The Request for Proposals for the National Study of Child Care Supply and Demand (NSCCSD) is both far‐reaching in the populations that are to be studied and deep in the early childhood care and education issues that need to be addressed. This is perhaps the case since a study of this kind has not been done in 20 years and because the early childhood field has become more complex with higher stakes for children and their parents. The scope of these services now includes both addressing the child care needs of employed parents or parents who are students and the developmental needs of children ages 0‐13.
Although both the federal and state governments have an interest in children of all socioeconomic levels, the primary public responsibility lies with low‐income families. The child care subsidy addresses the needs of low‐income families for purposes of entering and staying in the labor force, while the Head Start programs address the development and early learning needs of children from poor families. State Pre‐K programs have traditionally focused on children at‐risk of educational failure, but there has recently been an expansion of these programs to serve more children and, in some states, the intention is to be universal. For school‐age children, out‐of‐school¬time programs have proliferated. There is a perception that these programs are different from 20 years ago. The intention is for these out‐of‐school‐time programs to have a complementary role to the school day, as well as provide recreational opportunities for elementary school age children.
The intention of the NSCCSD is to understand families’ use of all of these programs in addition to the overlap of these programs within and across the organizations that provide them. The commingling of funds and resources is a new phenomenon that was not an issue 20 years ago. As poor families have been required to obtain or seek employment as a result of welfare reform, the dynamics of early childhood program use has changed as more parents move in and out of jobs and as more “universal” programs, such as pre‐K, Head Start and out‐of‐school time programs become available.