The Child Care Dilemma: An Overview

Source: Sarah Smith, Elizabeth Whitehouse, Council of State Governments, The Current State, Issue: 81, October 17, 2016

Affordable, high-quality and accessible child care is a challenge for many American families. CSG examines the balancing act familiar to many families in the United States–managing work and child care–and how states are working in conjunction with the federal government to improve the process for all families with young children.

Child care is an interdisciplinary policy issue touching education, health, workforce development and economic development. While studies show that early childhood education is important to cognitive development, programs can be relatively expensive, especially for low-income households. Oftentimes, families must make difficult choices between work and reliable child care. In this brief, we look at the demographics of families with children, the legislative landscape for the provision and regulation of child care, and the kinds of care that are available across the country.

Subsequent briefs will explore:
Affordability. How much does child care cost in each state, before and after subsidies?
Availability and Access. How many slots are available per child in each state, and how can families find quality options?
Quality. How are states managing certification requirements, assessing quality and developing the child care workforce?
Implications for the Workforce. What are the economic costs of child care for families? We take a look at what the cost of child care could mean for parents in the workforce and the innovative ways states are tackling the issue in their communities.