Giving Compass' Take:

• Heather Sandstrom, Shirley Adelstein, and Gina Adams unpack four challenges that and universal child care plan must address to be effective.

• How can funders help to identify effective, scalable solutions in universal child care? What level of government should take on the challenges of child care? 

• Learn about the potential for child care as an economic driver

Tackling the complicated issue of child care is no easy feat. Based on evidence of child care supply and demand, we identified four often-overlooked issues that any major policy proposal around expanding access to child care should consider.

1. Improving quality and supply will take time and resources.

The current supply of high-quality child care programs cannot meet the demand, so expanding these programs quickly will be a challenge. When we analyzed the supply of child care in multiple counties in Illinois and New York, including licensed centers and homes, we found few programs were accredited or were participating in quality improvement activities.

2. The child care workforce is diverse.  

An expanded system will require a larger child care workforce that is well trained. The current workforce is diverse, and most workers do not have a degree. While education requirements can help ensure high-quality care, they may reduce this diversity.

3. Parent choice is important.

Parents must weigh many factors when making child care choices. It’s not as simple as walking to the closest program flagged as “high quality.” Certain parents have complex needs, including those working nontraditional hours and those with children with special needs. Families living in rural areas rely on home-based care options because of a lack of centers, while parents with infants and nontraditional work schedules may prefer children to be in the care of a trusted relative or caregiver in the home.

To ensure access for these families, and for others for whom centers may not be a viable option, it’s important that any plan include a broad range of center-based and home-based settings.

4. Child care also supports parents in school or training.

Child care provides a safe and educational care environment for the child and relieves parents of care responsibilities while they work or engage in school or training. Some nonworking parents also enroll children in early learning programs to promote their academic development and social skills. Any child care plan should acknowledge these multiple goals.

Read the full article about challenges in universal child care by Heather Sandstrom, Shirley Adelstein, and Gina Adams at Urban Institute.