This brief describes the child care needs of low-income parents seeking education and training, outlines opportunities for policymakers to revise their child care systems to conform to Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) reauthorization provisions, and highlights challenges states face when attempting to reduce barriers to education and training for low-income parents.

“Low-income, low-skilled parents can face particular challenges in getting the education and training they need to improve their employment and career path opportunities so they can better support their families. Key among these challenges is the difficulty they can face in finding and affording child care. Such families may be eligible for child care assistance from the nation’s primary child care assistance program, the federal Child Care and Development Fund…. However, program data and interviews with practitioners and policymakers across the country suggest that parents seeking education and training are less likely to get child care assistance than those needing it to support employment.

States must make trade-offs in choosing which low-income families will get assistance, and parents participating in education and training have often not been considered a high priority. As a result, child care assistance is not consistently available to help low-income parents improve their skills to support improved employment opportunities and career pathways that, in turn, would lead to higher-paying jobs that would support the healthy development of their children.... This reality undercuts the goals of both the workforce development system and the child care system, which focus on supporting low-income individuals’ ability to get and retain good-paying jobs” (p.1).

“This brief provides information on three areas:

  • Understanding the issues—a brief discussion of the child care needs of low-income parents seeking education and training and an overview of the key relevant provisions of the newly reauthorized CCDF and WIOA.
  • Key policy opportunities—a set of opportunities for policymakers seeking to better serve parents in education and training as states revise their child care systems to conform with CCDF reauthorization provisions.
  • Next steps—challenges and opportunities in a time of transition.

The strategies suggested in this brief reflect insights of the research team, gathered across [the authors] research efforts for the Bridging the Gap project, as well as work the authors have done with states in recent years to simplify their child care assistance systems and link programs through the Work Support Strategies project. These efforts have involved interviewing and working with policymakers and practitioners across the country, and thus the ideas presented here reflect their insights and experiences” (p.2-3).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The brief includes the following strategies, among others, to support low-income parents who are seeking education and training: • “Strategy 1. Establish Eligibility Policies That Recognize the Unique Needs and Realities of Parents Seeking Education and Training” (p.6). o “Remove eligibility barriers for parents seeking child care assistance to allow them to participate in education and training, and make them a higher priority for service” (p.6). o “Create incentives for parents to enroll in education and training programs that are linked to improved employment outcomes” (p.7). • “Strategy 2. Simplify Eligibility Determination, Verification, and Oversight Processes” (p.8). o “Consider borrowing from the model of the TANF program, in which parents’ enrollment in particular job activities (as defined by the state) makes them presumptively categorically eligible for child care subsidies“ (p.9). o “Develop communication mechanisms with major education and training providers…” (p.9) • “Strategy 3. Simplify the Process of Authorizing Amount of Care” (p.11). o “Consult with lead workforce development partners to identify common patterns of enrollment and common schedules for education and training activities, and ensure that authorization policies support parents’ ability to use these activities” (p.11). o “Work with education and training partners to identify simpler ways to authorize hours for workforce development activities, similar to the less complex full-time and part-time categories often used for authorizing care for employment purposes” (p.11). • “Strategy 4. Support Child Care Continuity and Stability by Avoiding Breaks in Service” (p.12). • “Strategy 5. Develop Stronger Consumer Education Strategies for Parents in Education and Training” (p.13). o “Develop targeted consumer education materials for parents with unusual scheduling challenges…” (p.13) o “Create partnerships between lead workforce development organizations and providers and state and local child care resource and referral agencies to provide enhanced resource and referral services to parents in workforce development activities” (p.13). o “Build relationships between local child care agencies and experts and individuals in workforce development organizations who provide client counseling, case management, or career navigation services…” (p.13). • “Strategy 6. Build the Supply of Care to Meet the Needs of Parents in Education and Training” (p. 13). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)