Child Care Subsidy Duration and Caseload Dynamics: A Multi-State Examination. Data

10/01/2014

The data analyzed for this report are from the ACF-801 child care subsidy administrative records.2 The ACF-801 data consist of monthly records submitted by state child care programs to HHS, and this analysis uses data from federal Fiscal Years 2004 through 2010 that are linked longitudinally by matching the Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of the family heads. The ACF-801 data include all families that received subsidies from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) including those funded through the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), those funded with transfers from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and those funded with state matching and maintenance of effort (MOE) funds related to the CCDBG. States also have the option of including families receiving subsidies from other funding sources such as the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), direct TANF3 funds, or state-funded sources, but not all states include these records in the ACF-801 data. Some states pool several child care subsidy funding sources and operate a single program, while other states operate separate child care subsidy programs. For example, some states administer separate subsidy programs for families receiving assistance or job training from the TANF program and states may or may not submit these records along with their ACF-801 data submissions.4

Some states report state-created unique case identifiers of the family heads instead of Social Security Numbers (SSN). A decision was made for this analysis to exclude the records that do not have SSNs for the heads of households since preliminary analysis of the data revealed that many of the non-SSN unique numbers appeared to be reported inconsistently across the months (or fiscal years) and their inclusion could bias the analysis. All SSNs were scrambled to protect the identity of the recipients.5

The 16 states that were excluded from the analysis are displayed in Table 1 by reason of omission. States that submitted samples instead of their full subsidy caseloads to HHS for some or all of the years examined were left  out because longitudinal analysis is not possible with incomplete data.6 The states of Connecticut and Florida submitted their full populations to HHS, but they were excluded because they did not submit the SSNs for the heads of household for some or all of the months in the period of time analyzed for this report.7 One complex issue encountered during the analysis was the presence of multiple records in the data with the same SSNs during the same months. Some of these cases appear to reflect transitions of families from one office or administrative process to another. For example, in some cases the multiple records appear to reflect redeterminations or transitions in and out of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program or changes in geographic locations. However, it appears that many of the multiple records are a result of misreporting and a decision was made to delete all families containing a duplicate SSN for any of the months in the analysis. The data submitted by Oregon, Mississippi, and Arkansas consisted of large numbers of duplicate SSNs and these states were omitted. After these exclusions, 35 states remained for analysis. Another challenge with examining data from states with different types of caseloads is that the states varied in the percentage of their caseloads that received care because they were in protective services. Since these children are likely to have different characteristics than other children they were excluded from the analysis.

Table 1. States Excluded from the Analysis by Reason

State Reason for Exclusion
Alaska State submitted a sample
Arkansas Data consisted of many duplicate SSNs
California State submitted a sample
Connecticut State did not include SSNs
Florida State did not include SSNs
Indiana State submitted a sample
Iowa State submitted a sample
Massachusetts State submitted a sample
Minnesota State submitted a sample
Mississippi Data consisted of many duplicate SSNs
New York State submitted a sample
North Carolina State submitted a sample
Oregon Data consisted of many duplicate SSNs
Pennsylvania State submitted a sample
Virginia State submitted a sample
Washington State submitted a sample

2 A sampled version of the ACF-801 data is available to the public on the Research Connections Web site http://www.researchconnections.org. For preservation of confidentiality, the public-use version does not include the unique identifiers needed to construct measures of child care subsidy duration.

3 States have the option of transferring TANF funds to the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) or spending the funds directly on child care subsidies. Funds spent directly on child care subsidies are sometimes called TANF-Direct funds and states have the option of including these families in their ACF-801 data submissions, but not all states do.

4 The majority of statistics released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adjust the caseload counts using a “pooling factor” to estimate the number of families funded by CCDF. These adjusted numbers are derived by multiplying the unadjusted caseloads reported on the ACF-801 data by the pooling factor. Since the data are not able to identify which families were funded by CCDF and which were funded by other funding sources, the data in this report are not adjusted with a pooling factor or re-weighted to align with any published caseload targets. Excluding the pooling factor does not alter the caseload characteristics or spell duration patterns at the state level, but does increase the size of the caseload reported.

5 One limitation of analyzing pseudo-SSNs is that the analysis was unable to exclude records that had invalid SSNs. Previous analysis has found that a small percentage of SSNs on the ACF-801 files were not valid, but the frequency of invalid SSNs was small and their inclusion in this analysis was not expected to significantly bias the results presented.

6 The states of Alaska, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania currently submit full populations to HHS but were excluded because they did not submit full samples for all of the years included for this analysis.

7 States are not required to collect Social Security Numbers and Lead Agencies need to make it clear to applicants that providing SSNs is optional. Despite these options, most states receive SSNs for the majority of their participants.

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