Beeck Center Partners with Child Care Aware® of America to Enhance the Child Care Subsidy Journey

By Kim Engelman PhD, Senior Advisor at Child Care Aware® of America and Nalani Saito, Community Manager at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation

Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) works with a national network of more than 500 child care resource and referral (CCR&Rs) agencies and other partners to ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care. The Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University brings together students, expert practitioners, and extended networks to work on projects that solve societal challenges using data, design, technology, and policy.

Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation and Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) have joined forces to embark on a 12-week long project aimed at addressing the challenges families and child care providers face in accessing and utilizing child care subsidies in the U.S. Alongside representatives from three states, this collaboration aims to define pathways for actionable solutions to challenges in the child care landscape through user research and human-centered design that centers family and provider experience, as well as Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&Rs) agencies’ leadership.

The Problem & Our Approach

According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), out of the 12.5 million federally eligible children, only 2 million currently receive child care subsidies. This alarming statistic underscores the urgent need to understand the factors driving this gap and what comprehensive improvements to the subsidy journey could bridge it. 

Across multiple states, the Beeck Center and CCAoA are examining three interrelated dimensions of child care subsidy systems: child care provider and family experience, organizational policies and processes, and technology. 

This project joins existent work led by our peers at U.S. Digital Response, Code for America, and New America’s New Practice Lab. Their teams have already produced user research on family experience,  an open-source model subsidy application in partnership with the Office of Child Care, and  a brief on early care and education systems respectively.

Provider & Family Experience

As an essential but under-researched group, child care providers have multifaceted experiences interacting with various entities––such as state agencies, CCR&Rs, and families––making their perspectives vital for a comprehensive understanding of the child care landscape. Our team will explore provider experience to better understand the factors that inform the number of providers accepting subsidy, in addition to family experience navigating subsidy onboarding. These findings will help surface the systemic barriers to affordable, quality child care services. 

Centering CCR&Rs

Georgetown University’s Beeck Center and CCAoA are committed to placing CCR&Rs at the forefront of change and empowering them as leaders in improving the child care subsidy journey. Through thorough research and analysis, the project aims to equip CCR&Rs with valuable insights and possible solutions to drive human-centered, user experience-informed design changes. While the project acknowledges the need to understand the subsidy journey holistically, we will primarily focus on identifying solutions within the CCR&R’s sphere of influence. By doing so, this collaboration aims to leverage the expertise and power of CCR&Rs to effect meaningful and practical improvements in the child care subsidy system.

Beyond Technology Solutions

While this project originally sought to provide technology solutions, initial conversations with CCR&Rs illustrated the design and policy challenges underlying user-facing systems. Consequently, we have suspended our original assumption that technology can improve user experience in favor of a discovery-oriented, iterative project design that allows for multiple solutions that consider the complex governance, policy, and technical nuances each state faces. This approach prioritizes pathways of influence where CCR&Rs can drive long-term changes in their work.

As this project progresses, we will convene a virtual “Show & Ask” event, during which we will summarize learnings from our research and draw on the expertise in the room to explore relevant themes and questions. You can sign up to receive communication about our Show & Ask as well as future information and publications related to this work here.