Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

17144 “They Told Me I Have to Be Working or In School”: Barriers and Strategies to Child Care Access Among Custodial Grandmothers

Friday, January 13, 2012: 11:30 AM
Wilson (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
LaShawnda pittman-Gay, PhD, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background: We know that a lack of child care options can render low-income families efforts to become self-sufficient and to facilitate the successful development of their children challenging. However, studies of child care under-investigate the child care experiences and related social processes of low-income, urban Black custodial grandmothers, their child care needs and how they achieve them, or how their efforts shape and are shaped by their child care options. This raises critical questions about how researchers, policymakers, and service providers will address the needs of an understudied and swelling segment of low-income families- grandparent-headed households (GPHH). Failing to ensure that custodial grandparents are informed about, utilizing, and able to access available child care places both caregivers and care recipients at risk for a host of negative outcomes including poor mental and physical health outcomes; economic deprivation; and reduced learning, developmental, and behavioral outcomes. GPHH have risen dramatically among inner-city Black communities in recent years, bringing additional need to consider their child care needs alongside other low-income family forms.

Methods: This paper examines caregiver' child care experiences using data from in-depth interviews and ethnography with 30 low-income, African American custodial grandmothers residing in the greater Chicago metropolitan area and 20 child care providers offering services to these families.

Results: I find that caregivers decisions concerning whether their grandchildren attend home, center, or school-based child care, as well as their participation in early intervention programs are influenced by their awareness of and access to various child care options. Affordability, legal status, and the ability to qualify for subsidized child care are factors shaping their access to child care.

Implications: This paper discusses the barriers and strategies used by grandparent caregivers to overcome these challenges. Moreover, the paper discusses how the potential role of child care policy responses may improve access among GPHH.

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