The number of Michigan child care providers dropped by 25% between 2014 and 2021. And many parents pay 8%-30% of their income on child care—more than is affordable. To develop a plan to research payments to providers and costs for families, PPA created an advisory group of those experiencing the daily realities of delivering and accessing child care—parents/guardians and child care providers.

Conducting interviews, surveys, or focus groups gathers some of this feedback, but advisory groups give program participants and others influence on how the project proceeds, what is asked, and sometimes even how the results are interpreted and utilized. Advisory groups move the end-user from the end to the beginning—where they can better effect change. 

Over several meetings, advisory group members collectively helped to narrow the focus of the potential study to the most critical issues. The advisory group members also contributed by:

  • Testing data-collection tools for readability and clarity.
  • Offering suggestions for how best to recruit providers and families to the study.
  • Identifying potential reasons behind family and provider decisions.

This research is focused on Michigan’s Child Development and Care (CDC) assistance program’s payment structure. The CDC program helps families afford quality child care. Research topics include payment rates to providers, the co-payment requirement for families, billing by full-time or part-time blocks, and allowing billing by enrollment versus attendance, among other related policy changes that may occur in the near future.

PPA is also convening a Community Advisory Board for a Child Care Market study for Frederick County, Maryland. This group includes a diverse group of families and providers who are helping researchers bring in more community member voices and identify priorities for action.

For more information about the CDC program payment structure study, see the project webpage. To learn more about PPA’s other projects related to early care and education or incorporating advisory groups into research and planning, please contact Colleen Graber at

The research design discussed in this article 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 #90-YE-0253) totaling $176,515, 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.