Child care of welfare families in Iowa
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The purpose of this study is to examine child care practices of 22 families who were receiving cash welfare benefits from the Family Investment Program (FIP) in Iowa in the summer of 1997. Qualitative data from the first three waves of interviews of the families participating in the research project, "Family Well-Being and Welfare Reform in Iowa", are used. Of the original 35 family interviews, the 22 families who had at least one child under the age of 11 were included in the analysis. Current child care, child care histories and the influence of child care on parental well-being were analyzed within the structure and context of the family and the community in which the family lives. The child care arrangements were different among the families in this study but there appeared some similarities; with limited resources for child care, the parents did their best to obtain satisfactory care for their children. Affordability, availability, difficulties in caring for children with special needs, and the influence of child care on parental employment emerged as the major issues. A lack of availability and affordability increased the burden in these families who already had economic hardships. The social networks such as family and friends played a big role as alternative care providers while providing affordable care. Free child care services child care subsidies and reimbursement also lessened the child care burdens of these families. The difficulties in child care were related to the parental decision-making about employment as well as to parental well-being. In conclusion, the results in this study suggest that enabling families, through both social support and public funding, find affordable and quality child care would be one pathway to foster self-sufficiency in these families. This study suggests four issues that have implications for the current practice of family policy on child care and welfare reform: (1) the importance of child care as a precondition of moving into labor force; (2) reinforcement of the current policy on child care funding; (3) the reinforcement of child care services; and (4) the urgent needs of quality child care for children with special needs.