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CAS 2012 Research Brief #3 Program Participation and Policy Perceptions among Child Care Center Directors in Chicago West and North Side ZIP Codes

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posted on 27.07.2021, 21:26 authored by Rachel A. Gordon, Anna Colaner, Maria KrysanMaria Krysan
The 2012 Chicago Area Study surveyed 229 center directors in 33 ZIP Codes on the West and North sides of Chicago. All centers and preschools that served three and four year olds in these ZIP Codes were eligible, except those located in the public schools. Eligible settings included preschools in churches, private schools, and community organizations as well as preschool programs and full-day care in standalone childcare centers. Fully 70% of eligible directors participated in the study. For simplicity, we refer to all participants as “centers.” We prepared a set of initial research briefs to disseminate basic study findings. Each of these briefs describes a set of data collected in the survey for the sample as a whole and across five types of ZIP Codes. The five ZIP Code types allow us to provide a basic portrait of differences in center characteristics depending on the race-ethnicity and income of the community. The five types of ZIP Codes are: (1) mixed race, low income, (2) majority non-Hispanic Black, low income, (3) majority Hispanic, low income, (4) majority non-Hispanic White, middle-income, and (5) majority non-Hispanic White, high income. The cutoffs between low/middle and between middle/high incomes are $48,500 and $70,000 respectively (about two and three times the federal poverty line for a family of four in 2011). We define a location as being a majority of one race-ethnicity if the ZIP Code is comprised of at least 50% of that racial/ethnic group (see CAS 2012 Research Brief #1 for additional details). This CAS 2012 Research Brief #3 summarizes directors’ responses to questions about their participation in various programs, including Head Start, Preschool for All, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Child Care Assistance Program (C-CAP), and Quality Counts as well as questions about their perceptions of these programs.

This research brief provides a comprehensive portrait of the participation of centers in Chicago’s North and West sides in publicly funded programs. The results demonstrate the importance of these programs to many centers, with the overwhelming majority of directors who participate reporting they are very important to the quality of care that they can offer. At the same time, delays in payments created financial stress. Figure 2 summarizes participation rates and payment delays. Participation was highest in the two broad subsidy programs for basic fees (Child Care Assistant Program) and meals and snacks (Child and Adult Care Food Program), with the majority of centers in Chicago’s North and West sides participating in these programs. Delayed payments were much more common in the basic than the food subsidy program, however. Participation was about half as high, at closer to one-third of centers, in preschool programs funded by the federal and state government (Head Start and Preschool for All), with payment delays more common in the state than federal program. The results also show important variation by the race-ethnicity and income levels of the local areas. Not surprisingly, participation in these publicly funded programs was highest in the lowest income areas. All centers located in majority Black, low-income areas participated in at least one program, and over onequarter participated in four programs (C-CAP, CACFP, Preschool for All, and Head Start). At the same time that these results suggest the programs are reaching many children in need, they also reveal that such centers are likely most vulnerable to cutbacks and payment delays associated with the state’s financial crisis. The centers participating in multiple programs also face the complexity of understanding and fulfilling the requirements across the multiple programs. We also importantly found that almost half of the directors who did not participate in Preschool for all in majority Black, low-income areas said that they had difficulty finding qualified teachers. This result is important for continuing conversations both about policies that shore up the childcare workforce as the state tries to fulfill a promise of “preschool for all”; and, about the potential that ratcheting up requirements in an effort to assure quality may push some experienced childcare teachers out of preschool classrooms. The vast majority of participating directors endorsed the importance of these publicly funded programs for supporting quality in their centers. Directors also generally expressed support for these programs. All directors thought that the state should fund preschool, with three-quarters thinking it should be universal and the remainder supporting targeted funding of at-risk children. Nearly all directors also supported public funding of childcare subsidies, with almost half-endorsing universal eligibility and the others preferring targeted funding for low-income families. Directors in majority white, high-income areas were most likely to endorse targeted funding of preschool for at-risk children and of subsidies for low-income families. We will pursue these results in greater depth in future reports and papers



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