999, 2001 and in 2002, and on communities four times over the same period to allow us to investigate change over time in policies and practices. (author abstract)