As a reminder, Staffed Family Child Care Networks (SFCCN) are organizations that offer home-based child care (HBCC) providers a menu of quality improvement services and supports, including technical assistance (TA), training, and peer support delivered by a paid staff member.
This is the second blog in our SFCCNs series which will examine how SFCCNs can address Home-Based workforce issues that face the early care and education community. As stated in the first blog the past decade has seen a drop in the number of HBCC, creating hardship for families, especially for those parents who work nontraditional hours, live in rural communities, have infants and toddlers, or do not speak English as their primary language. Prior to COVID-19, the U.S. did not have an adequate supply of high-quality child care spaces. But as reported by Child Care Aware of America’s most recent publication, Demanding Change: Repairing our Child Care System, it was found that during and after COVID-19 a total of 6,957 licensed family child care (FCC) programs (also known as home-based child care) closed in 36 states. This represents a 10% loss in licensed FCC programs.
This blog shares how SFCCNs can be leveraged as a mechanism to address both the supply and demand for HBCC and address issues pertaining to the workforce. The information shared here highlights promising practices and features how SFFCNs can be used to address the issues facing the HBCC option, including the availability and sustainability of FCC in states, territories, and tribes.
SFFCN services are made available through community organizations, such as Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies, which have knowledge and background of providers, understand the HBCC issues facing the community, readily connect providers to needed resources, and can impact community awareness of the issues and concerns as they arise. These organizations also provide recognition of the crucial work being done for children and families by family child care providers within the community. All SFCCN services have the potential for improving quality and reducing isolation for HBCC.
Workforce Support Issue #1 – Recruitment
Building the supply of HBCC has become a critical issue across the nation. HBCC has always been a crucial component of early care and education for families seeking a care setting that most closely resembles a home environment that is aligned with the culture, values, and language of the family. Addressing the recruitment of new HBCC providers into the field has become a focus for federal and state leaders, as well as community child care advocates. Outreach and recruitment strategies need to be developed based on provider input and knowledge of the current community context, including cultural and linguistic characteristics and other unique needs based on geographic location (urban versus rural).
SFFCNs provide an excellent opportunity to share the stories of HBCC providers and the work they do to support children and families, and the community. They can, and do, offer information and introduction sessions about becoming a HBCC provider and provide those interested an opportunity to participate in an orientation series on how to become licensed and provide quality care, as well as navigating the system.
Start-up support for HBCC providers is offered after attending an orientation series. Tiered support services are offered based on a technical assistance plan that is developed based on provider needs, requests, and a business opening plan. Part of the tiered support is linking the new provider to mentorship with a veteran FCC provider.
Essential service to the community:
SFCCNs exist to connect and support HBCC programs within a state or local community. They deliver
essential services to improve program quality and strengthen HBCC homes to conduct their businesses more efficiently and effectively. While each SFCCN may offer varying services, these fall into the following category depending upon the needs of HBCC providers expressed need. These services typically include technical assistance, training, peer support, and business practices.
Monthly information sessions are offered in the SFCCN service area. These sessions highlight the importance of HBCC as a valuable service to families and outline the process for becoming a HBCC provider.
Economic impact for the community:
HBCC has a direct impact on the community’s strength and ability to grow. Having a safe and affordable child care option that reflects the culture and values of families and communities strengthens and supports the well-being of the community workforce and makes it possible for workers to work. As one CCR&R states, “Investments of time, talent and treasure in child care can improve a community’s economic vitality, a business’s ability to attract talent, and a working parent’s ability to thrive in their job.”
SFCCNs provide information sessions to business leaders on the status of child care and the issues that are impacting the HBCC workforce and the community.
Workforce Support Issue #2 – Retention
Keeping HBCC providers in operation is critical in order to meet the child care needs of communities all over the nation. When there is stability of child care offerings, children and families benefit, as well as the entire community due to the economic impact of supporting working parents to be able to continue working. However, HBCC providers face challenges that may contribute to leaving the field. These providers have described the stress associated with playing multiple roles in their programs (educator, accountant, custodian, nutritionist, nurse, social worker, etc.). Supporting HBCC providers to stay in the field by making connections, reducing feelings of isolation, professionalizing the field, and meeting providers where they are, are just a few of the ways that may address the retention of these critical child care providers.
Quality Building Support
Both individual and group support with opportunities for peer connections have been found to improve program quality and support home-based and family child care providers by increasing social supports, reducing isolation, enhancing self-efficacy, and increasing providers’ sense of professionalism.
Facilitating long-term professional trusting relationships built through individualized supports such as consultation, coaching, hotlines, and/or touch base visits
SFCCNs may offer direct TA to support quality initiatives such as Quality Rating and Improvement (QRIS), licensing concerns, or business practice. Videotaping provider-child interactions and facilitating discussion around improvements made in using the home environment as an extension of child learning activities.
Reflective practice is learning from everyday situations and issues and concerns that arise which form part of daily routines and activities. SFCCNs can support HBCC by offering reflective conversations during which HBCC providers can benefit from processing specific daily successes and challenges.
Focused attention to the needs of new HBCC providers
SFCCNs offer targeted phone hotline hours that are open for new HBCC providers to allow opportunities to ask specific questions regarding start-up questions such as budgeting, business operation, licensing, environment, and working with families.
Facilitating mentoring activities
SFCCNs recruit and train veteran HBCC providers. They can match and facilitate mentors with new HBCC providers that wish to participate in the opportunity.
SFCCNs highlight HBCC providers in their monthly newsletter and honor achievements during annual conferences.
Peer Networking – offering connection with peers – people to relate to and share with, solve common problems, and/or share resources
SFCCNs facilitate monthly meetings with providers with agenda items driven by participant submission. SFCCNs offer the opportunity for case study discussion based upon an issue shared by a provider (with permission and confidentiality of provider ensured).
Training content that is relevant and customized for HBCCHBCC providers share that often PD content is too focused on center-based topics and though they can glean relevant information for their work, they would like to see focused home-based content.
SFCCNs can offer curriculum training for HBCC providers that discusses planning and implementing curricula for mixed-age groups.
Recognizing, honoring, and respecting HBCC provider cultures, values, and languagesProviding opportunities to work effectively with diverse populations and create opportunities for reflection and learning about cultural respect and responsiveness, including potential instances of implicit bias.
SFCCNs facilitate monthly offerings where HBCC providers share photos of themselves (as children or growing up), their family, and their environment to share their “story” in order to foster a sense of belonging and community through a cultural lens.
SFCCNs offer targeted training in preferred languages.
Professional/Peer Learning CommunitiesProfessional/Peer learning communities (PLC) focus on collaborative learning, reduced isolation of teachers, knowledge of evidence-based practices, better informed and committed educators, and creating a culture focused on learning and growing together.
SFCCNs offer a PLC on using the home learning environment as a unique learning setting for children and how this supports learning from everyday routines and activities. SFCCN staff facilitate make-it-take-it sessions focusing on learning goals and establishing routines with the home setting in mind.
Adjusting training times and locations to better meet participants’ schedules
SFFCNs send out a survey to participating providers to assess preferences on times and locations of meetings, training, and special events. They used this information to plan support opportunities and engage providers more effectively by taking their needs into account. They also rotate meeting times between morning and evening hours and offer online opportunities every quarter.
Workforce Support Issue #3 – Compensation
Despite the high costs of child care, wages for child care workers have not increased to keep pace. Often there are no benefits, and many providers rely on government subsidies to survive. HBCC providers are often the least compensated of the child care options and as a result, they leave the field in search of greater compensation and benefits. It is important that we advocate for an equitable and well-supported workforce that values its importance for working families.
SFCCNs can advocate for greater compensation on behalf of HBCC providers by participating in local or state government workforce committees for fair wages and benefits for ECE providers and using this as an opportunity to support state subsidy increases for HBCC providers.
Stipends - A stipend is a supplemental or non-wage cash award that a provider may receive more than once (e.g., every six months or every year), often intended to support retention.
SFCCNs can access private or public grant opportunities to offer stipends for continuing to provide care or as start-up incentives.
Bonuses - A bonus is a cash award provided as a one-off recognition of a particular educational achievement (such as completion of a degree or credential).
SFCCNs use special funding for bonus opportunities attached to the achievement of their CDA.
SFCCNs pay for national organization membership fees as compensation for attendance in network events and opportunities.
Home-based wage and compensation data
SFCCNs have the opportunity to collect and share HBCC provider salary scale and benefits across their service area. They can provide opportunities for HBCC providers to engage with financial or business management specialists to ensure a salary and benefits are considered in the budget.
Workforce Support Issue #4 – Business Practices
Being able to operate a small business is an essential factor of child care program quality. HBCC providers need to use sound business practices and have financial tools and resources to support and maintain their business. HBCC providers often struggle to sustain and grow their businesses, especially those new to the field. Providers who cannot keep up their programs may eventually close their doors due to the pressure of offering quality care while balancing business revenue and expenses.
Support and consolidate back-end business functions
SFCCNs can provide access to specialists that can offer tax preparation, enrollment support, fee collections, marketing, and participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) as well as shared purchasing of food, classroom materials, and teacher resources.
SFCCNs can support providers’ access to technology by purchasing computers, tablets, or smartphones as well as internet capacity as well as by providing training on the use of this technology.
Assistance with grants and other funding opportunities
SFCCNs can function as a clearinghouse for relevant grant opportunities and can support providers in grant writing and implementation activities.
SFCCNs can also offer start-up grants to HBCC programs to ensure licensing requirements are met, family engagement activities are offered, and materials and resources are developmentally appropriate for mixed-age groups.
SFCCNs can help providers purchase materials or equipment or provide these directly. SFCCNs can leverage purchasing power and receive discounts for the providers. Examples include learning resources, books, health and liability insurance, and technology.
SFCCNs can offer much-needed support to the HBCC workforce. They can support improving both the quality of HBCC and the business practices of providers. SFCCNs have a unique role in supporting the well-being of the workforce by reducing feelings of isolation and discouragement, as well as supporting HBCC providers to be models of culturally sensitive caregiving practices. They can advocate on behalf of participating providers and support the professional journey of each provider. They deliver services quickly and efficiently while keeping the unique needs of the HBCC provider in mind. Grounded in relationship building, SFCCNs are meeting the needs of the HBCC provider community with a strength- based approach; helping, supporting, encouraging, and challenging providers to come into, and stay in the field.