Childcare Type and Quality Among Subsidy Recipients With and Without Special Needs

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Abstract

Low-income children, particularly those with special needs, may have limited access to high-quality early care experiences. Childcare subsidies are intended to increase families' access to quality care, but little is known about subsidy use by children with special needs. Using a nationally representative sample of 4,000 young children who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort, we examined the types and quality of childcare received by children with and without special needs who came from subsidy eligible families. We also investigated the extent to which subsidy use and child and family sociodemographic characteristics predicted care type and quality among young children with special needs who used childcare subsidies at 9 months, 2 years, and 4 years. Findings indicated that subsidies increased the use of nonparental care, mainly center-based care, as well as home-based care to a lesser extent among children with special needs relative to peers without special needs and relative to peers with special needs who did not use subsidies. However, use of subsidy did not consistently result in families with children with special needs accessing higher quality care. Sociodemographic characteristics of children, families, and their context were differentially predictive of type and quality care. We discuss implications for practice and policy to foster quality early care and education of young children with special needs who are receiving subsidies.

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