For over 50 years, PCHP’s intensive home visiting model has been providing low-income families the knowledge, skills, and tools to build school readiness in their homes before their children enter school. In response to the needs identified by PCHP partners and families in our target communities, PCHP sites across several states have begun implementing the PCHP Family Child Care (PCHP/FCC) model, adapted from PCHP’s evidence-based one-on-one home visiting model, to extend similar supports to the diverse array of family child care settings operating in under-resourced communities.
For information on how the need for higher quality family child care environments impacts underserved families in under-resourced communities and what PCHP is doing about it, see below.
The Challenge of Accessing Quality Child Care
Family child care is often the most available, flexible, and affordable method of child care, providing a familiar home environment and smaller, mixed-age groups of children. Many families prefer home-based care for these reasons, but it is a particularly convenient option for parents who work inconsistent or rotating work schedules and may not be able to afford more expensive, center-based programs. While family child care is thus a commonly accessed option for low-income families, family child care (FCC) providers often lack the resources or knowledge to support early childhood development and build school readiness skills. They work very long hours for little pay, are responsible for the safety, care, and feeding of varying ages/numbers of children, and often have limited access to quality training and professional development opportunities that are affordable, convenient, and meaningful to them. A national, multi-site study found that less than 10% of family child care homes could be considered “good” quality, while about half provided only “adequate” care and over a third were rated “inadequate” (Helburn and Howes, 1996).
The challenge to improve the quality of care available in family child care settings is an important one, because we know that high-quality care can help level the playing field for children who are at risk for entering school unprepared to succeed. Research shows that low-income children enrolled in high-quality programs benefit disproportionately, presenting significant cognitive, linguistic, and social-emotional gains (Li et al., 2012; McCartney et al., 2015). Furthermore, children who receive higher quality care are less likely to develop behavioral issues by adolescence (Votruba-Drzal et al. 2010).
The Parent-Child Home Program for Family Child Care focuses on developing the quality of family child care settings by working with providers to build on the unique strengths of home-based care. Utilizing PCHP’s experience building language, literacy, and learning rich home environments, Early Learning Specialists (ELSs) work one-on-one with providers to support school readiness for all the children in their care.
This model is designed to be flexible enough to address the variety of environments represented by family child care, working with both licensed providers and Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) providers, who are often either unlicensed or legally-exempt, and serve a significant number of children receiving subsidies. The model is an innovative professional development and enrichment approach for family child care providers because it takes place in their homes, during their work day, and does hands on work with them and the children in their care. Providers are able to practice new skills with the children in their FCC setting, under the mentorship of a PCHP ELS, rather than in a classroom setting, after hours. Over the course of a program year, each provider is visited twice a week by an ELS who provides books, educational toys, and art materials the provider needs, while modeling play, reading, and verbal interaction approaches for providers and children in care.
Since 2009, the PCHP/FCC model has been piloted in communities in New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and South Carolina. This pilot work has successfully brought critical school readiness and early literacy supports to low-income family child care settings by providing materials and modeling age-appropriate school readiness practice. In addition, by partnering with providers, these pilots have been able to connect the parents of the children in care with information and materials to support the development of school readiness and early literacy skills at home.
By working to enhance the school readiness and early literacy components of family child care environments, the PCHP Family Child Care model is committed to addressing the unequal availability of high-quality early learning programs and extending PCHP’s goal of ensuring that all children have the opportunity to enter school ready to succeed.