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Consumer Education and Parent Choice in Early Care & Education

group of kids playing wont toys they received for Christmas.
Understanding how parents find and use information to make early child care decisions
  • Client
    Administration for Children and Families, Health & Human Services Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation
  • Dates
    2020 – 2025

Problem

Too little is known about how parents choose child care and early education. 

States and territories are involved in a range of efforts to support parents in their process of searching for and selecting child care and early education (CCEE) Under a Child Care and Development (CCDF) Block Grant and a 2016 rule finalizing its changes, the federal government has provided states, territories, and tribes with funding and guidance to improve the dissemination of information about child care options to help parents make informed decisions. Yet there is little information about how parents search for and select CCEE arrangements for their children, making it difficult for states, territories, and tribes to target their resources efficiently.  

Solution

NORC is conducting an in-depth, five-year study to see how parents make their choices. 

In 2020, the Administration for Children and Families, Health and Human Services Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to conduct the Consumer Education and Parental Choice in Early Care and Education study. NORC is partnering with the Urban Institute, Child Care Aware of America, and Roberta Weber from Oregon State University on this work.

In this project, we are looking at existing research in multiple fields including behavioral science, communications and marketing, public health as well as early care and education, considering issues of equity and access.

Our early project work focuses on better understanding how parents search for and select their child’s early care and education and the consumer education strategies that CCDF Lead Agencies are using. We are building the knowledge base by reviewing existing studies and data sets, and by collecting new information through surveys and interviews with parents and CCDF lead agency staff. Our later project work will focus on creating tools to help states, territories, and Tribes evaluate the effectiveness of the consumer education materials they create to better support parents in their CCEE decision-making journeys.

Result

NORC’s study will deepen knowledge of parental CCEE decision-making and consumer education efforts.

Through the work described above, this study will focus on answering the following questions:

  • How do parents find and use information to make informed choices about their children’s participation in CCEE?
  • How do states and territories carry out consumer education activities to support parents’ information needs regarding CCEE decision-making?
  • How do states’ and territories’ efforts differ from one another?
     

Tasks currently in progress include:

  • Developing a literature review and conceptual framework.
  • Identifying and analyzing existing data to address key questions about parents’ search and selection of early care and education and use of states’ and territories’ consumer education information.
  • Planning a survey of parents across multiple states and territories to address key questions about how parents search for early care and education and use consumer education information to make decisions about early care and education.
  • Planning case studies to learn more about the consumer education strategies that states and territories are using.
  • Developing, testing, and refining tools that states and territories are authorized to use in the CCDBG law and rules to support states’ and territories’ efforts to measure the effectiveness of their consumer education efforts in supporting parents’ search and selection of early care and education.

Project Leads

Data & Findings

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Consumer Education and Parent Choice in Early Care & Education

Understanding how parents find and use information to make early child care decisions

Client:

Administration for Children and Families, Health & Human Services Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation