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Study Stresses Crucial Link Between Job Training, Child Care

If you want low-income people with childen to work, you have to help them find child care.

That's one of the key points stressed in an Urban Institute study released this week. It examines the relationship between local workforce development boards and child care. These boards provide services to the unemployed and administer job-training programs under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Blog_Preschool-building-block-Article_Getty.jpgThe study profiles five local workforce development boards, which were selected following a survey of several such boards because their administrators were heavily involved in helping their clients secure child care.

Gina Adams, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and the lead author of this study, says the administrators of the boards interviewed for the study understood the multifaceted nature of child care.

"They talked about the importance of child care in supporting an overall well-functioning economy," said Adams. "They really saw child care as core to the fabric of a workforce development strategy for their community."

The following groups were included in the study: Larimer County Economic and Workforce Development in Colorado; CareerSource of Broward County in Florida; the Northern Indiana Workforce Board; Workforce Solutions of Central Texas; and North Central SkillSource in Washington.

The five selected boards represent both urban and rural areas. They also have different administrative structures and take a variety of approaches to helping clients obtain child care. The researchers stress that they did not evaluate the effectiveness of these groups and caution that the boards were not chosen because they utilized "best practices."

But Adams notes that these boards did use a lot of  "common sense" when doing things such as the initial assessments of clients.

"If you assess a family when they come in, and assess their needs well and figure out that they are going to need, for example, transportation or child care, and try to meet those needs, I think it's common sense that that's more likely to have that parent be able to succeed in education and training than if you don't do that," said Adams.

Workforce Board Challenges

The researchers found that all of the groups faced the same two problems in helping clients with child care: a lack of funds to pay for it and a lack of available high-quality care. Many of the people receiving job training need child care at night or on weekends when it's rarely available.

The report also notes that families served by local workforce development boards tend not to be the first in line when it comes to federal programs to help with child care. Adams says those programs usually prioritize parents who are already working rather than those who are furthering their education or in job training.

For example, legislators in Florida passed a law that half of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds must be spent on job training. Since job training tends to cost much less than child care, there is no money available to cover care.

The researchers found that the five local workforce development boards profiled depended on partnerships with nonprofits to help fill gaps in assistance.  

Adams says those who make the rules for how these boards function have to look at the population these groups serve as more than just people in need of job training.

"Generally, integrating the concepts of what the person needs and in this case what the family needs, if you're trying to help them succeed in the workplace, is really important," said Adams.

This study is the latest in a larger group of studies by the Urban Institute called Bridging the Gap, which examines how "child care intersects with postsecondary education and workforce development for low-income parents." The work is funded through the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Image by Getty

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that parents who don't receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are ineligible for federal child-care assistance funds.


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