An Evaluability Assessment of Child Care Options for Work-Welfare Programs



April 1988

This report was prepared under contract #HHS-100-85-0004 between HHS's Office of Social Services Policy (now the Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy) and MAXIMUS, Inc. For additional information about this subject, you can visit the ASPE home page at The Project Officer was Sharon McGroder.


This report presents the results of an evaluability assessment of child care options for work-welfare programs. The project examined current work-welfare programs in selected states across the country and explored the evaluative issues regarding the role of child care in these programs.

This exploratory study was funded by the Office of Social Services Policy, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) under a task order contract to:

  • identify the relationship of child care practices, issues, and barriers to welfare reform and work-welfare programs in selected states; and
  • explore the linkages between Head Start programs and child care to supplement services to low income and AFDC families.

A review of current legislative proposals, discussions with federal and Congressional staff knowledgeable about work-welfare programs and welfare reform activities across the country, advocates for improved child care services, and examinations of child care support in several states, helped us identify the best practices, issues, and barriers in the states regarding the role of child care in work-welfare programs. Additionally, we talked with a number of Head Start grantees to determine the extent that Head Start could supplement child care services for work-welfare participants. Finally, we attempted to identify issues and directions for further study. The resulting topics may provide additional insight into the policy responses that may be required at state and federal levels regarding child care and welfare reform.

The study was grounded in the growing concern of federal and state staff, and advocates that the provision of adequate child care has become a critical factor in the states' and local jurisdictions' abilities to implement education, training, and employment programs for parents of low income families receiving public assistance. While, in general, mothers receiving AFDC have been exempt from participating in work-welfare programs if they have children under the age of six, these exemptions may not continue.

The federal government and many of the states have begun to take a look at lowering the minimum age for mandatory participation in work-welfare programs. This short-term evaluation attempted to obtain descriptive information on approaches employed by a select number of states to provide child care services for work-welfare participants, as well as looking briefly at the operations and funding configurations of innovative Head Start programs as one option to supplement child care services for low income parents.


A. Examination of Selected States with Work-Welfare Programs

To address the first objective of this study, current child care practices of selected states with work-welfare programs were examined. We looked specifically at the requirements of the programs in terms of participation and exemptions, support services available, and funding and other regulations associated with child care within the work-welfare environment. We also looked at states' perceptions concerning the potential impact of the federal legislative proposals on their current practices and resources needed to meet any new requirements.

In the first part of the information gathering tasks discussions were held with staff from nineteen states having some level of work-welfare activity, whether state supported work programs WIN Demonstrations, or other federally supported work programs. The following states were included.

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Washington

Eight state among these nineteen states have federal waivers to mandate participation of mothers with children under the age of six.

The nineteen states in this study provided a broad range of work-welfare programs, including comprehensive state programs, WIN Demonstrations, and basic WIN, CWEP and JTPA work programs. Within this broad work-welfare environment, the states also presented a wide variety of examples of child care approaches and options to support participants.

Half of the states have initiated special child care programs for work-welfare participants that are operated and funded separately from the general child care programs. Characteristic of these programs was the flexibility of participants to chose from a wide range of child care approaches: licensed/regulated or non-regulated care, center-based, family day care homes, or in-home care. Child care by relatives was a frequent arrangement note.

The remaining states provided child care for work-welfare participants through the general child care program primarily funded through a combination of state, SSBG, and other federal funding sources. In many states, child care is restricted to licensed/regulated facilities and child care by relatives is non-reimbursable. However, several of these states either had exemptions to licensed care or utilized funds not restricted to licensed care as a way of providing more flexible child care arrangements to work-welfare participants.

Transition assistance was considered by most states as a service critical to successfully moving welfare recipients into unsubsidized employment. All but one state currently provides transition assistance; however the benefits and periods of assistance vary greatly.

In examining the states' perceptions of the potential impact of the child care requirements contained in the federal legislative proposals under consideration, we were not surprised by the responses, particularly in the areas of mandated participation of mothers with children three and under, and regulated care. All agreed that any federally mandated changes would require significant fiscal and programmatic modifications to current child care components. These modifications translated into the need for additional funding and staff resources to develop new child care providers and to monitor for compliance.


B. Head Start as a Supplement to Child Care

The second part of the information gathering activity focused on discussions with 21 Head Start grantees operating full-day programs, which supplement the child care services required by low-income working parents participating in the program. These grantees offered a wide range of methods to meet the child care needs of low income families, including:

  • providing full-day services to children and their families through center-based care, family day care homes, or a combination of center-based and family day care homes, and
  • brokering or coordinating full-day services for clients within the community.

The grantees also employed a number of funding approaches to support the full-day services:

  • funding wholly by Head Start,
  • Title XX or State only funding, and
  • a combination of Head Start and Title XX/State funds.

Three of the grantees have participated in the planning of work-welfare programs in their counties. Their experience offers insight into issues concerning the provision of child care services to participants.


C. Directions for Further Investigation

The results of this evaluability assessment suggest that several areas require further investigation. The short-term nature of this study did not allow for extensive exploration of all the issues, nor have states had sufficient experience with certain services or approaches to provide definitive results. Examples of possible topics for further research include the following.

  • Investigation of the involvement of the child care community in planning for work-welfare implementation and the effect on resource availability and development.
  • Exploration of the impact of transition assistance on participants' abilities to successfully move into unsubsidized employment and off public assistance.
  • Investigation of the maximum rates for various types of care allowable by states compared with the rate ceilings established in the federal legislative proposals.
  • Investigation of an expanded sample of Head Start programs to determine the effort required to extend programs to serve work-welfare participants.

Volume II of this report provides summaries of the discussions with the states and grantees participating in the study.