Chicago Latino Communities Face Limited Supply and Other Barriers to Accessing Child Care to Meet Their Needs

Despite a large body of research on parents’ child care use, preferences, and decision making, there are few studies that focus specifically on Latino families. Latino families in Illinois have limited childcare options; 86% live in childcare deserts. This study explores how Latino families living in predominantly Latino communities in Chicago make childcare decisions relative to the density of formal care options in their communities. The study results provide policymakers, community organizations, childcare providers, and families with important information to guide their efforts to improve the childcare landscape in predominantly Latino communities.

What We Did

We conducted 32 in-depth interviews with mothers of young children from two predominantly Latino communities in Chicago: Belmont Cragin and Little Village. The communities differ in their supply of formal childcare options. We also partnered with two community-based organizations in each community (Northwest Side Housing Center and Enlace Chicago), and interviewed eight center-based directors to inform, guide, and contextualize our parent interviews. Our analysis and interpretation of the interview data was informed by two co-interpretation meetings with community members.

What We Found

Despite differences in formal childcare density between the Belmont Cragin and Little Village samples, we did not find differences in their utilization of child care. Moreover, our findings suggest that Latino families in both communities face barriers to accessing and using formal childcare options:

  • Despite differences in formal childcare density, mothers in both communities perceived a limited supply of formal childcare options.
  • Mothers learned about childcare arrangements in their communities from a variety of sources. These included social networks, direct observation, and the internet.
  • Mothers considered a number of factors when making decisions about whether to use child care and what kind of care to use. These factors included logistical issues, safety and quality concerns, and specific children’s needs.
  • Childcare decisions are often embedded in family decisions about paid employment and parenting roles.
  • Grandmothers and spouses/partners are influential in the childcare decision-making process.

What It Means

Supply of formal child care is only one factor that affects Latino families’ childcare decision making. Our study identified a number of barriers to child care associated with lack of information, cost, and complex eligibility requirements of public programs. This report offers a number of recommendations to improve information and communication in order to (1) better inform parents about available options and (2) address some of the many system- and program-level barriers to enrollment for Latino families. We recommend that the City of Chicago continue to strive to provide more options in these and other communities with limited childcare options. In particular, we recommend providing universal pre-K in both school-based and community-based programs. Additionally, the City should aim to extend universal childcare goals to reach infants and toddlers, and increase supply for other underserved groups, including Latino families.

Recommended Citation
Pacheco-Applegate, A., Carreon, E. D., Ellis, E., Thomas, W. C., Henly, J. R., Spielberger, J., & Ybarra, M. (2020). Finding child care in two Chicago communities: The voices of Latina mothers. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.
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