National Study of Child Care for Low-Income Families Care in the Home: A Description of Family Child Care and the Experiences of the Families and Children Who Use It: Executive Summary

Published: September 15, 2007
Child Care
National Study of Child Care of Low-Income Families, 1997-2007 | Learn more about this project

The National Study of Child Care for Low-Income Families was a ten-year research effort designed to provide federal, state and local policy makers with information on the effects of federal, state and local policies and programs on child care at the community level, and on 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 in the U.S. Department in 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; how these policies change over time; and how these policies, as well as other factors, affect the type, amount, and cost of care in communities. For this component of the study, staff gathered information from key informants in 17 states and 25 communities within those states. 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. A one-time survey of low-income parents in the 25 study communities provided information on these topics.

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. Conducted in five of the 25 communities, the study involved multiple data collection efforts that allowed us to track changes in parental employment, subsidy status and the child care arrangements over time of a focus child in the family, chosen at random. Information was gathered through in-person interviews with parents and providers and systematic observations in the care setting.

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2019