by Brenda Ball Cuthbertson
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The welfare system in the United
States is embarking on a major transition. Aid to Families with Dependent Children
(AFDC), an entitlement program enabling low-income single mothers to stay home with
their children, has been replaced with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
(TANF), a time-limited benefit that requires parents to work or participate in work-related activities as a condition of aid receipt. If parents are to meet work requirements, they
must have access to child care services. Yet cost of care or an insufficient supply of
child care providers could limit child care accessibility. In this report, I evaluate Los
Angeles County’s plan to assist recipients in securing child care services.
Los Angeles County’s welfare plan operates under the California’s Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Act (CalWORKs). The CalWORKs legislation intends to improve access to child care by offering direct payments to child care providers on behalf of recipients. Since reimbursement rates vary by the type of provider selected, it is necessary to anticipate the type of care that parents will select in order to secure sufficient funding for subsidies. Types of care include licensed centers, licensed family day care, and exempt care – care provided by a friend, relative, or other person who is exempt from licensing. The state and county disagree over the amount of funds necessary to cover the cost of subsidies in year one. My investigation suggests that the state underestimated the amount required because they failed to consider changes in policy that would lead more parents to rely on licensed care.
Calculating the sufficiency of
child care providers has proven to be an arduous task for planners due to the immeasurable
presence of exempt care. Identifying the percentage of recipients likely to rely on
licensed care and comparing those estimates to known licensed supply, reduces the need
to assess exempt care. Focusing on licensed care is reasonable since planners and
policy makers have little control over the amount or development of exempt care.
Using data on AFDC recipients in California, I identify the types of child care parents have traditionally used and consider policy changes that may increase licensed care use. I find that greater hours of work and access to child care subsidies expand the use of licensed care. Based on my findings and other relevant research, I set high and low licensed care demand estimates to evaluate current funding and supply provisions. To target development funds where they are most needed I first compare the number of Calworks children expected to seek licensed care to the available licensed care slots within zip code areas and then note differences in demand for licensed care among different ethnic groups or among children of varying age.
Recommendations for Action
Address the funding shortage
Address supply shortage