A mixed methods research design was used beginning with a survey of 299 Colorado families in four counties who have been on the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) during the past two years. This was followed by in-depth interviews with 30 families to provide deeper insight into work support decision-making, and specifically the decision to maintain child-care benefits.
In the sample, 30% of families, when faced with the loss of child care benefits, reported finding ways to stay on CCCAP at the cost of a move towards self-sufficiency. We tested if this choice to maintain benefits is predicted by the strength of social supports, race, ethnicity and/or geographic location. Perceptions of social supports were measured using validated scales of instrumental, financial, emotional and informational support. Logistic regression was conducted to assess direct effects and the proportion of variance in decision-making around child care explained by the model
Results show that parents who report lower levels of perceived social supports around child care are more likely to find ways to stay on CCCAP at the cost of a move towards self-sufficiency. In addition, instrumental social supports predicted a family's choice to forgo child care benefits for the opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency. No significant differences were found for race and ethnicity nor were they found for urban versus rural families. Qualitative interviews revealed that both perceptions of strong social supports and job flexibility aided families in moving towards self sufficiency.
These findings have implications for both policy and social work practice. Policy makers will do well to re-examine the cut off for work support benefits and consider a more gradual transition in order that families can realistically make the jump from welfare to work. For practitioners, the perceived availability of social networks that can provide instrumental support such as a ride or assistance with errands is clearly an important factor for a family's survival.