Extending Child Care Eligibility Increases Duration of Participation in Child Care

In 2014, Congress reauthorized The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act. This Act established a minimum 12-month period of eligibility for families who receive child care services through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). The CCDF provides grants to low-income families to obtain child care so parents can work or attend training/education. Before the passage of the Act, Illinois families could receive assistance for 6 months before having to apply for a decision as to whether they could obtain an extension and continue receiving the assistance (a process called redetermination). The reauthorization of the Child Care Development and Block Grant Act extended the time families could receive the assistance from 6 months to 12 months. The reauthorization included expanded child care subsidies, new training and monitoring systems for providers, and other new provisions.

Illinois is implementing three key policy changes in response to the reauthorization to improve low-income families’ access to high-quality child care. First, they extended the period after which eligibility must be redetermined from 6 months to 12 months. Second, Illinois will implement health and safety training for license-exempt CCDF care providers. Third, Illinois will monitor license-exempt providers.

This report focuses on preliminary findings related to the first policy change: extending the eligibility redetermination period from 6 months to 12 months.

What We Did

Researchers conducted an analysis to examine:

  1. Whether families automatically granted additional program eligibility, without having to apply, experienced longer periods of program participation
  2. Whether extending the redetermination period to 12 months led to children and families using fewer child care providers in a 12-month period
  3. Whether children had a consistent care provider for longer periods of time within the 12-month period

Researchers examined data on employment, household income, family size, child age, and receipt of child care services. These data came from a cohort of child subsidy recipients that, in 2014, had their eligibility automatically extended for 6 or more months without redetermination. This automatic extension occurred because of a change in computer systems. The change in systems meant that some recipients had an unintended 12-month eligibility period; they formed a treatment group. The treatment group was compared to a cohort of cases from exactly 1 year prior, who only had a 6-month eligibility period.

Researchers also conducted a literature review to gain a baseline understanding of the effect that policies related to eligibility for receiving subsidies have on the stability of child care arrangements.

What We Found

For the cohorts in this preliminary study, researchers found clear evidence of longer periods of child care receipt in the treatment group. The treatment group also had a higher proportion of cases lasting longer than 12 months. This did not vary based on provider type. In addition, the average number of providers a child experienced during the period of time receiving subsidies was the same, despite the difference in length of time receiving child care subsidies.

What It Means

The literature review found that extending the redetermination period from 6 months to 12 months has the potential to broadly impact the stability of child care for families receiving the subsidy. In addition, the similarity in the average number of providers a child experiences during their time receiving subsidies suggests that children in the treatment group had longer tenure with specific providers. Further research is needed to determine the effects of extending the redetermination period on parental employment, utilization rates of different types of care, the expected effects on specific recipient subgroups, and the implications for program budgets and administration.

This report covers preliminary work done to prepare for further analyses. Additional data will be used to identify the final study cohorts. Once the cohorts are finalized, researchers will link data from those cohorts to data from the population in this study. Future reports will examine:

  1. The effects of extending the redetermination period on the likelihood parents would be employed, on the length of their employment, and on their potential earnings
  2. Whether extending the redetermination period meant that families increased their use of subsidized center-based child care or licensed home-based child care relative to other forms of subsidized license-exempt care
  3. Whether, across specific subpopulations, the effects of the extended redetermination period on parental employment, continuity of care, and provide type vary
  4. How the policy change to 12-month determinations impacts the state budget
  5. If the policy change impacts access to subsidized care and creates waiting lists
CCDBG_Preliminary Report