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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Who Cares for Infants and Toddlers? A Mixed Methods Study of Child Care for Low-Income Families

  • Author(s): Marcella, Jennifer Lynn
  • Advisor(s): Howes, Carollee
  • et al.

Despite trends indicating that low-income, Latino families underuse licensed child care (Chaudry et al., 2011; Howes et al., 2007), questions remain about why these mothers do not use infant and toddler child care programs. Therefore, this mixed methods case study of a Los Angeles community illustrates the interplay of licensed child care availability with maternal preferences regarding infant and toddler care arrangements. Community demographic data as well as availability and quality of licensed child care data provided the descriptive community context. Family survey data depicted trends in child care use of a predominantly low-income sample of 556 mothers living in the community. Lastly, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a subsample of 28 family survey mothers to shed light on mothers' beliefs about infant and toddler child care. Taken together, these sources of data indicated that limited infant and toddler licensed care was available, and few programs served specifically low-income families. Within this community child care context, mothers had a limited awareness of the available licensed care. Additionally, these mothers expressed negative impressions of licensed care, which seemed warranted based on the observational data on programs serving low-income families. From this study, policymakers should strive to improve the quality of care for all infant and toddler programs while also better designing and marketing child care assistance programs to meet the needs of low-income families. Practitioners can utilize these findings by learning about the concerns of low-income mothers, addressing any shortcomings their programs face, and better communicating with new mothers to allay fears about group care.

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