Millions of people—mostly women, and disproportionately women of color—are employed in low-wage jobs, including one in five working mothers of very young children (ages three and under). Parents in low-wage jobs not only struggle to make ends meet with limited incomes, but also often have unpredictable, unstable work schedules over which they have little control and frequently must work at night, in the early morning, and/or on the weekend. These schedules can make it extremely challenging for workers to meet their responsibilities to their families and their jobs, creating tremendous stress for parents and children alike—which can undermine young children’s well-being. High-quality child care can help provide stability for families and support children’s healthy development, but 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 work schedules. The law includes a number of provisions that give states greater flexibility to adapt their policies for parents in low-wage jobs with difficult work schedules. States should take full advantage of the opportunity offered by the law, as well as increased CCDBG funding, to expand access to child care assistance and child care options for parents in low-wage jobs and their families. This fact sheet outlines the ways states can tailor their child care assistance policies and procedures for parents working nonstandard schedules and their children, and offers examples of states that have already taken such steps.