2020 - 2022

Principal Investigator: Nancy L. Marshall, Ed.D.

Project Staff: Wendy Wagner Robeson and Alicia Doyle Lynch

Funded by: Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

When parents in low-income families are employed, they are more likely to be in low-wage jobs characterized by nonstandard and/or unpredictable schedules. Formal child care programs most often offer care during standard hours and rely on predictable schedules to maintain ratios and manage costs. This creates a potential mismatch with the parental work schedules of many low-income families seeking to access quality child care, which can be a barrier to their employment and to their children’s health, safety, and positive development. 

The primary goal of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), a federal and state partnership program, is to support the economic security of low-income families and the health, safety, and positive development of young children by providing resources that help eligible low-income families access quality child care. CCDF policies can potentially ameliorate the challenges of nonstandard work schedules by including relatives as eligible providers, including job search as a qualifying activity, continuing subsidies after a job loss and providing more notice for adverse changes to a subsidy, by not requiring minimum work hours for eligibility, and by subsidizing child care to cover travel to/from work and to allow overnight workers to rest during the day.


This project uses data to provide updated information on the extent of the challenges posed by parental work schedules, the implications of these schedules for low-income families’ ability to access quality child care, and the impact of parental decisions around type of child care and subsidy use on child care-related work disruptions and child care stability. In addition, the project will examine the potential role of state variations in policies and practices in ameliorating the barriers faced by low-income families. 


The results of this research can inform state-level policies and practices and contribute to our knowledge base with respect to low-income working families in need of child care for their children under the age of 6.

This project is supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $99,046 with 100 percent funded by ACF/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACF/HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit the ACF website, Administrative and National Policy Requirements.

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