Initial Synthesis Report of the Findings from ASPE's "Leavers" Grants. VII. Child Care


With work as a major goal of many states' welfare programs, the need for child care is an important consideration. Child care subsidies are generally available to employed TANF leavers, depending on income. However, use of subsidies depends on the type of care arrangement being used, knowledge of availability and eligibility for subsidies, and ease or difficulty of obtaining and using them. Concerns about the quality of care being received by children of working TANF leavers are also important, although related measures are generally beyond the scope of the surveys conducted.

Three surveys asked about the type of child care arrangements employed leavers use.(25) Since type of care differs by age group, particularly pre-school age, and post-school age, some studies show their results by age of child (table VII.1). A substantial percentage of families do not have a child care arrangement, other than a parent or regular schooling. The percentage is higher for older children: Illinois reports 64 percent of working families with children over 12 have no arrangement. Missouri reports 60 percent of working families with school-age children 6 to 13 have no child care, while Washington and Illinois report lower rates of 10 percent and 18 percent (for all children less than 13), respectively. The differences in rates across types of care could in part be due to the different categorizations of care made in each study. Missouri has higher rates of no child care, but lower rates of relative or sibling care than the other states.


Child Care Arrangements of Employed Leavers: Survey Data
Type of Care  State and Age of Children (%)
Illinois Missouri1 Washington2
<6 6-12 >12 <5 6-13 <13
No Child Care Arrangement2 7 10 64 25 60 18
Relatives/ Siblings 54 53 21 31 18 34
Friends/ Neighbors 8 11 7 10 4 n.a.
Center/ Afterschool care/ Church or club 11 7 3 19 15 19
Preschool/ Head Start 2 n.a. n.a. 2 n.a. n.a.
Family Day Care/ Babysitter In-home3 14 14 n.a. 14 3 11
Other5 4 5 6 n.a. n.a. 20 4
1 Missouri reports numbers for those with arrangements.  Calculations were made to convert numbers to be out of all employed leavers.
2 Single-parent cases.
3 Includes those with no caregiver other than parents or regular school.
4 Family day care and babysitter in-home are combined because several surveys did not ask separately about each type.
5 Other includes multiple arrangements, preschool/ Head Start, Child self-care, employer-sponsored care, and unspecified care in Washington.
Source: See Appendix B for a complete listing of the leavers studies referenced.

The percentage of working families using relative or sibling care is very high. In Illinois, for children under 6 and 6 to 12, the rates of this type of care are over 50 percent. For younger children in Missouri and Washington, the rates are around a third of working leavers. While some families pay relatives for care, this type of arrangement probably includes less paid care than the remaining categories. Among the other types of care used, the most used for pre-school children are center care and family day care or babysitter in the home.

Paying for child care is a critical issue for families leaving TANF for employment. Costs of child care can affect choice of arrangement. Two studies reported the percentage of employed leavers with child care arrangements who reported paying for child care. In Illinois and Missouri the share paying for child care are 44 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Both report this percentage varies with the age of the child.

At least in these two states, the percentage of leavers who might take up child care subsidies is a smaller subset of all leavers, those who have a child care arrangement and are paying for care. Given that many families have no child care arrangement, and less than half of families who have an arrangement are paying for care, it is not surprising that relatively small percentages of leaver families report using child care subsidies. This percentage varies from a low of 5.0 percent of working leavers with children in the District of Columbia to a high of 20 percent of all leavers in Washington.(26) Whether low usage of subsidies is the result of not needing these benefits, or simply not using them results from lack of knowledge of eligibility or difficulty in using them is not known.


Table VII.2:
Employed Leavers Paying for Child Care:
Survey Data
State/ Study Percent of Employed Leavers
with Childcare Arrangements
Paying for Care
Percent of Employed
Leavers Using Subsidies
Average Monthly Costs1
Arizona2 n.a. 15 3 n.a.
District of Columbia n.a. 5/3 4 n.a.
Illinois 44 4 17 5 $211
Children <6 32 n.a. n.a.
Children 6-12 22 n.a. n.a.
Children >12 3 n.a. n.a.
Missouri 40 14/36 6 $277
Children <5 38 n.a. $221
Children 6-13 46 n.a. $171
Washington2 n.a. 20 7 n.a.
1 Families' reports of payments for childcare, among those making payments.
2 Single-parent cases.
3 Percentage is from administrative data for 1st quarter after exit, and includes all leavers, not only employed leavers.
4 Percent of employed leavers receiving assistance from welfare office is 5.0%; receiving assistance from other private sources is 2.5%.
5 Percentage includes those working as well as those in job search, education, or training.
6 14% using subsidies at time of survey, 26-34 months after exit and 36% have used subsidies at some point since exit.
7 Percent of all leavers using subsidies at time of survey, 6-8 months after exit.
Source: See Appendix B for a complete listing of the leavers studies referenced.