Academic journal article International Journal of Economic Development

Supporting Parents through Head Start-Child Care Center Partnerships

Academic journal article International Journal of Economic Development

Supporting Parents through Head Start-Child Care Center Partnerships

Article excerpt


Partnerships between child care centers and Head Start can meet the increased child care needs of low-income parents that resulted from the welfare reform in 1996 and improve children's school readiness by providing full-day, full-year, and high quality child care services. They can also provide comprehensive services for low-income parents such as job training classes and employment referral services that will enhance parents' productivity and ease job searches. Using data collected from parents in Ohio (N=1,605), we estimate the probability of a parent selecting a child care center partnered with Head Start based on several parent characteristics. We find that parents in job training programs, in school, searching for a job, and working long hours are more likely to choose partnership centers. Next, we examine what types of family comprehensive services are offered through Head Start and child care partnerships. We find that parents of children in partnership centers are more likely to receive information about employment enhancement services than parents of children in unpartnered centers. Moreover, the spillover effects of employment enhancement services suggest that the benefits of such services extend to a larger population. These Head Start-child care center partnership services help low-income families become self-sufficient, a goal that cannot be achieved through child care subsidies alone. Not only do low-income working parents benefit, but communities and the wider economy as well.


In 2002, 63 percent of the 19 million children under 5 years of age were enrolled in some form of regular child care during a typical week (Johnson, 2005). When we look at primary child care arrangements for children under age five, 24.3 percent were cared for at organized facilities such as day care centers, nursery schools and Head Start programs, 24.8 percent were cared for by relatives and another 17.2. percent were cared by non-relatives (2) (Johnson, 2005). However, this distribution of types of care shifts when we look at families in poverty. Families in poverty with employed mothers rely more heavily on care by a relative or father (60 percent) than on child care centers (14 percent) or family child care homes (7 percent), because they cannot afford the latter options. Moreover, about 22 percent of children under age five with employed mothers have multiple arrangements so that the mother can work. These statistics describe challenges that working families, particularly low-income working families, are facing today.

In 2002, in order to ease these burdens on low-income working families, the federal government devoted 11.2 billion dollars to child care and 6.5 billion dollars to Head Start (Center for Law and Social Policy, 2007). Simply increasing spending, however, may not solve all the challenges faced by low-income working families today. For example, low-income working parents who are eligible for Head Start programs and want to have Head Start services for their children may not be able to do so because Head Start programs are typically running on a part-day and part-year basis and working parents need child care arrangements full-day and full-year. As a result, children who could benefit the most from the enriched learning environments and comprehensive services of Head Start are not receiving them.

One way to address this issue is to encourage partnerships between Head Start and child care providers to jointly deliver services. Partnerships between Head Start and child care providers allow children from low-income working families to receive learning enrichment services and comprehensive services from Head Start while enabling their parents to work full-time. Such partnerships also offer potential economic benefits for parents. They can increase their labor force participation and their productivity if stable, high quality child care is available on a full-day and full-year basis (Carillo, 2004; Shellenback, 2004; Abt Associates, 2002). …

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