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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: Speirs, Katherine E.; Vesely, Colleen K.; Roy, Kevin
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2015

    Recent research has drawn attention to the deleterious effects of instability on child development. In particular, child care instability may make it hard for children to form secure attachments to their care providers which may have a negative impact on their development and school readiness. These effects seem to be heightened for low-income children and families. However, there remains a lack of clarity regarding how and why low-income mothers make changes to their child care arrangements. Using ethnographic data from Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three City Study, this study explored 36 low-income mothers' experiences of child care instability and stability and the factors that promoted each. We identified four kinds of child care transitions: planned, averted, failed, and forced. Financial resources, transportation and the availability of care during the hours that mothers work were important for helping mothers find and maintain preferred care arrangements. Our findings have implications for research on child care instability as well as the development of policy and...

    Recent research has drawn attention to the deleterious effects of instability on child development. In particular, child care instability may make it hard for children to form secure attachments to their care providers which may have a negative impact on their development and school readiness. These effects seem to be heightened for low-income children and families. However, there remains a lack of clarity regarding how and why low-income mothers make changes to their child care arrangements. Using ethnographic data from Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three City Study, this study explored 36 low-income mothers' experiences of child care instability and stability and the factors that promoted each. We identified four kinds of child care transitions: planned, averted, failed, and forced. Financial resources, transportation and the availability of care during the hours that mothers work were important for helping mothers find and maintain preferred care arrangements. Our findings have implications for research on child care instability as well as the development of policy and programs to help low-income families secure high quality child care and maintain stable employment. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Lowe, Edward D. ; Weisner, Thomas S. ; Geis, Sonya
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2003

    Background
    Unstable child care arrangements can lead to negative consequences both for parents’ employment and for children’s well-being, particularly among families already struggling with low incomes and variable work schedules. This paper draws upon longitudinal ethnographic information from a sample of 44 working poor families who participated in the New Hope Demonstration, an experimental intervention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that provided a monthly earnings supplement, child care vouchers, and health care coverage to low-income parents if the parent worked 30 or more hours a week. The families in this study are representative of a much larger sample of families who participated in the New Hope antipoverty program. The paper examines three questions: (1) How much change and instability in child care arrangements do the families in our sample experience? (2) What features of everyday family life, and the family cultural ecology, are generally associated with change and instability? (3) How do subsidy programs available to these families like New Hope and...

    Background
    Unstable child care arrangements can lead to negative consequences both for parents’ employment and for children’s well-being, particularly among families already struggling with low incomes and variable work schedules. This paper draws upon longitudinal ethnographic information from a sample of 44 working poor families who participated in the New Hope Demonstration, an experimental intervention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that provided a monthly earnings supplement, child care vouchers, and health care coverage to low-income parents if the parent worked 30 or more hours a week. The families in this study are representative of a much larger sample of families who participated in the New Hope antipoverty program. The paper examines three questions: (1) How much change and instability in child care arrangements do the families in our sample experience? (2) What features of everyday family life, and the family cultural ecology, are generally associated with change and instability? (3) How do subsidy programs available to these families like New Hope and Wisconsin Works, the state’s welfare reform initiative, promote or reduce stability of child care over time?

    Key Findings
    -Changing child care arrangements were pervasive, with 84 percent of sample families experiencing a change at least once in the two years of follow-up. Most importantly, between about one-third and one-half of families experienced unplanned changes in child care arrangements during the follow-up period.

    -Shifts in the family cultural ecology were the most important influence on stability in child care, including, in order of importance:

    - Stability of work and job circumstances or in the household’s social supports;

    – Assistance and stability of informal care providers;

    – The adequacy of material and social resources, including child care subsidies;

    – Consensus or conflict among family members regarding child care;

    – The congruence between available child care and parents’ beliefs, goals, and values. 

    Families’ descriptions of the difficulties they face meeting current child care subsidy rules and administrative hurdles suggest that modifications in the subsidy systems could render them more effective in assisting low-income working families.

    Conclusions and Implications:
    The level of child care instability observed in this paper raises concerns. This ethnographic study extends what has been learned from previous research on child care instability by providing insight into the complex underlying reasons that account for the observed high levels of instability. The structure of subsidy policies could help mitigate some of the reasons for unplanned child care instability uncovered here. For example, child care support tied exclusively to work or income levels can lead to more instability since work is unstable in many cases. Establishing a family’s child care eligibility annually (as opposed to basing eligibility on current work effort, for example) would ensure that a child could remain in the same program for longer periods of time. These periods could be tied to school year cycles, for instance. Based on how parents talked about child care subsidies and how they responded to the current structure of the system, it is likely that, if child care supports were more stable and certain, the benefits of using child care subsidies would increase and the families’ ability to sustain their routines would improve. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Knox, Virginia W.; London, Andrew S.; Scott, Ellen
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2003

    As policymakers debate proposals that affect families’ access to child care, they are keenly aware that the system of early education and care must support both parents’ employment goals and children’s developmental needs. But how does the pursuit of these two goals actually play out in the lives of very low-income families in disadvantaged neighborhoods? Examining the work and child care patterns of families who participated in two recent ethnographic studies provides new perspectives on three ways in which policymakers typically view these issues.

    First, policy discussions often divide the child care system into formal care, which in these studies encompasses care that is provided in a day care center or a licensed or certified family day care home, and informal care, which refers to minimally regulated care provided by relatives or neighbors, either in or out of the child’s home. But the ethnographic studies suggest that discussions organized around these distinctions may miss the complex blending of arrangements used by many low-income families. When families in these...

    As policymakers debate proposals that affect families’ access to child care, they are keenly aware that the system of early education and care must support both parents’ employment goals and children’s developmental needs. But how does the pursuit of these two goals actually play out in the lives of very low-income families in disadvantaged neighborhoods? Examining the work and child care patterns of families who participated in two recent ethnographic studies provides new perspectives on three ways in which policymakers typically view these issues.

    First, policy discussions often divide the child care system into formal care, which in these studies encompasses care that is provided in a day care center or a licensed or certified family day care home, and informal care, which refers to minimally regulated care provided by relatives or neighbors, either in or out of the child’s home. But the ethnographic studies suggest that discussions organized around these distinctions may miss the complex blending of arrangements used by many low-income families. When families in these studies did use formal care, it was almost always part of a larger patchwork that included informal situations. Moreover, informal care dominated many blended arrangements and was often used exclusively. Thus, for policy to truly reflect the daily experiences of low-income children, policymakers and advocates concerned with quality of care and child development need to focus on formal care, informal care, and how these forms of care are typically combined in the daily lives of low-income children.

    Second, current subsidy policy emphasizes the goal of enabling parents to choose the care arrangements that best suit their families. In reality, the control that families in these studies had over their choices was highly circumscribed by their limited money, by the sparse care options of their low-resource neighborhoods, and by the inflexibility of their role as employees. Parents ranked their children’s well-being as their top priority, and many said they would leave jobs if their children were ever placed at risk. Nevertheless, they rarely were seen taking this step unless their child care arrangements collapsed completely. Instead, they often resigned themselves to leaving their children in situations they knew were far from ideal.

    Third, the ethnographic interviews highlight a hidden but significant cost of care for low-income single parents — the enormous logistical effort required to keep arrangements intact. This level of effort may, in fact, both conflict with the requirements of parents’ jobs and reduce the amount of attention parents can devote to their children. Moreover, it may prevent parents from applying for and utilizing child care subsidies, because, even though the cost of child care was a primary concern, seeking and maintaining subsidies often seemed to require considerable time and effort.

    To further describe the realities the studies document for these families, this policy brief considers three issues in greater detail: why parents resorted to patchwork and informal care; parents’ experiences with subsidies; and the extent to which their arrangements met minimal standards of health, safety, and predictability. (author abstract)