(2020, June; Updated 2023, May) | Useful to Parent Centers working with families of young children with disabilities
Most parents in the United States depend on child care to maintain an often-fragile balance between work and family life. Although a shortage of affordable, high-quality care is an issue for all families, it disproportionately affects families of children with disabilities. This 26-page report from the Center for American Progress examines families’ child care experiences when they have children ages 0 to 5 with disabilities and offers policy solutions that are critical to supporting these families. It focuses in particular on the issue of finding child care.
Although the term “disability” applies to a diverse community of individuals representing a broad array of conditions and experiences, people with disabilities often face similar barriers to full participation in social programs and institutions, including child care. Using quantitative data from two nationally representative surveys** as well as qualitative interviews conducted in fall 2019 from a diverse sample of parents across the United States, the report’s analyses demonstrate that families face significant obstacles to finding appropriate child care arrangements. To ensure their children’s care, parents develop complicated arrangements involving formal and informal caregivers, often with significant consequences for careers, financial well-being, and family life.
More about What’s in the Report
The report begins with brief stories about Alexis, mother of twins with special needs, and Missy, mother of four, one of which has a disability whose child care program ends at 2 pm. Different in the needs of their children, these mothers share the same vision of their children’s futures and the fact that child care is critical to achieving that vision.
Within this real context, the report discusses the nation’s decades-long failure to invest in child care, which has directly contributed to the lack of affordable, high-quality options. The study undertaken by the Center for American Progress identified many significant obstacles that parents of young children with disabilities face when trying to find child care. Key findings are reported, including how parents managed their individual challenges, patching together help from extended family, child care centers, special education preschool, and nurses and home health aides, as well as making significant changes to their jobs to provide care.
Findings from the analyses are laid out and discussed in sections, including:
- families’ obstacles to child care,
- the shortage of care,
- concerns over quality and safety,
- the patchwork of care parents often cobble together, and
- the consequences of not finding care (especially on parents’ jobs and careers).
Following these analyses, the report discusses three specific policy solutions.
Again, you can find the full report at:
**Note: The two nationally representative surveys were the 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey (ECPP) and a combined sample of the 2016–2018 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH).