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HHS Information Self Sufficiency Bulletin

Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together: Finding innovative, Affordable Child Care Options for Low Income Families

Overview:  When welfare reform was enacted in the mid 1990s, it had a profound impact not just on consumers but also on social service providers, including Community Action Agencies, that provide services to them. Community Action Agencies had to adapt to greatly expand many support services such as child care. Many states used their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant dollars, while others used a variety of child care subsidy programs to meet this vital and growing need for low and moderate income working parents.

Some agencies served as child care brokers, others opened for-profit daycare centers, while still others tried to blend their existing Head Start programs with childcare to expand their service delivery network. This report will seek to give an overview of the some, but by no means all, of the innovative approaches that many agencies have used around the country to serve their low income customers. The Community Services network is a peer learning network that appreciate examples from its fellow agencies.  

In the state of Kentucky and many other states across the country, community action agencies providing services to low-income families continuously find parents expressing their needs of accessing affordable and reliable child care.  Although some community action agencies currently do not operate child care programs, they all recognize the need.  In a survey of welfare recipients who left the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Kentucky after 1996, the number one need of the families identified was access to affordable child care.  If working parents could not provide for child care, then they couldn’t work.  The high cost of day care remains a burden for many families and depending on the wage they earn, this may add to their existing burden.

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