Early Care and Learning Household Study

The lack of affordable, high-quality child care impacts many facets of family life in Vermont. BBF, Let’s Grow Kids, and the Vermont Agency of Human Services’ Child Development Division worked with National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago to better understand the needs of Vermont families. The survey, which was administered to 583 households, answers key questions about child care in Vermont, including households’ current early care and learning (ECL) arrangements for children not yet in kindergarten,  parents’ perceptions and preferences for ELC, and what factors can constrain parent choices.

Key findings of the 2018 Vermont Early Care and Education Household Survey include:

  • Use of regular care (center-based, paid home-based, unpaid home-based) is very common among households with young children, with center-based care being the most prevalent. Just one in five households (21%) report using no regular non-parental care.
  • Families who use regular care often use a mix of types of care to meet their needs. In general, families appear to combine about 30 hours of paid care with 15 hours of unpaid, non-parental care each week.
  • 80% of interviewed households had all parents working, while 20% had at least one parent not working.
    • Of households with all parents working, 90% used some type of non-parental care, and two-thirds of those parents used more than 30 hours of care weekly.
    • Of households with at least one parent not working, almost half used some type of non-parental care, and 15% used more than 30 hours weekly.
  • Use of care is quite high across all income groups. Unpaid home-based care is particularly common among the lowest income households, where it is used by about 40% of families compared to less than a third of the other income categories.
  • Although households with higher incomes pay somewhat higher costs, the difference in costs are much smaller than the differences in income; low-income households pay a significantly greater portion of their income when they pay for care.
  • When asked about their most recent search for child care, over half of parents said they looked for care so that a parent could work or change work schedules. About half of parents also reported that availability of early care and learning affects how much they work.
  • In terms of parent perceptions, center-based care is perceived as strong for children’s educational preparedness and ability to get along with other kids, while paid and unpaid home-based care are perceived as strong on affordability and flexibility for families. All three types are seen as nurturing.

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