Child Care Utilization in Maryland During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodSep 24 2021

This research brief provides a summary of findings from a survey of parents in Maryland conducted in the fall of 2020 to examine child care needs, access, continuity, and costs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was distributed to families receiving child care scholarships[1] and to families with children enrolled in licensed child care in Maryland.

Continuity of care is defined in this project as receiving care from the same child care provider before and during the COVID-19 pandemic for young children (ages 0-5), or in the summer and fall of 2020 for school-age children. Continuity of care is important to understand because it is associated with positive experiences and outcomes for children, such as more child-caregiver interactions, more secure attachment relationships, fewer behavior problems, and smoother developmental progress.[i] [ii] Continuity of care is also associated with decreased stress on parents and caregivers and with stronger family-caregiver relationships.[ii]

Key Continuity of Care Findings:

  • Most children were able to stay with their primary caregiver during the pandemic.
  • Continuity of care was higher among families that received a child care scholarship than among families that did not. This was true for families with young children (ages 0-5) and families with school-age children.
  • Among young children in households that did not receive a child care scholarship, continuity of care varied by race and ethnicity. Racial differences in continuity of care persisted within a sample of respondents in households with an income less than $50,000.
    • Among all respondents who did not receive a scholarship:
      • A lower percentage of children with Hispanic/Latino parents (45%) remained in care with the same provider during the pandemic than children with Black (63%), White (74%) and multiracial (68%) parents.
      • A higher percentage of children with Hispanic/Latino parents (26%) were receiving care from a new provider during the pandemic than children with White parents (18%) and children with Black parents (12%).
      • A higher percentage of children with Hispanic/Latino (29%) and Black (26%) parents were not in care at the time of the survey than children with multiracial (10%) or White (8%) parents.
    • Among respondents with household incomes less than $50,000 but who did not receive a child care scholarship, children with White parents (71%) remained with the same child care provider during the pandemic at higher rates than children with Black (55%), Hispanic/Latino (44%), or multiracial (40%) parents.

Key Cost of Care Findings:

  • For most young children who were still cared for by the same primary care provider, child care expenses stayed the same during the pandemic as they were before the pandemic.
  • Two-thirds of respondents who received a child care scholarship reported that the scholarship did not sufficiently cover school-age care expenses during the school day.
  • More than 2 out of 3 Black, Hispanic/Latino, and multiracial parents reported that out-of-pocket fees for school-age care were not affordable, compared to about 2 out of 5 White parents. Racial disparities in reporting that out-of-pocket costs for school-age child care were not affordable were also evident when examined among only those with a household income less than $50,000.

This brief begins with context related to the provision and receipt of child care during the COVID-19 pandemic and outlines challenges faced by parents and child care providers, as well as policies put in place to support child care. Next, we provide an overview of the survey from which data were obtained, followed by findings related to respondent characteristics, continuity of child care, and cost of child care. Finally, we discuss findings in terms of their implications for policy and practice in Maryland.

Child Trends prepared this research brief as part of the Maryland Child Care Policy Research Partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education, which is funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (Grant # 90YE0220-01-00).


[1] Maryland refers to child care subsidies funded through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) as child care scholarships.


[i] Ruprecht, K., Elicker, J., & Young Choi, J. (2016). Continuity of care, caregiver-child interactions, and toddler social competence and problem behaviors. Early Education and Development, 27(2), 221-239.

[ii] McMullen, M. B. (2017). Continuity of care with infants and toddlers. Infants and Toddlers Exchange, January/February 2017, 46-50.