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Home-Based Child Care

Many families with young children benefit from home-based child care, which includes both family child care (FCC) and family, friend, and neighbor care (FFN). These forms of home-based care and learning are well-positioned to meet the needs of the families who face the greatest barriers to accessing care and early learning opportunities, including families with infants and toddlers and families who work nontraditional hours.

Supporting Home-Based Child Care

Home-based child care (HBCC) is popular because many providers offer flexible schedules and are more affordable and familiar to families than child care centers. In addition, many families are able to find home-based providers with cultural and/or linguistic backgrounds similar to their own. Yet, too often, family child care is left out of investments in early childhood and providers do not benefit from equitable access to resources and professional learning opportunities.

Home-Based Child Care Core Principles:

  • Family child care and family, friend, and neighbor care settings, whether licensed or license-exempt, should be considered as part of a mixed delivery system for early care and education.
  • Strategies for working with providers in these family care settings should be responsive to their needs and should be developed to specifically reflect their modality of care.
  • Home-based child care strategies and the system components supporting home-based child care settings should be resourced on par with center- and school-based strategies and settings.
  • Family child care needs to be approached in a systemic way in order to fully leverage all the various federal initiatives and private funding opportunities.
  • An equity lens, with a sharp focus on racial equity, is integral to this and all BUILD approaches.

No single solution can address the myriad challenges that face home-based child care. These challenges include the unprecedented decline in providers due to, in part, an aging population and an absence of younger individuals selecting this type of early care and education work; an increase in inappropriate regulations and requirements for providers (often created with center-based care in mind); and isolation and lack of access to some of the quality supports and funding offered to centers, such as infant/toddler contracts, state preschool funding, and quality incentives.

COVID-19 has had additional significant repercussions. It has led to closings of many home-based child care sites and to an increase in demand for this kind of care.

Family child care providers are decreasing, which has significantly curtailed family choice.

According to an analysis by the National Center for Early Childhood Quality Assurance (NCECQA), about 90,000 licensed FCC homes closed between 2005 and 2017; although overall licensed capacity increased by seven percent, mostly due to increased center capacity. The federal Office of Child Care calculated that the number of children in families with low-incomes who received child care assistance in a home (child’s home or providers home) fell by 35 percent between 2011 and 2016.

Our Work

BUILD’s approach to family child care is multi-faceted and systemic. BUILD assists state leaders as they examine how they are implementing and resourcing a mixed delivery system and whether and how they support family child care as a core partner. Our approach includes helping leaders identify strategies that will increase supply and design quality supports explicitly for family child care with the appropriate depth and longevity to facilitate change.

BUILD has partnered with more than a dozen states as they expand their systems of support to include family child care. BUILD has helped state leaders via staffed family child care networks, business practices assistance, cross-service connections, and quality supports through improved integration into the mixed delivery system. BUILD also supports states to help providers by increasing the supply of quality professional development systems focus specifically on home-based care.

Family Child Care as A Core Component of the Early Care and Education System

The National Survey of Early Care and Education estimates that one million paid providers care for 3,091,000 children who are newborns through age five in the providers’ homes; this includes regulated, registered, and family, friend, and neighbor care (National Survey of Early Care and Education Project Team, 2016). According to the Office of Child Care website, about one in four children (24 percent) receiving child care funded by the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program is cared for in family child care. Specifically, in 21 states and territories, 30 percent or more of children receiving CCDF program funds are in family child care.

While there is growing recognition of the significance of family child care in the early care and education field, FCC providers may feel isolated from resources and other professionals in the ECE field and often have limited training in how to support child development. State systems often struggle to reach out to these caregivers and offer support. An Office of Child Care brief on family child care raises the issue of the wide variance in state regulations, such as licensing, that apply to home-based care settings, and, therefore, the role assumed by states in supporting FCC programs. The brief notes that:

Research has identified predictors of quality in family child care, which include licensing, professional support, training, financial resources, and provider experience. High-quality family child care has been linked to improvements in children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development. Although licensing rules for family child care in states often do not reflect high-quality standards, FCC providers can exceed these minimum expectations and can provide high-quality care and early learning experiences for children.

The federal emphasis on family choice and an early care and education system that includes home-based care in Child Care Development Block Grants, the Early Learning Challenge, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, and in the current Preschool Development Grants Birth-Five has increased state focus on home-based care. COVID-19 has dramatically increased this focus.

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