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2017 Report on Child Care in Cook County

August 18, 2017

The year ending June 30, 2016 saw several significant shocks occur to child care services in Cook County. An unprecedented restriction of eligibility in the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) imposed a period of great uncertainty on parents and child care providers alike. This challenge — and the state's continuing budget crisis — reversed Illinois' long-term trend of increasing investments in a robust system of early care and education. In just the second year of the state's efforts to improve child care quality through its ExceleRate Illinois quality rating and improvement system, child care providers faced falling enrollments, unpaid bills and staff layoffs.

Choices in the Real World: The Use of Family, Friend and Neighbor Child Care by Single Chicago Mothers Working Nontraditional Schedules

January 14, 2013

Working Americans who are poor or near-poor have been rising in number at least since the 1980s. Most working Americans earn incomes that stagnated for decades, while costs have shot up for basic services such as housing and health care. More families than ever need two incomes to make ends meet. High unemployment and a record high number of single-parent households, however, have pushed families nearer to poverty or below.Households headed by women in the labor force are particularly affected. This is why the Chicago Foundation for Women and the Ms. Foundation for Women funded Choices in the Real World, a first-of-its-kind report produced by Illinois Action for Children's research team examine the nontraditional work schedules of low-income working mothers in Chicago and their use of family, friend or neighbor (FFN) child care.As part of the report, 50 single mothers from Chicago were interviewed about the challenges they face in securing child care while working hours outside of the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. time frame. The mothers we interviewed were not homogenous, though they are all challenged by low incomes, low or modest educational attainment, after-hour and variable work schedules, and balancing work and family life.These interviews confirmed that public policies need to meet the challenges that these mothers and others in similar situations face. Illinois Action for Children believes the best public policies will focus on improving FFN child care rather than making it ineligible for financial assistance or driving it underground.As part of this report, we make the following recommendations to legislators:Increase child care optionsSupport FFN child careSupport emergency child care, including for Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) familiesSupport children's homework needsEncourage parent-friendly employer practicesBuild social capital and supplement relative supportsAs the economy continues to add more jobs non-traditional in the nature of their schedules, these issues become even more important. What we learn from these parents and the challenges they face can be vital in moving discussions of child care and nontraditional work schedules forward.

Working Later in Illinois: Work Schedules, Incomes and Parents Access to Child Care

May 1, 2006

New research using federal government data shows that substantial numbers of Illinoisans work nonstandard schedules. Some 41 percent or about 2.5 million Illinois employees work either weekends or predominately non-daytime hours. The larger portion works weekends, but 19 percent or about 1.2 million employees work mostly non-daytime hours. In families with children under age 14, including single parent families and two-parent families with both parents employed, 42 percent work nonstandard hours. While nonstandard work schedules are found in some higher income occupations in Illinois such as nurses and doctors, they are more commonly concentrated in occupations that pay below the typical Illinois income, such as retail sales and building cleaning occupations. The trend, moreover, is probably upward: In the ten occupations with the largest projected job growth, 48 percent of employees work nonstandard schedules. Among the substantial challenges nonstandard work schedules present to Illinois working parents, one is finding suitable child care. According to state data, relatively few center-based and licensed home child care programs in Illinois offer care during evening, night or weekend hours. Many working parents, then, must respond to the mismatch between child care and nonstandard work schedules in one of two ways. They might stagger their work schedules so that one parent is always free for child care. This is obviously an option only for families with two parents. Other parents must find another relative, friend or neighbor to provide informal child care. (In this case parents must still coordinate their child care and work schedules with that informal provider.) Working nonstandard schedules, then, tends to force working parents to use either staggered parental care or informal family, friend or neighbor care. Lower earnings in jobs with nonstandard work schedules and the high cost of child care programs also tend to push parents toward staggering their work schedules or using informal child care. According to Illinois data, center-based and licensed home child care for one infant averages a prohibitive 15 percent of the typical family income (25 percent for an infant and a three-year old). Since family, friend and neighbor child care tends to be substantially cheaper than center and licensed home programs, working parents are likely to favor such informal care for reasons of cost as well as schedule. Data show that in fact a majority of children in Illinois do receive informal care from relatives, friends and neighbors rather than licensed or center-based care. Many children probably receive staggered parental care, although we do not have good data on this practice. Findings of the new research are consistent with the view that Illinois parents with fewer employment opportunities must accept nonstandard work schedules offered to them. For example, Illinois parents with lower than average earnings are more likely to work nonstandard schedules.

2005 Report on Child Care in Cook County: Elements of Supply and Demand

June 1, 2005

Finding a provider best suited for their child is not a decision to be taken lightly. A child's caregiver not only keeps a child safe, but also spends a significant portion of the day helping that child develop social, intellectual and physical skills, as well as personality, emotional stability and self-esteem, all critical for a child's success in school and in life. Having access to high quality child care is key to the well-being of families with children, and particularly those children whose parents work.This report discusses the range of child care options available to families in Cook County, from informal relative, friend or neighbor care, to more formal licensed home-based care, to the larger child care center. Within these general categories, each individual program has its own unique combination of characteristics that parents may find attractive -- perhaps an especially warm and experienced caregiver, a well-developed curriculum, a caregiver with experience with a particular disability, or a colorful, inviting facility. Ideally a family's ultimate decision will be based on the program's quality and ability to meet the child's individual needs.Yet, parents still face limited child care options in Cook County, particularly in middle and low-income families. Most significantly, the high cost of center or licensed home programs discourages many families from using otherwise attractive types of care. Specifically:+ In FY2005, the cost of care in a child care center averaged between $120 and $237 per week, depending on the particular region of Cook County and the age of the child. The cost of licensed home child care averaged between $107 and $179 per week.+ A family with children under 18 earning the median Cook County income of $54,034 would expect to pay, on average, 17 percent of its income for infant care in a Chicago child care center and 19 percent for care in a suburban center. If this family also had a 4-year-old in center care, they would need to spend 29 to 33 percent of their income on child care alone.+ While licensed home care is less expensive, the same family would still need to pay 11 to 13 percent of its income on licensed home care for an infant and 10 to 12 percent on care for a preschool age child.+ A family with children under 18 earning the 2004 median Chicago income of $38,565 would expect to pay 23 percent of its income for the care of an infant or toddler in a Chicago child care center. For care in a licensed home setting, this family would need to pay about 16 percent of its income for infant or toddler care.

Trends of Subsidized Child Care in Cook County

April 1, 2005

Illinois Child Care Assistance reached a total of 108,314 children in Cook County in March 2004. Cook County accounted for 62.4 percent of all families served by the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program. The Program grew rapidly after welfare reform in 1997, and several years of data now let us look at some trends that have developed. This report focuses on trends in types of subsidized child care used by Cook County children in the Child Care Assistance Program. It generally divides the children into three age groups: Birth through two years oldThree through fiveSix and older The report follows data for active child care cases in Cook County for nearly seven years, from July 1997 to March 2004, as provided by the Illinois Department of Human Services. For some issues data were not available for all of those years. The report divides types of care into two groups: licensed programs (both centers and homes) and license-exempt homes.2 For some of the analysis, Cook County children in license-exempt centers, only about five percent of the total, are left out so that we can highlight the difference between the much large sectors of licensed programs and license-exempt homes.