It’s a matter of trust: How single mothers leaving welfare make child care decisions


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Since the implementation of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, single mothers who have left cash assistance have experienced low earnings, high rates of returning to the welfare rolls and job instability. One of the factors contributing to these difficult experiences of welfare leavers may include problems they have faced in their attempts to arrange reliable, satisfactory, flexible and affordable child care for their preschool-age children. However, we know little about how single mothers who have left cash assistance select child care providers for preschool children. This study seeks to address that question with a particular focus on describing what information they have about child care alternatives and financial assistance for child care, where they obtained this information, and how they evaluate such information in the selection of child care providers and the decision whether or not to use a child care subsidy. I also sought to describe and understand social network factors that play a role in child care decision making. This study used life history interviews and ethnographic decision tree modeling as well as a social network grid to clarify how these mothers select child care and decide whether or not to apply for financial assistance. Based on interviews with twenty single mothers from a welfare advocacy group in Philadelphia. I developed a decision model to map mothers’ provider selection and subsidy use decisions during the transition from welfare to work. Findings suggest the level of trust between parents and child care providers, related to bad experiences with center-based care, and the availability of information about center-based care facilities were important decision making criteria. The cost of child care, from the mothers’ perspective, did not play as pivotal a role in the decision making process as did previous had experiences with center-based care.

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