Child care provided in home-based settings is a critical component in the overall child care market and encompasses a broad range of child care types—from child care programs that meet state licensing requirements to informal care options such as family members, friends, and neighbors caring for a small number of children. For the purposes of this policy framework, the term “family child care” is used throughout the document and defined as home-based child care providers that appear on a national or state list (see definitions box on page 2). Family child care offers flexibility and convenience for parents with accessible neighborhood locations, a trusted and consistent caregiver, small groups of children, and is a resource for parents who face barriers to accessing child care. For some children, a small learning setting is the optimal environment for their healthy development and provides continuity in child care from infancy to school age. For communities, family child care is an economic and social asset that supports a diverse workforce. During COVID-19, family child care offers specific features that may appeal to parents concerned about health and safety, such as small groups of the same children and very few adults who enter and exit a program on a daily basis.
For more than a decade, the number of licensed family child care programs significantly declined across the country. To ensure that parent choice is supported and children have opportunities to learn in settings that best suit their developmental needs, policymakers and community leaders must implement solutions at the national, state, and local levels to stabilize and grow family child care. This framework, therefore, does the following to support policy that advances family child care:
- Provides an historical background,
- Demonstrates the impact of policy on family child care,
- Makes the case for sustained investments,
- Outlines the principles that are central to the policies and investments necessary for increasing the nation’s family child care capacity, and
- Offers recommendations for policymakers, philanthropy, and the business community to fully support family child care’s future.