Document Type


Publication Date



Since Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program in 1996, the welfare rolls have decreased by more than 40 percent. While unemployment and poverty rates have declined, families who leave welfare generally earn low wages and remain below the poverty level. Because families leaving welfare are mostly single mothers with young children, child care is critical to their ability to work outside the home. Low-income parents trying to make ends meet, as well as employers of low-wage workers, emphasize the importance of appropriate, affordable child care in enabling women who leave welfare to make a successful transition into the work force.

However, lack of adequate child care and the high cost of child care often force working parents leaving welfare to make the impossible choice between providing inadequate care for their children and failing to provide for their families financially. While child care subsidies can help low-income parents, many families do not

use child care subsidies for which they are eligible. Although subsidies can help poor families, they do not necessarily solve problems of affordability or availability of good child care choices. Low-income families also are likely to face one or more special issues that make finding appropriate child care even more difficult.

In this article the authors discuss child care subsidies for families leaving welfare, key issues low-income working families face in accessing quality, affordable child care, and advocacy strategies to help ensure that state child care policies serve these families effectively.

Publication Citation

34 Clearinghouse Rev. 527 (2001).