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University of New Mexico research finds it is hard to get child care at night

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(The Center Square) – Subsidies may help some families afford childcare, but they still struggle to find care at night or for special needs children, according to new research from the University of New Mexico’s Cradle to Career Policy Institute funded by a federal grant.

The CCPI researchers interviewed 35 New Mexico families who receive childcare subsidies via an eligibility category for families with varying life circumstances, including unstable housing or involvement with child protective services, according to the University of New Mexico.

The subsidy program gives families vouchers, completely covering childcare costs they can use at various providers. Over half of New Mexican children are now childcare subsidy-eligible, a release said.

The study looked at families who receive extra support in accessing the subsidy program.

“Families who qualify for the program can get free childcare, and it really frees families up economically,” Hailey Heinz, deputy director of the Cradle to Career Policy Institute, said in the release.

The study looked at the perspectives and experiences of families using the program. It found several benefits.

The families felt the program was easy to use and interacted positively with specialized eligibility workers who support families with complex needs.Yet, the study found that some people had difficulty finding childcare that met their needs. This included families who work non-traditional hours, including evenings or weekends, and people facing transportation issues.

Families whose children have special behavioral or health needs also had a hard time finding available care.

“New Mexico’s made all these investments,” Heinz said. “More families than ever before are accessing childcare and getting it for free, which is making a huge difference for them, but there’s more work to do to ensure that childcare is available during the hours families need.”

Heinz said this study is one small piece of CCPI’s work.

She said it is a part of the Institute’s broader childcare research agenda, including how the state’s childcare sector performs for everyone in New Mexico, not merely families in the special eligibility category.

“New Mexico is doing all of these different policies to try to expand the supply of childcare that meets families’ needs, and we’re trying to evaluate whether those policies are working,” Heinz said in the release. “Do families in New Mexico have better access to childcare than before these investments? How is access looking for families? Things like that.”

A $1.5 million federal grant that the Cradle to Career Policy Institute received in 2019 funded this research; the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation, Administration for Children & Families provided that grant funding.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has also funded some of the Institute’s broader childcare research over the years, the release said

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