girlsIn 1987, Oregon began its child care resource and referral (R&R) system under the auspices of the Oregon Commission for Child Care. State child care agency staff, university researchers, the Commission for Child Care representatives, and staff building the new R&R system saw an opportunity to develop data about the child care system by building good data collection procedures into the emerging R&R system. By 1990, partners were meeting regularly and had secured a grant from the Aspen Institute to support this fledging data collection effort. The Aspen Institute provided researchers to grass roots organizations who needed research expertise. Arthur C. Emlen had been doing child care research for over 20 years, and Aspen Institute funding made his services available to the partners. Since that time Arthur Emlen has supported partner efforts to create data collection, analysis, and reporting strategies that provide information on child care dynamics to decision-makers.

In 1993, the partners became part of the AT&T Foundation’s Early Education Quality Improvement Project (EQUIP), administered by the Families and Work Institute in New York. Through funding, technical assistance and shared efforts with other EQUIP sites, Oregon partners continued to develop methods for measuring different aspects of child care. Participation in EQUIP also connected the Oregon partners with national efforts to use data to inform child care decision-making.

In 1995, Congress created the Child Care Bureau within the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the first acts of the new Bureau was to develop child care research capacity. Oregon became one of the first three child care research partnerships funded by the Child Care Bureau and helped develop the Bureau’s Child Care Policy Research Consortium. The Regional Research Institute at Portland State University managed this first grant (sometimes called Wave One) for the partners. Oregon was successful in continuing into the next Bureau funding of research partnerships (sometimes called Wave Two), and leadership moved to Linn-Benton Community College in 1997.

Throughout its history, Oregon partners have remained committed to building the capacity for accountability and ongoing data collection, analysis, and reporting into its child care system. Assistance for this effort came in the form of a State Capacity grant from the Child Care Bureau to the Child Care Division in 2001.

In 2004, the Administration for Children and Families awarded the Family Policy Program a three-year grant, Guidance for Validating Child Care Market Rate Surveys. Building on Oregon's expertise in validity issues surrounding child care market rate surveys, a team composed of researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Minnesota, and Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, Research Connections studied policies and practices in states, territories, and tribes and tested the validity of the most common methods used in producing findings which are used in determining the size of child care subsidies to low-income families. Study findings will be used by states, territories, and tribes, all of who are required to conduct child care market rate surveys.

In 2009, the Subsidy Policy Impact (SPI) study, funded by Oregon Employment Department (OED), was launched to study parent perceptions of the 2007 child care policy changes and the impact of those changes on decision making. We collected original in-depth qualitative data from interviews with families who had been relatively stable recipients of child care subsidies in Oregon. A major finding of the qualitative study is that parents consistently reported unpredictability in the size of their child care cost burden while on the subsidy. A second phase of the SPI study employs a telephone survey of parents who participated in the subsidy program. The telephone survey of 580 parents explored both the reasons for fluctuation in cost burden and its impact on employment and child care decisions.

Oregon State University's Family Policy Program coordinates the Oregon Child Care Research Partnership. It conducts numerous policy-relevant research projects for local and national public and private organizations. The Partnership continues to be the working collaboration of state child care agency staff, university researchers, the network of child care resource and referral agencies, and other child care practitioners.