WASHINGTON (March 3, 2020) – Childcare can be terribly expensive. And although the price tag can be more manageable for a two-income, middle-class family, it can be staggering for lower-income parents.

In the seventh installation in a series on civil society, Alice Lloyd, a writer and researcher in Washington, D.C., tells the story of a Connecticut nonprofit that has played a valuable role in expanding the supply of childcare providers. All Our Kin in New Haven, Connecticut is a nonprofit that seeks to help keep childcare in the home by training family providers to start their own home-based daycares. It then maintains a professional network for these providers (primarily low-income, minority women) to mentor prospective ones and help those who have successfully started home-based daycares grow their businesses.

The approach taken by All Our Kin makes use of and builds trust and social connections among urban neighbors. All Our Kin’s innovation was seeing home-based care as a big part of the solution to welfare reform in this country. This enabled low-income individuals to move into the workforce while feeling comfortable that their kids were cared for by local, trusted adults. All Our Kin also enabled many low-income individuals to start new businesses. But All Our Kin’s experience also suggests that home-based care could be part of a solution to the larger problem of childcare’s great costs. Through training and support, All Our Kin expands the universe of local, lower-cost, flexible childcare providers.

Lloyd’s study uncovers important lessons related to the work requirements of welfare reform; how well-meaning accountability provisions can have unexpected effects on nonprofit providers; how rules on licensing, liability and zoning can thwart social entrepreneurialism; and how a new state-run pre-K program might undermine home-based private childcare. In total, this study offers reasons to be both optimistic about using policy to engage civil society in social challenges and wary about how it can best be accomplished.

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