Panel Paper: Effects of Child Care Subsidy on School Readiness of Young Children with Special Needs

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Jefferson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elyse Farnsworth, Amanda Sullivan and Amy Susman-Stillman, University of Minnesota

Children with special needs are a now population of special interest under federal child care policy. Recent analysis indicates child care subsidies significantly increase the use of non-parental care by families of children with special needs (Sullivan et al., 2018), but the effects for children and families have not been explored. Findings on the effects of child care subsidy for the general population and other subpopulations of young children at risk for special needs are mixed, and other federal programs providing early education show mixed, and even negative effects (Sullivan & Field, 2013), so the effects for this group warrant consideration. The goal of the present study was to address this gap in the literature by ascertaining the effect of subsidy receipt at preschool on kindergarten readiness of children with special needs who come from low-income families. In particular, we sought to answer the research question: What effect does subsidy receipt at preschool have on children’s school readiness in kindergarten? Because this question cannot be addressed experimentally given the nature of the CCDF program, we applied propensity score matching to a sample drawn from a nationally representative dataset to approximate randomization and test the effects of receipt of subsidized care.

The purpose of this study was to ascertain the average effects of child care subsidies on school readiness of children with special needs. Using data for 1,250 participants in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort, we applied propensity score matching to estimate subsidy’s effects on kindergarten academic and behavioral competencies on children with special needs who came from low-income families. Results indicate that for the average recipient, subsidized child care had significant negative effects on early literacy (d = -0.21) and numeracy (d = -0.18), and no significant effects on impulsivity, hyperactivity, and prosocial behavior. These findings add to a growing body of largescale analyses showing negative or null effects of subsidized care on early childhood outcomes and highlight the need for continued attention to the appropriateness and effectiveness of subsidized child care for children with special needs. This analysis is not intended as an indictment of subsidized child care for children with special needs but rather an impetus for exploration of subsidized care as an important context of learning and development for young children with special needs in low-income households. Research is needed to understand why children are not demonstrating the intended benefits and how we can promote positive outcomes among children served under this program.