National Study of Child Care for Low-Income Families Care in the Home: A Description of Family Child Care and the Families and Children Who Use It: Wave 1 Report: Executive Summary

Published: April 15, 2006
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 seven-year research effort conducted in 17 states and 25 communities within those states. The study was 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. It looked at how states and communities implement 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. In addition, the study investigated the factors that shape the child care decisions of low-income families, and the role that child care subsidies play in those decisions. Finally, the study examined, in depth and over a period of 2½ years, a group of families that use various kinds of family child care and their child care providers, to develop a better understanding of the family child care environment and to what extent the care provided in that environment supports parents’ work-related needs and meets children’s needs for a safe, healthy and nurturing environment. This portion of the study involved multiple data collection efforts over a 2½-year period, making it possible to track changes in parental employment, subsidy status and child care arrangements over time.

This report presents findings from the first wave of data collection for the In-Depth Study of Family Child Care, a component of the National Study of Child Care for Low-Income Families. Its initial focus is on low-income parents with young children and their employment and child care experiences. The report presents profiles of the family child care providers used by these families, descriptions of their homes as child care environments and the experiences of individual children in the homes. Information for the report was gathered through in-person interviews with parents and providers and systematic observations in the care setting.

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2019