Many parents work in low-wage jobs with unpredictable, irregular schedules over which they have little control and which frequently involve work at night, in the early morning, and/or on the weekend. These schedules can create tremendous stress for workers and make it extremely challenging for parents to balance work and family responsibilities. Difficult work schedules can pose problems for parents not only in obtaining stable child care but also in accessing child care assistance due to policies that are often structured for parents with standard work schedules.
A law enacted in November 2014 reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)—the major federal child care program—provides an opportunity for states to better meet the needs of parents in low-wage jobs with nonstandard or irregular schedules. This issue brief discusses a number of provisions in the law that give states greater flexibility to adapt their policies for these parents, provides recommendations to states on implementing these provisions, and offers some cautions to states about ensuring that new requirements in the law do not limit access to options such as family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care that might be the best (or only) option for parents with nonstandard schedules.