Instability in patchworks of child care when moving from welfare to work

Ellen K. Scott, Andrew S. London, Allison Hurst

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


We use longitudinal, qualitative interview data collected from 38 initially welfare-reliant women in Cleveland, Ohio to examine the factors driving instability in child-care arrangements when women transitioned from welfare to work. Grounded theory analysis revealed that decisions about care were circumscribed by scarce social and economic resources, women went to extraordinary lengths to patch together arrangements that typically involved multiple providers, relative care was central to patchworks of care, and patchworks of child care were often highly unstable. These complex arrangements and their instability were influenced by mothers' desires to find the most suitable arrangements for their children within resource and job constraints, dissatisfaction with providers, difficulties accessing subsidies, and changes in provider availability. Findings suggest that policymakers must consider instability in patchworks of multiple child-care providers as they consider alternatives for meeting low-wage working women's and children's needs for safe, affordable, accessible, and enriching nonmaternal child care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-386
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Child care
  • Poverty
  • Qualitative data
  • Single mothers
  • Welfare reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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