Today’s blog is the second in a series of four blogs on child care in Montana.
Access to affordable child care is key to helping low-income families remain employed, supporting families, and building financial security.
All states operate child care assistance programs through the support of the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). Here in Montana, our child care assistance program is called the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship Program. The Best Beginnings Scholarship program reimburses child care providers who care for some low-income children. Studies have shown that such programs help low-income parents maintain employment in the following ways:
- Reducing child-care disruptions that pull parents out of work. Low-income parents often do not have access to stable child care, which forces them to scramble to find care for their children before work. Many low-wage workers also do not have access to paid days off, like sick days or family leave, and must rearrange their work schedules to care for their own children when they are sick, causing them to lose out on a day’s worth of earnings or lose their job altogether. Child care assistance programs offer parents access to reliable care options, enabling them to maintain stable employment. A study in Illinois found that families who receive child care assistance were 25 percent less likely to experience problems like missing work, starting late, or quitting work because of child-care issues.
Alternatively, employers suffer when parents have child care challenges. Estimates suggest that U.S. businesses lose up to $4.4 billion each year when employees miss work for child care needs.
- Increasing work hours and earnings. When parents have reliable child care, they are able to show up to work on time and stay for their entire shift, which allows them to work more and remain employed for longer periods of time. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that mothers with young children who receive child care assistance are 40 percent more likely to be employed two years down the road.
Further, individuals who work more, earn more. Every dollar counts for low-income families, especially for single parents working hard to support families on their own. One study in South Carolina compared earnings over time between single mothers who received child care assistance and single mothers who did not receive assistance. Researchers found that mothers who received assistance saw annual earnings grow by $7,500 over six years, while mothers who didn’t receive assistance saw annual earnings grow only $3,000 over the same period.
- Supporting individuals looking for work. In Montana, over 9,700 low-income children live in families where both (or single) parents are out of work. Child care assistance enables parents searching for work to focus on preparing for and attending job interviews, which can increase the likelihood of finding a job faster and getting back on the path toward financially stability.
Tomorrow we’ll release a comprehensive report on child care in Montana, including affordability, how Montana’s Best Beginnings Scholarship program helps low-income parents pay for child care, and options to improve access to affordable and high-quality care in our state. Friday, we’ll follow up with the third blog in our series, examining Montana’s Best Beginnings Scholarship program in more depth.