The effects of various child care subsidy strategies are being assessed in four sites:
In Miami-Dade County, the project studied whether literacy curricula can be implemented on a large scale in subsidized child care centers and whether they can improve children’s school readiness. Child care centers serving four-year-old subsidized children were randomly assigned to receive one of three literacy curricula, or they were assigned to a control group. In each of the program group centers, one classroom teacher was trained to deliver the literacy curriculum and used the curriculum in her classroom for two years. The study found that each of the curricula changed the way teachers behaved and interacted with children, while two of the three curricula had broad effects on children’s literacy.
In Massachusetts, the program tried to enhance how family child care homes focus on children’s early literacy skills and school readiness. Family child care homes caring for subsidized children under age three were randomly assigned to either the program or control group. Providers in the program group were trained to provide Learningames, which is designed to help caregivers provide rich language stimulation as well as become more nurturing and responsive in their one-on-one interactions with children. The evaluation measured changes in interactions between providers and children, as well as changes in children’s outcomes.
In Cook County, Illinois, the evaluation examined how receiving child care subsidies affects parents’ employment and child care choices. From March 2005 through April 2006, families who were not ordinarily eligible to receive subsidies because their income exceeded the Illinois income ceiling were randomly assigned to either become eligible to receive subsidies or to remain ineligible. For half of program group families, the program also extended the period of time before families must be recertified for child care assistance from six months to a year.
A statewide experiment in Washington tested the effects of reduced copayments for families who applied or reapplied for child care subsidies. Families who were approved to receive child care subsidies in a one-month period in Fall 2005 were randomly assigned to either the current copayment schedule or to a lower copayment schedule. The evaluation is designed to determine whether lower copayments encourage families to continue receiving child care subsidies, encourage parents to increase their earnings, and influence the type and stability of child care that is used.
In each site, the key component of the evaluation is an impact analysis that uses a rigorous research design to measure the programs’ effects on outcomes, including employment, welfare use, and child well-being. Some prospective participants in each site were randomly assigned to one or more programs that are being studied while the rest were randomly assigned to a control group. In Miami-Dade and Massachusetts, outcomes came from observations of child care environments and direct assessments of children. In Washington, outcomes came from two years of administrative records. In Illinois, outcomes came from both administrative records and a survey administered about two years after families enter the study.