Wednesday, 31 October 2012

‘You have to choose your childcare to fit your work’: Childcare decision-making among low-income working families

an article by Heather Sandstrom and Ajay Chaudry (Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population, Urban Institute, Washington, DC) Journal of Children and Poverty Volume 18 Issue 2 (2012)


Regardless of their economic background, most working parents face the task of arranging childcare at some point. The decision-making process they experience is often complex, and this complexity is intensified for particular groups of families with limited financial and social resources.

In this paper, we present findings from a three-year qualitative study of the childcare choices of low-income working families, many of whom were immigrants, had limited English proficiency, were parents of children with special needs, or represented some combination of these factors.

The study explored families’ current care arrangements, their reasons for selecting a particular form of childcare, and the characteristics of their ideal arrangements. Data were coded to identify themes in parental preferences, decision factors, and the barriers families faced in accessing their preferred care arrangements.

Most significantly, the parents studied described their preferences for an environment where their children could learn and be in the presence of caring and trustworthy caregivers. About a third of the families said they preferred relatives as caregivers, and selected relatives to provide childcare. Other parents selected care according to cost, location, and availability of the provider; they described the challenges of locating affordable, high-quality care that met their nonstandard schedules.

These findings have important implications for childcare policy.

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