Policy Reform to Advance Equity in Illinois’ Child Care Subsidy Program

Policy Reform to Advance Equity in Illinois’ Child Care Subsidy Program

Study LogoEquitable access to subsidized child care is critical to the health and wellbeing of low- income families. This study applies an equity-focused lens to understanding the distributional implications of recent child care subsidy policy changes in Illinois on child care providers and low-income families. As a result of the 2014 reauthorization of the federal Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDGB), the primary federal source of child care assistance in the United States, significant changes were made to Illinois’ child care assistance program (CCAP) with the goal of improving access, quality, and stability of care. Two such changes include (1) new training requirements for home-based child care (HBCC) providers who serve subsidized families and (2) the extension of the eligibility period for families in the program from 6 to 12 months. Prior research suggests that training requirements on HBCC and extended eligibility may have differential impacts on different types of child care providers and may advantage some families over others. To insure equitable outcomes it is therefore particularly important to evaluate the impact that these policy changes on child care centers, licensed family child care homes, and license-exempt home-based providers, and on families with the most challenging child care needs: those who work nontraditional hours, live in communities underserved by centers, or require care for infants and toddlers, as well as those from diverse racial/ethnic groups and who are living in extreme poverty. These populations disproportionately use HBCC, the target of new training requirements, and are identified as priority populations in the 2014 law because they have been underserved historically by centers and by the child care assistance program.

The study addresses three research questions with corresponding empirical components:

  1. How are CCAP policy changes reflected in organizational practices and experienced by parent seeking and using subsidies? (Empirical components:  A. Case studies  B. Parent interviews  C. Provider interviews)
  2. Have policy changes to CCAP affected the composition of providers who serve subsidized families and provider duration on CCAP?  (Empirical component:  D. Statewide analysis of subsidized providers pre/post policy changes)
  3. Have policy changes to CCAP affected the composition of the caseload (e.g., low-income families who use CCAP) and the duration of subsidized families’ program participation? (Empirical component:  E. Statewide analysis of subsidized families pre/post policy changes F. Local analyses of caseload changes)

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this research is a collaboration between the University of Chicago and Illinois Action for Children; Co-Principal Investigators Julia Henly, PhD and David Alexander, PhD, with support from Robert Hughes, PhD, and Brenda Eastham of the Child Care Resource Service (CCRS).