Many low-income Americans face challenges in the job market because of inadequate education and job skills, including almost three out of five low-income parents with a high school credential or less (Eyster, Callan, and Adams 2014). These people need additional education and training to help them gain better employment.
Low-income parents, however, face particular challenges enrolling in activities to improve their skills and education levels because of the lack of affordable, quality childcare (Adams, Spaulding, and Heller 2015). As a result, a lack of available childcare can be a major barrier for efforts to support improved employment prospects for low-wage and unemployed parents.
Local workforce development boards (LWDBs) set policies for and oversee a set of workforce programs and services funded under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). As such, they are the front line for low-income parents who need education and training, and they can play a critical role in helping parents address childcare barriers. Yet relatively little is known about how LWDBs address childcare needs.
The first phase involved a survey of local workforce boards (Spaulding and Gebrekristos 2018). This report builds on that survey with findings from semi-structured phone interviews with administrators from five LWDBs that are actively supporting the childcare needs of the parent clients they serve. The sites we interviewed were Larimer County Economic and Workforce Development in Colorado, CareerSource of Broward County in Florida, Northern Indiana Workforce Board, Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, and North Central SkillSource in Washington. For the sake of brevity, these programs are referred to as Larimer County, Broward County, Northern Indiana, Central Texas, and North Central Washington in this report.
The goal was to explore what these LWDBs do to address the childcare barriers faced by their clients to help other workforce boards interested in helping families facing childcare challenges.
Major Findings & Recommendations
Key insights into the role local workforce development boards (LWDBs) can play in meeting the childcare needs of their parent clients, and some of the challenges LWDBs face, include the following:
- Meeting the childcare needs of parent clients is central to LWDBs achieving their mission of helping clients overcome barriers to work, supporting their local workforce, and meeting the needs of employers.
- LWDBs can take steps to reduce childcare barriers for their clients by working with agencies administering Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds, actively seeking local partners, and using WIOA funds for supportive services to help address some childcare needs.
- Various LWDB administrative structures and approaches can support the childcare needs of parent clients. Some states build coordination and collaboration into their required approach for LWDBs at the state level, while other LWDBs take ownership of this issue at the local level.
Key findings of the core elements of administrative approaches include the following:
- Local leadership and vision is critical and can result in focused efforts for families in varied administrative contexts and using varied approaches.
- State leadership can be very helpful in facilitating the coordination of childcare and workforce development, but LWDBs can support the childcare needs of parents even in states that do not make this a priority.
- Partners play a central role in helping LWDBs meet the childcare needs of their parent clients, and LWDBs can identify and recruit a broad range of partners.
All five sites had a broad vision of the importance of childcare, understood the multi-faceted benefits of childcare across generations and how it fits their mission and discussed the role child care plays for employers and the economy. LWDBs can be strong allies in helping expand support for and awareness of the importance of childcare, to support not only work but the success of parents, families, the future workforce, and the economy.