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).