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Declining Use of Subsidized Child Care: The Role of Criminal Background Checks

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Marna Miller, Jim Mayfield - May 2005

Between 2002 and 2004, the Working Connections Child Care caseload fell by 13 percent. Until recently, the declines were attributed to cost saving measures implemented in 2002 and 2003. A recent report by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) found that caseload declines occurred only in unlicensed child care and suggests that new policies regarding criminal background checks of in-home/relative providers might be the primary reason for the caseload reductions.

To determine if there is a causal link between criminal background check policies and the caseload declines, the Institute conducted a statistical analysis of data combined from multiple administrative data systems. After controlling for family characteristics, type of child care used, employment, and the welfare caseload, the analysis revealed several significant impacts attributable to criminal background check policies.

Findings: Requiring a criminal background check per se did not affect the child care caseload. However, recent changes to policies and procedures regarding the timing and scope of background checks have: discouraged the use of in-home/relative care; contributed strongly to the decline in caseload; and disproportionately affected families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Report ID: 05-06-3901

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