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Supply, Quality, and Sustainability of Nontraditional Hour Childcare: An Equity-Focused Policy-Research Partnership for Illinois (NTH CC)

This project addresses critical gaps in knowledge about what quality looks like in nontraditional hour (NTH) childcare, the experiences of families who search for and use NTH childcare, the lived experiences of providers who offer care during these hours, and the types of supports needed to maintain, sustain, and grow its supply. The knowledge gathered will provide Illinois’ Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) lead agency and the field with new knowledge to inform policy development aimed at building supply and increasing equitable access, enhancing quality, and sustaining a thriving NTH workforce.

  • Juliet Bromer , Principal Investigator, Erikson Institute
  • Julia Henly , Co-PI, University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice
  • David Alexander , Co-PI, Illinois Action for Children
  • Samantha Melvin , Investigator, Erikson Institute
  • Bethany Patten , Associate Director, Division of Early Childhood at Illinois Department of Human Services
  • Karen Yarbrough , Senior Policy Advisor, Division of Early Childhood at Illinois Department of Human Services
  • Patricia Molloy , Research Manager, Erikson Institute
  • Marina Ragonese-Barnes , Research Analyst, Erikson Institute
  • Jon Okstad , Research Associate, University of Chicago
  • Sarah Jiyoon Kwon , Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Chicago
  • Suh Kyung Lee , Doctoral Student, University of Chicago
  • Alejandra Flores , Research and Evaluation Analyst, Illinois Action for Children


Equitable access to high-quality childcare includes care that is responsive to the work schedule and resource needs of families and the developmental needs of children. Significant proportions of low-income families work nontraditional hours (NTH), yet the early childhood field has focused almost exclusively on childcare provision during daytime, weekday hours with limited attention to quality, supply, and workforce experiences during NTH. Correcting this omission is an equity issue, especially given that NTH care is both provided and used disproportionately by low-income populations of color.

This four-year project will implement a sequenced set of research activities to yield new knowledge about the core pillars of nontraditional hour care: 1) demand, 2) supply, 3) quality, and 4) workforce sustainability. First, this project will synthesize existing research on nontraditional hour childcare to inform subsequent analysis of national household survey data to yield new knowledge about childcare demand during nontraditional hours. Second, we will use our synthesis to inform analysis of IL administrative data to examine changes in supply from pre-pandemic to the current moment. Third, the study will synthesize existing knowledge on quality practices during nontraditional hours to expand understanding about practices that matter most for children’s optimal development during nonstandard hours. A conceptual model for quality will be developed and guide subsequent research activities including two statewide surveys on provider and parent perspectives, as well as a set of case studies to deepen understanding about nontraditional hour quality practices. Fourth, we will use our case studies and statewide focus groups to better understand nontraditional hour providers’ working conditions and areas for workforce support development and enhancement for sustainability.

Together these activities will inform the IL CCDF lead agency on policy development around increasing the availability of high-quality nontraditional hour childcare, a top priority for the state and a focus of new legislation. The research will also inform a national audience of policymakers, program administrators, and practitioners around how to best implement, support, and sustain nontraditional hour child care options that equitably meet the needs and strengths of families, children, and providers.

The NTH CC project is a collaboration between Erikson Institute’s Home-Based Child Care Research group, the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice, and Illinois Action for Children.

This project is supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award (Grant #: 90YE0285) totaling $1,600,000 with 100 percent funded by ACF/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACF/HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit the ACF website, Administrative and National Policy Requirements.

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