This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-03-588 
entitled 'Child Care: Recent State Policy Changes Affecting the 
Availability of Assistance for Low-Income Families' which was released 
on May 05, 2003.

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Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Human Resources, 
Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives:

United States General Accounting Office:


May 2003:

Child Care:

Recent State Policy Changes Affecting the Availability of Assistance 
for Low-Income Families:




Appendix I: Briefing Slides:

Related GAO Products:


CCDF: Child Care and Development Fund:

TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families:

United States General Accounting Office:

Washington, DC 20548:

May 5, 2003:

The Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Human Resources
Committee on Ways and Means
House of Representatives:

Dear Mr. Cardin:

With the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program taking 
effect in 1997, child care assistance became a significant strategy for 
helping welfare recipients move into the workforce and for helping 
other low-income families stay off welfare. Since 1997, states have 
used federal funds from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and 
TANF along with state funds to expand child care assistance programs. 
However, given the current budget problems in most states and the 
competing demands for TANF and state funds, it is possible that states 
have changed their child care policies and the availability of child 
care assistance to low-income families.

As Congress considers reauthorizing CCDF and TANF, you asked us to 
answer these questions:

1. What choices have states made for providing child care assistance to 
three groups of low-income families: (a) TANF families, (b) families 
transitioning off TANF, and (c) other low-income working families?

2. Since January 2001, to what extent have states made key changes that 
affect child care availability and have those changes increased or 
decreased the overall availability of child care assistance in the 

3. What changes to child care assistance programs are governors 
proposing for the next fiscal year?

To answer your questions, we surveyed the child care administrators of 
the 50 states and the District of Columbia regarding their states' 
child care assistance policies and current governors' proposals 
affecting child care assistance.[Footnote 1] The survey asked whether, 
since January 2001, states had made changes to key policies affecting 
the availability of child care assistance.[Footnote 2] We received 
responses from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In analyzing 
survey responses, we classified each specific policy change that a 
state identified as either increasing or decreasing the availability of 
child care assistance. Policy changes that allow more families to enter 
and remain in a state's child care assistance programs were classified 
as increasing availability, while policy changes that limit entry or 
length of stay in the programs were classified as decreasing 
availability. We conducted our review from January through April 2003 
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

On April 24, 2003, we briefed your staff on the results of our survey. 
This report formally conveys the information provided during that 
briefing. (See app. I.) In summary, we found:

A vast majority of states have made all three groups of families--TANF 
families, families transitioning off TANF, and other low-income working 
families--eligible for child care assistance. However, half of the 
states do not provide child care assistance to all the families who 
apply and are eligible for such assistance under the states' 
eligibility policies. States often give TANF and transitioning families 
higher priority than other low-income working families when program 
resources are insufficient to cover all who apply.

Since January 2001, two-thirds of the states made key changes that 
affect the availability of child care assistance while the other one-
third maintained their policies. Of the 35 states that made key 
changes:[Footnote 3]

* 23 made changes tending to decrease the availability of assistance,

* 9 made changes tending to increase the availability of assistance, 

* 3 made a mix of changes.

While these changes would appear to have decreased the availability of 
child care assistance overall compared with 2001, we could not 
determine the actual outcomes in numbers of children served and their 
welfare status because data on these outcomes are not readily 
available.[Footnote 4]

Governors' budget proposals for fiscal year 2004 present a mixed 
picture for child care assistance funding. Child care officials in 29 
states identified governors' budget proposals that contained measures 
that would either maintain (11 states), decrease (11 states) or 
increase (7 states) funding for child care assistance, if adopted. The 
child care officials in the remaining states either reported that the 
state did not have a governor's budget proposal currently addressing 
child care assistance (17 states) or did not provide information on the 
proposals (5 states).

We provided a draft of our findings to officials at the U.S. Department 
of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, 
which oversees state CCDF programs; however, they were not able to 
provide comments on the draft within the short timeframe allowed.

We are sending copies of this report to relevant congressional 
committees and other interested parties and will make copies available 
to others upon request. The report will also be available on GAO's Web 
site at If you or your staff have any questions 
about this:

report, please contact me or Gale Harris at (202) 512-7215. Kathleen 
Peyman, Deborah A. Signer, and Luann Moy also made key contributions to 
this report.

Sincerely yours,

Marnie S. Shaul
Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues:

Signed by Marnie S. Shaul:

[End of section]

Appendix I: Briefing Slides:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

[End of section]

Related GAO Products:

Child Care: States Exercise Flexibility in Setting Reimbursement Rates 
and Providing Access for Low-Income Children. GAO-02-894. Washington, 
D.C.: September 18, 2002.

Child Care: States Have Undertaken a Variety of Quality Improvement 
Initiatives, but More Evaluations of Effectiveness Are Needed. GAO-02-
897. Washington, D.C.: September 6, 2002.

Early Childhood Programs: The Use of Impact Evaluations to Assess 
Program Effects. GAO-01-542. Washington, D.C.: April 16, 2001.

Welfare Reform: States Provide TANF-Funded Work Support Services to 
Many Low-Income Families Who Do Not Receive Cash Assistance. GAO-02-
615T, Washington, D.C.: April 10, 2002.

Child Care: States Increased Spending on Low-Income Families. GAO-01-
293. Washington, D.C.: February 2, 2001.

Child Care: How Do Military and Civilian Center Costs Compare? GAO/
HEHS-00-7. Washington, D.C.: October 14, 1999.

Child Care: Use of Standards to Ensure High Quality Care. GAO/HEHS-98-
223R. Washington, D.C.: July 31, 1998.

Welfare Reform: States' Efforts to Expand Child Care Programs. GAO/
HEHS-98-27. Washington, D.C.: January 13, 1998.

Welfare Reform: Implications of Increased Work Participation for Child 
Care. GAO/HEHS-97-75. Washington, D.C.: May 29, 1997.


[1] In reporting our survey results, we refer to the District of 
Columbia as a state.

[2] We chose January 2001 as our comparison point because state fiscal 
conditions began to deteriorate at about this time.

[3] We grouped states simply on the basis of the type of changes made, 
that is, on whether the state made changes that likely increased, 
decreased, or had a mix of effects on the availability of child care 
assistance. We did not assess the relative impact on availability of 
the various policy changes that states made.

[4] In assessing whether the policy changes likely increased or 
decreased the overall availability of child care assistance in the 
nation, we related each group of states to its share of the nation's 
population of children in poverty. According to 2001 Census Bureau data 
on children under 125 percent of the poverty level, the percentage for 
each group is: (1) states that made no policy changes affecting 
availability--36.5 percent; (2) states that made changes decreasing 
availability--41.5 percent; (3) states that made changes increasing 
availability--16 percent; and (4) states that made a mix of changes--6 

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