Issue of the Week
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By Jerome Chou

03 Apr 00


For working parents who cannot afford private day care or at-home service from nannies, babysitters, or au pairs, the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) funds a patchwork of child care providers citywide available on a sliding scale basis (see chart below). Since 1990 ACS has also offered low-income parents a growing number of federally-funded vouchers of up to $148 per week to pay for whatever category of day care they choose. The discovery in January that parents living in politically-connected, Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods had received a disproportionate share of the city's approximately 14,500 vouchers only underscored how precious these subsidies have become.

The Families Independence Administration (FIA) is an entirely separate City child care agency responsible for providing child care services to parents in New York's welfare-to-work program. Although politicians and policymakers insist that child care is essential to the success of welfare reform, in practice, child care advocates say, many families are left out. Because of the severe shortage in institutional child care, about 85% of the 150,000 children who are guaranteed child care by FIA receive what's known as informal care. The Children's Defense Fund estimates that the City will need to provide care for an additional 61,000 children by the end of this year.

After watching state child care funding decline every year since 1995, Governor Pataki has proposed an additional $85 million in subsidies this year (an opening bid that the State Assembly will surely raise) on top of $162 million passed in last year's delayed budget, and a $200 million Reserve Fund. Meanwhile, officials at both ACS and FIA have discussed merging the two agencies, making it easier to coordinate services and allocate funds. Child care advocates say the coming expansion and reorganization must address three key issues: supply, affordability, and quality of care.

Group Day Care

Family Day Care

Informal Care

Type of Care

Licensed Center

Home-based Family

Friends, etc.


Up to 14 children

Up to 6 children

Not specified


Certified Teachers

Trained Provider-Parents



License, City Contract

Dept. of Health


Subsidized Slots



Not specified


Child Care Inc. - The first stop for information on child care in New York (though not yet in website form). See their stats on affordability (e.g. a single parent working full-time at the minimum wage would have to pay over half of her income for center-based care). E-mail for copies of their 1998 Child Care Primer.

City Council 1999 Legislative Agenda - Although family day care homes are registered with the City's Department of Health, only 20% are inspected anually, and there's no pre-registration inspection. Informal day care isnÅt monitored at all. The Council has proposed a number of new standards to ensure the safety of children while in daycare.

Children's Defense Fund - Scroll to "A look at the States" to download a detailed report on the state of child care in New York.

Urban Institute - "Child Care Arrangements for Children Under Five: Variation Across States," a 12-state survey (including New York) of child care arrangements, puts an emphasis on low-income families. (Revealing Stat Award: see their charts on what percentage of children under five with employed moms spend 35 hours or more in non-parental child care.)

Child Care Directory - Information on hundreds of providers citywide, sponsored by ACS and the United Way.

Daily News - The story that broke the voucher scandal.

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