A team of researchers from UW-Madison secured a $1.2 million grant to partner with the State of Wisconsin to examine a significant decline in the number of regulated early care and education (ECE) providers operating over the past 15 years.
Although fluctuations in the market are to be expected, the persistent decline in the number of providers has recently been coupled with a decline in the number of children receiving child care subsidies through the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program. These declines are concerning not only because it might force some children into low-quality or unsafe care environments, but also because it may result in higher prices for the care that is available — as well as lower levels of employment for parents who cannot find affordable ECE care.
Leading this project is Amy Claessens, an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies and the associate director of the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education (CRECE). She also is an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty.
Claessens will be working closely with UW–Madison colleagues Alejandra Ros Pilarz and Katherine Magnuson, and Amanda Reeve, policy initiatives advisor with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, to understand these declines. Pilarz and Magnuson both are faculty members with the School of Social Work and Magnuson is the Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP).
“We’re very excited to undertake this important project,” says Claessens, who holds the Gulbrandsen Chair in Early Childhood Education. “It is critically important that working families with young children have access to quality, affordable child care options. Thus, we need to better understand the factors that influence declines in child care supply in order to know where parents do not have access to care for their children.”
The project, titled “Understanding Declines in Regulated Child Care Supply and Subsidy Use in Wisconsin,” is being funded by the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
This research partnership is designed to provide an in-depth analysis of factors that may be related to the decline in ECE subsidies across Wisconsin.
Claessens and her colleagues hope to identify potential policy interventions for stemming the declines in regulated ECE supply and subsidy use.
“This partnership is important for working families in Wisconsin,” says Claessens. “Because we are working in partnership with DCF, our work will better address their concerns about child care supply and subsidy use, and will be able to inform policies and practices to improve families’ access to quality, affordable care.”