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The role of policy and practice in short spells of child care subsidy participation

A major change in US child care subsidy policy in 2014 established a 12-month eligibility period for families participating in the child care subsidy program. The primary policy objective of lengthening eligibility periods was to increase the stability of child care. Previous research in a small number of states has shown that families are more likely to leave the subsidy program at the time of eligibility recertification even though they may remain eligible. Using data from the state of Maryland, this article investigates whether longer eligibility periods contribute to longer continuous subsidy receipt and the degree to which local offices follow state guidelines when setting redetermination periods. Using a Cox proportional hazards model and controlling for child, family, and provider characteristics, we show that families were substantially more likely to leave the subsidy program when their voucher was due to expire or they were scheduled to recertify eligibility. We find that the span of time allotted to families before they need to recertify eligibility varied substantially across counties in ways that were not related to child or family characteristics, despite a statewide policy allowing eligibility recertification at 12-month intervals. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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