For most families, the process of finding and paying for child care is challenging, particularly for families with low incomes. Families often turn to friends, family members, or the internet to find recommendations about child care options. Characteristics of families – their work schedules, transportation availability, geographic location, income, composition, and ages of their children – and the local supply of child care can all influence their child care search and decision. Access to information about child care and early education options can provide a critical support for families as they engage in the search process.
Consumer education can help raise families’ awareness about the range of early care and education (ECE) options available; let them know about the availability of financial assistance for child care or about local, public programs available at no cost (i.e. Early Head Start/Head Start and public prekindergarten); and inform families about what influences the quality of child care (e.g. the role of licensing and the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)). As a result of recent policy changes to the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), the federal program that offers guidance and funds to states, territories, and tribes to administer child care subsidies for families with low incomes, states have created consumer education websites to help parents make informed choices about ECE options.
This brief is part of the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) project. CCEEPRA supports policy and program planning and decision-making with rigorous, research-based information.
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