Child care is a significant expense for most families. Through a combination of federal and state funding, Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program significantly reduces that expense by providing scholarships for children in families with low incomes and in vulnerable circumstances to help them obtain high-quality child care at a subsidized value. The scholarships are intended to subsidize childcare costs while parents/caregivers work or prepare themselves for work through school or training.
In an effort to mitigate the negative financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by helping eligible Georgia families pay for child care, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) initiated a new program known as ACCESS (Awarding Child Care Education Scholarship Supplements). Through ACCESS, the Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program pays a care provider the full published rate for the type of care provided, including the family fee (also referred to as the co-payment for childcare) and any fee differential. While the initiative is in effect, families in the CAPS program have no out-of-pocket costs for childcare tuition. The ACCESS initiative began on May 17, 2021, and will conclude October 1, 2023.
Prior research on child care subsidies provides evidence that they affect numerous outcomes, including the use, mode, quality, and stability of care; parental employment; cost burdens; child development; child safety; and family well-being. However, there is relatively little direct evidence regarding the effects of subsidy amounts, co-payments, or out-of-pocket costs on these outcomes. Further, few previous child care subsidy studies have used research designs that are likely to identify causal effects. Recognizing the importance of preparatory planning to craft research and evaluation efforts that avoid repeating these issues, the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded GPL researchers a grant to plan and recommend options to DECAL for an evaluation of the ACCESS initiative.
In this project, David C. Ribar, Thomas Goldring, and Caroline Lamprecht are collaborating with research staff from DECAL to develop research options for a rigorous, policy-relevant, actionable evaluation of the effects of co-payment waivers and the elimination of out-of-pocket childcare tuition costs under the ACCESS initiative.
- What logic model best captures the dynamics of the ACCESS Program’s operating environment and potential effects?
- What data are already within the DECAL system? What characteristics of existing DECAL data sources might be helpful or disadvantageous for evaluating ACCESS?
- What other data sources could enrich an ACCESS evaluation and how could they be obtained?
- What evaluation approach or approaches could most reliably produce causal evidence?
- What additional research could enrich understanding of the ACCESS program’s effects?
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 (Grant #: 90YE0262) totaling $150,000 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.