Understanding the Strengths of Family, Friend, and Neighbor Child Care
- Many families actively, deliberately select FFN care as their first choice of child care.
- Parents and providers emphasize that trusting relationships are important to FFN care.
- Providers support children’s development by responding to children’s needs and providing individualized activities to them.
- FFN care providers seek additional resources and trainings to enhance the quality of their care.
Many families throughout the United States use family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care. Parents choose this type of care because it is affordable, local, flexible, and culturally congruent. In addition, many FFN providers care for children from communities that have not had equitable access to opportunities, resources, and supports. This includes families of color affected by inequities, as well as families from immigrant backgrounds, families with low incomes working jobs with nontraditional hours, families living in areas of concentrated poverty, and families living in rural communities. FFN providers are essential members in the early childhood education (ECE) ecosystem, along with licensed, center-based and home-based care. They provide care that is valued by parents and fill gaps for care in locations with limited licensed ECE programs. However, FFN providers and the strengths and contributions they offer to families and children are often overlooked by policymakers and other stakeholders because they frequently operate outside of the public systems.
Home Grown contracted with Mathematica to conduct the Understanding the Strengths of Family, Friend, and Neighbor Child Care project to identify the strengths and limitations of FFN care and the needs of FFN providers. The study also aimed to inform considerations for future measures to assess FFN quality. The project explored three requisition questions: (1) What do FFN providers identify as the strengths of FFN care? (2) What aspects of FFN care do parents value? (3) What do providers identify as challenges to offering FFN care and what supports do they desire to enhance the care they provide? The study team at Mathematica started by developing a conceptual framework that outlines the key characteristics of FFN care. Then, in consultation with Home Grown, we selected five key characteristics to focus this study on, which would contribute to our understanding of the strengths and challenges related to FFN care. We also recognized that the voices of FFN providers and families that use FFN care are often missing from conversations about policies and programs. Therefore, we focused on the lived experiences of providers and families in an effort to amplify providers’ strengths, families’ values and needs, and additional supports that FFN providers need.
In this report, we first introduce the conceptual framework and the key characteristics of FFN care. Then, we provide information about the study’s background and data collection activities. The report then addresses each of the project’s research questions by identifying themes in the data and using illustrative quotes and images from the case studies to support the findings. The report includes profiles of three FFN providers; the information we collected from providers and parents informed these profiles, and the stories of these three providers help demonstrate the findings of this study. The report concludes with a summary before it offers recommendations.