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Objective: Low income families with children with special needs face unique challenges in balancing work and family responsibilities.  Faced with the difficult task of finding suitable, stable child care for their special needs child, many parents are nevertheless forced by economic necessity to join the labor force.  Despite the higher incidence of disabilities and chronic health problems among low income children, to date, there has been surprisingly little research done about the experiences of these families. The Cutler Institute for Child and Family Policy was funded by the Child Care Bureau at the federal Department of Health and Human Services to learn more about the experiences of this subpopulation of low income families and develop policy recommendations to assist these families in gaining the support they need.  While our primary focus was on access to child care, we also looked at the challenges of work and caring for a child with special needs, and the issue of coordination of early intervention services with the child care system.

  I. Why are we doing this research?

Our goal in conducting this research was not to examine how well any individual or agency is serving this population but instead to identify ways in which the system as a whole can better integrate services and be responsive to the particular needs of these families. By gaining an understanding of the experiences of parents as they juggle competing demands on their time, as well as the perspectives of staff in the multiple agencies which serve them, we hope that what we learn will be useful to policymakers at the federal, state and local levels as they work to improve the supports available to this population of families and children.

II. Background on the project:

Our project began on October 1, 2001. 



* Our final report is now available for downloading in pdf format. (Click here)

* In 2004, we issued our preliminary report on our interviews with parents called Parents' Voices (Click here)

bulletWelcome to our website!  We officially launched it on March 2, 2004!
bullet We have completed the Child Care and Children with Special Needs project!  We released our final report in May, 2007.
bulletInterested in looking at the instruments we used to conduct our research?  Check out the Instruments and Tools page!


Our work is focused on families of children with special needs.  We define special needs broadly, as meaning any disability, behavioral issue or chronic health condition, from asthma and ADHD to autism and cerebral palsy, which might affect accessibility to child care.


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We are proud to be funded by the Child Care Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Child Care Bureau is dedicated to enhancing the quality, affordability, and availability of child care for all families. The Child Care Bureau administers federal funds to states, territories, and tribes to assist low-income families in accessing quality child care for children when the parents work or participate in education or training.

Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service
Cutler Institute for Child and Family Policy
34 Bedford Street, P.O. Box 9300, Portland, Maine 04104-9300
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All content Copyrightę2002-2004, The Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service
Last updated: 09/12/08.