Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Child Care


Since the transition from welfare to work is a major goal of many states welfare programs, the need for child care among TANF leavers is an important consideration. Child care subsidies are generally available to employed TANF leavers, depending on their income level. Actual receipt of these subsidies is influenced by the type of care arrangement leavers use, their knowledge about and eligibility for subsidies, and the ease with which subsidies can be accessed. Concerns about the quality of care given to children of working TANF leavers are also important, although unfortunately measures of child care quality are generally beyond the scope of the surveys conducted. 47

Results for eight studies are shown in Table VII.4. Four of these studies report results for employed leavers and four report results for all leavers.48 Most studies report results by age of child, as the child care needs of school aged children differ from those of younger children.

Table VII.4:
Child Care Arrangements of Employed Single-Parent Leavers: Survey Data

Type of Care

IL1,2 MO IA2 WA1
<6 6-12 <6 6-13 <13 <13

Employed Leavers

Uses non-parental child care

93 90 75 40 78 82

Type of Arrangement for those using child care

Relatives/ Siblings

58 59 41 42 65 41

Friends/ Neighbors

9 12 13 11 6  

Center/ Afterschool care/ Church or club

12 8 26 36 4 14 23

Preschool/ Head Start

2   3   4  

Family Day Care/ Babysitter In-home

15 16 18 8 35 13


5 5     1 24 5

 Type of Care

AZ2 SC6 GA Bay Area
<6 6-12 <6 6-12 <12 <13

All Leavers

Uses non-parental child care

53 35 62 26    
Type of Arrangement for those using child care

Relatives/ Siblings

57 3 43 3 42 29 25 54

Friends/ Neighbors

      13 3  

Center/ Afterschool care/ Church or club

25 30 44 50 4   30

Preschool/ Head Start

11 23 7 2   47 3

Family Day Care/ Babysitter In-home

8 4 6 7 47  


      2 4 8  
1Study reports of type of arrangement are recalculated to reflect percentage of families using non-parental child care.
2State reports results for leavers in work, job search, education, or training. Illinois reports results for all leavers, not just single-parents.
3Includes friends and relatives.
4Includes school sponsored programs.
5Other includes mutliple arrangements, preschool/Head Start, child self-care, employer-sponsored care and unspecified care.
6Results are for families that remain off of welfare at the time of the survey. Results are reported for "pre school" and "school age" children.
7Includes school.
8Represents child stays alone.
Source: See Appendix B for a complete listing of the leavers studies referenced.

Child Care Arrangements. A substantial percentage of families do not have a child care arrangement, other than parent care or regular schooling. The percentage of leaver families with children under age 6 using non-parental child care ranges from 53 percent in Arizona (among all leavers) to 93 percent in Illinois (among employed leavers). The percentage with school-age children using non-parental child care is generally lower. Arizona, Missouri, and South Carolina report that 35, 40, and 26 percent of older children, respectively, have a non-parental child care arrangement.49 Illinois has by far the largest percentage of leavers with children ages 6 to 12 using a non-parental arrangement, 90 percent.

 Differences in the use of non-parental care across studies are, in part, due to the different categorizations of care used in each study. While most states directly ask about use of non-parental care, Illinois asked all families who were working, in training, education, or job search activities how they cared for their children. Families who responded no one or spouse/partner are categorized in this report as non-parental care. Georgia asked all families with children under age 12 about child care arrangements; however, their results do not allow us to separately report use of non-parental care. The Bay Area study asked all families with children under 14 if they used a non-parental care arrangement, but did not report the percentage that was only using parental care.

There are a number of similarities in the types of non-parental care used.50 In all of the studies except Georgia and South Carolina, relatives and siblings are by far the most common source of care for pre-school and school age children. The rate of relative/sibling care reported in these studies ranges from 41 percent for pre-schoolers in Missouri to 65 percent for all children under fourteen in Iowa. Leavers in South Carolina are equally likely to use relative/sibling care and center-based care for pre-school children (about 40 percent each). However, for school age children, the share of families using relative/sibling care in South Carolina drops to 29 percent. This latter figure may be among the lowest across the studies because it is the only study to include all school age children, even those older than 13 or 14. Georgia reports the lowest rate of relative/sibling care at 25 percent, despite including parental care in this category. In fact, all of Georgias child care numbers are very different from the other studies.51

The next two most common types of child care arrangements after relative/sibling care are center based care (including after school care, churches, and clubs mainly relevant for older children) and family day care/babysitter care in the home. Arizona, Missouri, Washington, and the Bay Area find center care to be the second most common type of arrangement, while Illinois and Iowa find greater use of family day care/babysitters.

   Paying for Child Care. Paying for child care is a critical issue for families leaving TANF for employment. Costs of child care and child care subsidies can affect, and often determine, the choice of arrangements. Three studies report the percentage of employed leavers with child care arrangements who reported paying for child care. Three additional studies report such percentages for all leavers. The percentage of families paying for child care for at least one child varies from 23 percent of all leavers in the Bay Area study to 61 percent of employed leavers in Massachusetts and South Carolina (see Table VII.5). Illinois and Missouri report that the percentage of families paying for child care varies with the age of the child, although the two patterns are not consistent across these studies.

Table VII.5:
Single-Parent Leavers Paying for Child Care: Survey Data

State/ Study

Percent of Leavers with Childcare Arrangements Paying for Care Percent of Leavers Using Subsidies Average Monthly Costs for Families Making Payments

Employed Leavers

District of Columbia1

  5/3 2  

Illinois 1,3

44 17 $211

Iowa 3

55 17 $244


61 43 $165


40 14/36 4 $277

Children <5

38   $221

Children 6-13

46   $171

South Carolina1,5

61 26  

All Leavers


  15 6  



Bay Area

23 24 7  

1Results are for all cases, not just single-parents.
2Percent of employed leavers receiving assistance from welfare office is 5%; receiving assistance from other private sources is 3%.
3Percentage includes those working as well as those in job search, education, or training.
436% have used subsidies at some point since exit.
5Results are for families that remain off of welfare at the time of the survey.
6Percentage is from administrative data for 1st quarter after exit.
7Percent receiving government subsidized child care at exit.
Source: See Appendix B for a complete listing of the leavers studies referenced.

Another issue related to cost of child care for working leavers is their use of government child care subsidies. Six studies report use of subsidies by employed leavers and three studies report use among all leavers. The range in the percentage of families using this type of assistance varies from about 5 percent in DC to 43 percent in Massachusetts. Most studies find 15 to 25 percent of employed leavers are using child care subsidies. The studies examining all leavers find similar results. One potential explanation for this low utilization is that many families do not have a non-parental child care arrangement, and generally less than half of families who have an arrangement pay their providers for care. However, it is also possible that some leavers either do not know they could obtain these subsidies, are ineligible for subsidies, or that the subsidies are difficult to use.

Finally, four studies report the average monthly costs for child care among families paying for care. The average monthly out-of-pocket cost ranges from $165 in Massachusetts to $277 in Missouri. Missouri also reports on cost by age of child, showing that costs for young children (under age 5) are lower than for older children (ages 6 to 13), $221 compared to $171. These cost data do not distinguish between those paying the full cost of care and those making co-payments for subsidized care.