How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Conclusions


Impact findings for child care differed according to the time period considered. Across the five-year follow-up, most programs showed impacts on mother's reliance on child care while leaving welfare because of earnings, and several programs showed impacts on use of transitional child care benefits. However, for recent child care use, there were few impacts. Fortunately, this pattern of very few impacts on concurrent measures of child care and supervision includes the measures of self-care and being only with a young peer or sibling. Unfortunately, there is no indication here of the possibly salutary influence of participation in after-school activities and lessons.(29)

For recent child care, it is primarily when going beyond traditional measures of child care that a pattern emerged. When asking about whom the child was with on a recent weekday afternoon, findings indicated a slight shift away from time with the mother and toward time with another adult in both Riverside programs. In the LFA program, this was accompanied by diminished participation in formal child care as the primary arrangement.

In sum, in most of the programs the picture that emerges is of intermittent or weak impacts, captured best by measures across time and considering more than one child in a family. Only in Portland were impacts apparent for a recent spell of employment, and only in Riverside was there evidence for the focal child of impacts occurring on type of care and nature of supervision at the time of the final follow-up.(30)

What do these findings indicate regarding child care as a support for employment in these welfare-to-work programs? The fact that child care impacts mirrored the broad pattern of employment findings, of cumulative effects rather than widespread effects at the time of the final follow-up, suggests that child care use was broadly coordinated with employment, and often functioning to enable employment. Families with an employed mother using child care tended to have out-of-pocket expenses for child care. Yet there were few impacts on the use of transitional child care benefits, and overall use of these benefits was fairly low and quite variable across sites. There are several possible interpretations of this finding, including the possibilities that restrictions on the type of care that could be subsidized with these benefits, limited outreach and information about them provided by caseworkers, or the short period (one year) in which benefits could be used after moving from welfare limited families' abilities to make use of these benefits. Also, it is important to note that across sites there were differences in the types of child care that were encouraged and facilitated. For example, staff members in Atlanta encouraged use of formal child care by reimbursing welfare recipients only for use of licensed or certified care. In contrast, staff in Riverside encouraged informal child care arrangements by emphasizing that welfare recipients should choose child care that they would be able to afford once they were no longer eligible for benefits.

What of child care as a context for children's development? The findings here cannot reflect on the critical issue of child care quality, but do provide a picture of the extent of children's exposure to child care, type of care, use of self-care, and exposure to after-school activities and lessons. Findings generally do not point to elevations in potentially harmful forms of care such as self-care or care by a young caregiver, though findings may suggest the need to continue to monitor this issue. At the same time, they do not point to systematic increases in the possibly beneficial environments of after-school activities and lessons or in use of formal child care arrangements. Rather, children appear to have received an elevated "dose" of child care over time in most programs, but as indicated in the measures of recent child care, this dose does not appear to have been large or sustained in most programs. However, in Riverside (as in Portland) a few findings point to more sustained child care impacts. Some findings in the Riverside LFA program also point to a shift away from formal child care arrangements and toward informal care that the mother may not describe as a child care arrangement. Chapter 12 returns to the possibility that this pattern of child care impacts may help to explain impacts on child outcomes, with a particular focus on findings in the Riverside site, where the impacts extended to current supervision and child care, as well as type of care.


1.  Child care benefits may have changed over time, particularly after the 1996 welfare reform and consolidation of child care funding into the Child Care and Development Fund. A thorough review of these changes by site is beyond the scope of this chapter. Moreover, many sample members may not have remained eligible for child care assistance after 1996 since they were off welfare and had been off for some time.

2.  Tout et al., 2001.

3.  Tout et al. document differences by income level in reasons for child care use by nonemployed mothers, with employment preparation activities playing a larger role for lower-income families.

4.  While some previous research suggests that participation in an organized after-school program can have favorable implications for the development of children in low-income families (Bos et al., 1999), these implications are likely to vary also by the quality of after-school care. The quality of child care arrangements has equally important implications for preschool-age children.

5.  All impacts on leaving welfare because of earnings, on using child care after leaving welfare because of earnings, and on using transitional child care benefits are experimental. That is, all sample members are included in the analyses.

6.  For ease of presentation, throughout this chapter child care during the most recent employment spell will simply be referred to as child care while employed.

7.  There are 13,726 children in the Five-Year Client Survey sample: the sample in four sites (Atlanta, Grand Rapids, Riverside, and Portland) for whom there are interviews as well as administrative data (see Chapter 2). Of these children, 6 percent were aged 2 or under at baseline (about 5 to 7 at follow-up), 25 percent were aged 3 to 5 at baseline (about 8 to 10 at follow-up), 22 percent were aged 6 to 9 at baseline (about 11 to 14 at follow-up), and 33 percent were aged 10 to 18 at baseline (about 15 to 23 at follow-up). Approximately 11 percent were born into the families participating in the client survey sample between baseline and the five-year follow-up and another 2 percent did not have their birthdays reported. For more information about the percentage of families containing children born after random assignment, see Chapter 9 of this report. Those who did not have their birthdays reported were included in the all-child analyses but excluded from analyses focusing on age subgroups. The child care measures linking child care and employment focus on children who were under age 13 at the time that the child care was used.

8.  See the discussion of control group exposure to new policies in Chapter 1.

9.  Tout et al., 2001.

10.  For example, findings from the 1997 National Survey of American Families indicate that 55 percent of children aged 6 to 9 and 35 percent of those aged 10 to 12 with employed mothers were in a supervised nonparental child care arrangement (Capizzano, Tout, and Adams, 2000).

11.  National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000.

12.  National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000; Vandell and Wolfe, 2000

13.  NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2000; see also U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1995. The NICHD findings suggest that extensive participation in formal child care arrangements may also simultaneously increase children's externalizing behavior problems.

14.  Zaslow et al., 1998; Zaslow et al., 1999b.

15.  In the analyses presented here, formal care included care in a day care center, before- or after-school care sponsored by a school or church, summer camp, a boys'/girls' club, YMCA/YWCA, or a lesson/activity. Informal care included care by the mother's spouse/partner, a relative, or a neighbor.

16.  Type of care is more appropriately studied through interview measures than quality of care, which is best studied through direct observation. The interview methodology of the NEWWS Evaluation thus better addresses the issue of type of care than quality of care. The lack of direct observation of child care quality is a clear limitation in this chapter.

17.  Capizzano, Tout, and Adams, 2000.

18.  Capizzano, Tout, and Adams, 2000.

19.  Bos et al., 1999

20.  See Chapter 1 for a discussion of these differences.

21.  The impact in the Grand Rapids HCD program on using child care after leaving welfare for earnings was significant at the p = .19 level.

22.  The impact on receipt of transitional child care benefits is significant at the p = 0.11 level for the Grand Rapids LFA program and at the p = 0.15 level for the HCD program.

23.  The total monthly out-of-pocket cost of child care was $225 ($114 divided by 0.507, or the proportion of the sample who used child care while employed) for program group members and $142 for control group members. This is a nonexperimental comparison.

24.  Although there were no impacts in the aggregate in Portland, there were increases in employment in the last quarter of year 5 and in full-time employment for families who had preschool-age and young school-age children at baseline.

25.  See Capizzano, Tout, and Adams, 2000.

26.  Results are summarized in terms of the number of half-hour periods (out of a possible 18) between 3 P.M. and midnight on the chosen weekday that a child was with someone or engaging in a particular care situation or activity. Where distributions were limited, results are summarized instead in terms of the proportion of children for whom this companion or activity was reported at all.

27.  See Appendix I.

28.  See Appendix I

29.  As noted above, while findings of one recent evaluation suggest that participation in after-school child care can be beneficial for children from low-income families, implications for children are likely to vary with the quality of care.

30.  The information collected in Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Riverside on child care and child activities on a recent weekday was not collected in Portland.