Recommended actions provide the specific steps that a workforce or economic development agency can take to implement job quality in their local area. The steps are intended to provide both guidance and inspiration by highlighting a variety of options including how to support job seekers, businesses, and their own operations.

Internal Staff

Assess internal policies and practices for employees who have caregiving responsibilities. Understand what benefits are available and how often they are used. Whenever possible, break down data by role, level and demographic information to understand if there are any equity gaps (e.g., services that may only be utilized by management, which could indicate that cost is too high for entry-level staff).

Internal data from the Human Resources Information System (HRIS), performance reporting and other tracking mechanisms - such as turnover, promotion rates, demographics - often demonstrate the severity of the pain point. 

Info such as whether a) earnings are self-sustaining b) benefits exist, individuals are eligible for them and the benefits are affordable c) growth is supported  and d) whether advancement comes from within or is largely external can provide more information on the cause of pain points. 

An understanding of localized Labor Market Information (LMI), participation in sector partnerships with other employers, educators and workforce development professionals, and assessment tools such as Working Metrics (which enables employers to benchmark to the industry) or the Good Jobs Scorecard can be useful to inform the prioritization of steps to address an employer's pain points.

To better understand employee needs and identify improvements, engage staff directly via survey, interview or focus group. Benefits offered by employers are often misaligned with what employees want, as is shown in The Caring Company: How employers can help employees manage their caregiving responsibilities (Harvard, 2019).

Establish a process for tracking usage and a cadence for reassessing the benefits package. This provides a dedicated time to verify that the resources offered continue to meet employee needs and encourages making adjustments as the workforce shifts over time. Transparently share what you are learning with employees whenever possible to reinforce the importance of job quality to the organization.

Sample measures to examine as you implement internally:

  • Percentage of staff with caregiving needs

  • Percentage of staff who are single parents

  • Trends in types of leave, if tracked (e.g., jury duty, bereavement, parental leave, sick leave, vacation)

  • Usage of existing benefits (number or percentage of employees by level and demographics)

  • Pre/post surveys after implementation of new benefits

Wondering about challenges you may face while doing this work? 

Jump to challenges

Do you need help in implementing caregiving support internally? 

Program Delivery

This may include:

  • Review available data on the population your agency serves. Consider what is collected through intake, stored in case management systems, or learned through meetings with participants. First, determine how many single parents are in your program (a Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) adult “barrier to employment” for eligibility).

  • Analyze supportive services expenditures to see how funds are being most frequently used to support caregiving. The Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act only requires collection of data on receipt of supportive services, but not on the type of service received (e.g., childcare versus transportation assistance). If they have not been collected already, consider whether to add basic identifiers to make your supportive service information more useful.

  • Review your referrals to organizations that assist with the provision or subsidies for caregiving to determine trends in population needs. This will inform your services and your partnerships.

You should consider what is offered and what is actually being used by participants. Underutilized resources could signal (1) misalignment between what is offered and what is actually needed, (2) a gap in communication (lack of awareness by either the participants or case managers) or (3) issues with restrictions or conditions of eligibility. For example,

  • What supportive services has your local board approved related to caregiving (e.g., funds for emergency childcare or eldercare, childcare vouchers or subsidies)?

  • What partnerships exist to provide necessary caregiving services? Are referrals to partners seamless/automated, including integrated referral systems or shared intake forms?

  • Is caregiving navigation available to help participants make caregiving decisions?

  • Are parents or older workers priority populations in your regional or local plan? Do you have any specific parenting or older worker programs?

  • Is caregiving considered when placing individuals in training, work experience or employment?

  • Are services available to support employers in expanding their caregiving benefits?

  • Are grant funds available to support caregiving needs across all of your programs?

Check out the Family-Centered Approaches to Workforce Program Services: Findings from a Survey of Workforce Development Boards for information on how other workforce boards use the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act system to serve parents, including insights for the implementation of family-centered strategies. Local Workforce Development Boards and Child Care (Urban Institute) also provides useful insights into how workforce development boards can help address childcare barriers by presenting findings from interviews with administrators from five local boards in Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Texas and Washington State.

Consider how the center itself may present barriers to individuals with caregiving responsibilities. For example:

  • American Job Centers (AJCs): A 2017 survey found that only 32% of AJCs allowed parents to bring their children and only 38% were required to assess childcare needs. Virtual appointments, expanded operating hours, onsite child or eldercare, colocation of children's services and workforce staff, integrated workforce/child services intake forms, integrated referral systems and other accommodations can also help caregivers access AJCs more easily.

  • Staff/Partner Training: A focus on family-centered coaching will help prepare staff and partners to engage with participants. Check out this report on Preparing WDB Staff for Success with Family-Centered Employment for guidance and tools to prepare workforce board staff for a family-centered approach.

  • Workforce Programs: Review when, how, and where services are offered to ensure that they work for participants with caregiving responsibilities.

This report on Partnering to Meet the Childcare Needs of Parents in Education and Training: Four Profiles of Collaboration (Urban Institute) provides examples of collaborations across the workforce, education, and childcare systems to improve service delivery.

Many federal programs offer some type of caregiving support for workers seeking education and training. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and TANF programs support a significant portion of childcare subsidies for low-income families. The Urban Institute has a number of detailed policy resources, and the National Association of Workforce Boards has information about the effective braiding of funds from Head Start, SNAP, TANF and others. For example:

  • A state can transfer up to 30% of its TANF funds to the CCDBG, which provides childcare assistance for disadvantaged families and funds childcare quality initiatives.

  • Funding from CCDBG may be used to provide care for children from birth to age 13. To qualify for assistance, a child’s parents must be working or in education or training programs and meet the income eligibility requirements set by the state or a child may be in protective services.

The Lehigh Valley Workforce Board operations are integrated with the TANF program with streamlined TANF/WIOA co-enrollment to allow for TANF to pay for childcare subsidies for many American Job Center customers. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)/TANF integration began in 2014 with the implementation of WIOA reauthorization.

Helping Parents Access childcare for Education and Training: A Framework for State Action offers a framework for state policies and practices connected to two key federal programs: the WIOA and Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). While the target audience is state administrators overseeing these programs, the insights are useful for any agency involved in the system.

Where you see gaps, engage with your board and/or grant program officers to explore implementing more flexibility (e.g., cash aid as a supportive service) in using your existing dollars. If a particular caregiving need is not permissible, consider either engaging with philanthropy around how the need can be filled or adding additional partners who are able to address the need with their funds.

Collaborate with childcare and eldercare partners. Like most human services programs, the workforce, childcare and eldercare systems have historically operated in siloes, even though they serve many of the same people and families. Building relationships with partners, both community-based organizations and local children's services and aging and independence agencies, can spark innovative ways to jointly serve your participants. Consider ways to align work, such as:

  • Sharing insights to better understand population needs: The childcare or elder care agencies in your jurisdiction will have expertise around the biggest challenges specific to the area and the most in-demand services they offer. Create a shared working group or action committee to regularly collaborate.

  • Integrating systems and processes: Consider colocating staff and leveraging shared intake forms to streamline the process for participants. Explore options for investing in shared data systems to speed up referral processes as well as create linkages in your data. Deploy staff to community-based events focused on parenting or elderly populations.

  • Closely braiding dollars and jointly pursuing funding opportunities: Look for opportunities to submit co-authored grants; advocate for budget allocations at the city, county, or state level or partner in piloting new approaches.

  • Defining success: Develop shared measures for tracking trends and improvements in serving your target populations. Explore the use of dashboards as a way to make information readily available to all interested parties.

  • Addressing cross-system eligibility and other policy improvements: Childcare programs can allow for presumptive eligibility based on established eligibility for workforce programs. For example, if an individual is classified as low-income by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act system, they can automatically qualify for childcare without having to go through the full eligibility and verification process. Discuss with local partners if there are ways to reduce the burden for low-income families who are in need of a full range of services.

This report by the Urban Institute provides more detail on the above alignment opportunities.

Equip your frontline staff with knowledge of the importance of caregiving resources (as both an attraction and retention mechanism) as well as the support available to employers. This guide includes talking points to help employers understand the business case for these programs, as well as an overview of requirements and strategies (e.g., reviewing an employer’s job postings to identify requirements that could be seen as barriers to jobseekers with caregiving responsibility and determining whether these are truly requirements for the job or “nice to haves”).

Sample measures to examine as you implement:

  • Percentage of participants with caregiving needs

  • Percentage of participants who are single parents

  • Family size and definition

  • Trends in use of supportive services related to caregiving

  • Usage of employer offered benefits (number or percentage of employees by level and demographics)

  • Differences in placement (time to placement, wages, etc.) for individuals requiring or prioritizing caregiving benefits vs. those who do not

Policy Advocacy

By researching and communicating  about childcare infrastructure as an essential component of workforce and economic development, agencies can be important advocates for efforts to expand access to affordable quality childcare for working families. 

In San Diego, California, the workforce board, county and local community foundation publish research and policy positions to increase investments in the childcare system.

In King County, Washington, voters approved “Best Start for Kids” levies. The most recent local measure generated $800,000,000 to expand access, affordability and quality of the region’s childcare system, including a wage increase demonstration project.

Advocate for strengthened local and state policies and the deployment of existing funds to support and expand existing programs such as the following:

  • Comprehensive paid family leave. Paid family leave, which allows workers to care for a new child after birth or adoption or to care for themselves or a loved one facing a serious illness, is a key support for family caregivers. Ten states and the District of Columbia currently offer paid family leave, and 16 states offer paid sick leave.

  • State-funded financial relief for family caregivers.

  • Application of American Rescue Plan Act or Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds intended to improve job quality to caregiving support.

Here are some sample measures to track advocacy progress:

  • Number or percentage increase in organizations in the community supporting caregiving policies

  • Increase/decrease in funding for caregiver supports

  • Number of policies successfully passed

  • Success measures (e.g., employment rate, return to work) for individuals with caregiving needs vs. those without

  • Increase or decrease in female participation in the workforce