The Evaluation of the Tribal Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Initial Implementation Findings. Child Care Assistance


At most tribal sites (except for Cherokee), the lack of readily accessible child care is a major impediment to securing and retaining employment for WtW participants. Many sites do not have enough certified providers to serve the needs of WtW participants and others on the reservation. Obtaining child care can be especially difficult in Indian country because of such factors as the lack of public or other reliable transportation; large distances between the parent's home, the child care provider, and the place of employment; a harsh climate; and cultural factors. For example, reservation casinos (e.g., Cherokee, Red Lake, White Earth) often operate 24 hours each day, every day of the year, and many provide child care facilities that are open when the casino is open. However, many parents who have a shift that ends late at night or in the morning are reluctant to bring a child to the facility--wanting to avoid awakening the child and transporting the child home at such an hour, especially in the below-zero winter temperatures in an unreliable personal automobile or in a van operated by the casino. Another problem is that some states will not pay for child care provided by close relatives of the child. In contrast to other areas of the United States, it is common in Indian country for relatives to live near each other on tribal lands. In such circumstances, parents generally prefer that a close relative, often a grandparent, provide child care while the parent is working or performing activities required by the WtW, TANF, or other program. Where the state will not pay for such child care, an unintended effect of federally funded child care and development initiatives is to foster disincentives for the provision of child care by close relatives of children served by the TANF, WtW, and CCDF programs.

WtW programs typically look to TANF to pay for child care (including transitional care after the individual becomes employed). Because of the high cost of child care and budgetary constraints, WtW programs generally pay for child care only on an emergency basis or when an individual is just starting child care, until TANF payment can be arranged. Several tribal WtW programs, in conjunction with TANF or other tribal employment and training programs, have developed programs to train tribal members to become certified child care providers, then match these new providers with WtW participants in need of child care.