Press Releases

Parents' Perceptions of Child Care in the United States: Safety, Trained Providers and Cost Most Important Factors

January 26, 2009

January 27, 2009

Arlington, VA - According to the results of a nationwide telephone survey of parents released today by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), safety was the most important factor for parents when choosing child care, followed by learning environments with trained child care providers, and cost. The report, Parents' Perceptions of Child Care in the United States, surveyed 1,004 parents with children under age 6 on their perceptions about provider training, inspections of programs, requirements for licensing, background checks and other child care issues. Parents were also asked about their attitudes toward public funding to increase the quality and affordability of child care. The poll was conducted by Zogby International in November.

The survey revealed that parents logically assumed there is governmental oversight that ensures child care is safe and of high-quality. Parents believed that background checks and trainings on child development, CPR, child guidance and discipline, and recognition of child abuse were required for all child care providers. Parents also believed that state governments licensed and inspected all child care programs. In reality, most state licensing requirements do not support the safety and quality standards that parents expect. About half of the states inspect child care settings only once a year or less frequently, and many states allow federal funds to be used for care that is not required to be licensed.

"It's understandable that parents would assume that state licensing means something," saidLinda Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA. "Unfortunately, what we've found is that states do so little monitoring that the standards are hollow - barely worth the paper they are printed on."

Report findings also revealed that parents are willing to invest in quality child care. Almost two-thirds of parents were willing to pay an extra $10 per year in taxes, and more than half were willing to pay an extra $50 per year to improve quality. Affordability of child care was also an important concern for families. Seventy percent were willing to pay an extra $10 per year in taxes to make child care more affordable, while 60 percent were willing to pay an additional $50. Most parents agreed that funding early childhood programs should not be the sole responsibility of parents. Three-quarters of those surveyed favored providing public funding to make child care more affordable.

"With the current economic crisis, quality child care settings are even more important to the healthy development of children," Smith stated. "In too many cases involving families earning low incomes, child care is the only place that children may receive a nutritious meal. Food is often one of the places parents sacrifice as their family budget becomes tighter."

Over 11 million children under age 5 spend approximately 36 hours per week in the care of someone other than their parent. Almost half of the parents surveyed (49 percent) said their youngest child was regularly cared for by someone else. One-fourth (23 percent) reported alternating work schedules to accommodate child care needs, and one-third (33 percent) used multiple child care arrangements, including child care centers, full and part-day preschools, family child care homes, and homes of relatives, friends or neighbors.

"Research has found that the first five years of life are a critical time for a child's growth and development," said Smith. "Lack of quality and oversight in some of these arrangements—especially as it relates to untrained child care providers - means children may not ever be safe, let alone learning."

To promote high-quality, affordable child care for families, NACCRRA recommends that states: require complete background checks for all paid providers prior to working with children; require inspections prior to issuing a license and regular unannounced inspections throughout the year; require 40 hours of pre-service training and 24 hours of annual training; and support local child care resource and referral agencies in their efforts to advance safe, affordable, high-quality care and early learning opportunities.

For a full copy of the report, which includes NACCRRA recommendations, please visit


NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, is our nation's leading voice for child care. We work with more than 800 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that families in every local community have access to high quality, affordable childcare. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To learn more about NACCRRA and how you can join us in ensuring access to high-quality child care for all families, visit us at