Massachusetts: Family Child Care System Contracts

Dec 01, 2011

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) contracts with family child care (FCC) systems to ensure a stable level of access to high-quality family child care throughout the state. Any FCC system in Massachusetts that agrees to provide EEC subsidized early education and care services through its affiliated providers must hold a contract with EEC.

Family child care is a common type of child care for children under the age of three. According to data collected by the state’s child care resource and referral agency, just over half of care (55 percent) requested by parents in 2008 was for infants and toddlers; 42 percent of families requested family child care. FCC systems are significant sources of assistance and support for FCC providers in the state, particularly for those who serve subsidized children. A study conducted on family child care in Massachusetts found that among licensed FCC homes serving subsidized children, 80 percent participate in a FCC system. In 2009, more than a quarter (28 percent) of subsidized children in Massachusetts were infants and toddlers, and more than a quarter of subsidized children (28 percent) were cared for in family child care or group child care homes.

There are currently 52 FCC systems of various sizes under contract with the state. Provider participation numbers range from six providers affiliated with a system to more than 1,000. For instance, Child Development and Education, Inc. is a statewide FCC system that supports 900 providers who care for approximately 4,500 children. On the smaller end, the Cole-Harrington Family Child Care System provides care to about 175 children in three counties through a network of more than 65 providers. FCC providers, though in a system, are independent business owners and may enroll children outside of those referred by the system. In total, FCC systems across the state provide a maximum of 1,200 contracted slots for infants and toddlers under the age of two. The licensed capacity of family child care in Massachusetts is approximately 60,000 representing 22 percent of the total capacity for licensed care in the state. Of the total family child care capacity, 33 percent is available to children under the age of two.

Payments to Systems
FCC system payments are based on a two-part reimbursement rate. The first part is a direct-care rate to cover the cost of reimbursing affiliated FCC providers who deliver care through the system. The second part is an “administrative and program support” rate of $10 a day for each child enrolled full-time to cover the cost of the services provided by the system. This is reduced to $5 for each child enrolled in part-time care, defined as less than 30 hours/week. This rate has been unchanged for several years. FCC systems are also eligible for EEC grant opportunities, such as the universal pre-kindergarten program (UPK) and the newly developed Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) grants, which are targeted to help their affiliated providers achieve higher levels of quality.

Contract Requirements
FCC systems are contractually required to provide an array of services and supports to families, children, and affiliated providers. As part of their direct contract with EEC, FCC systems must provide the following services:

    • Provider recruitment: FCC systems are required to “recruit family child care providers that reflect the linguistic and cultural diversity of the children and families in the areas served by the system.”


    • Eligibility and enrollment services: FCC systems must “provide families with eligibility assessments in accordance with the EEC’s Financial Assistance Policy Guide and answer questions that families may have about early education and care options. They must ensure access to the EEC wait list; ensure that families receiving child care financial assistance have the opportunity to benefit from provider participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food program or an equivalent source of nutritional support.”


    • Substitute child care: FCC systems must support substitute arrangements for provider sick days, vacations, and other provider emergencies.


    • Home visitor services: System staff are required to make at least one onsite, technical assistance visit per month to each provider in the system. Each home visitor/system representative must be Lead Teacher-qualified under EEC Group Day Care Licensing Standardsor have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Systems must employ culturally responsive staff and services that reflect and respect the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the families in their program. Among their responsibilities, home visit staff must:
      • Assess and evaluate the needs of enrolled children and their families,
      • Develop individualized and appropriate curriculum for the children served,
      • Provide resources and support for work with children and families,
      • Identify providers’ professional development needs and associated development plans, and
      • Assist providers to move toward higher quality and participation in EEC initiatives, such as the UPK and QRIS.


    • Family support services and referrals to community services:Â FCC systems, especially those with priority populations contracts, must act as a resource for identifying family needs, determining appropriate community resources to meet those needs, and referring families/children to the appropriate services. Services include:
      • Early Intervention Programs,
      • Massachusetts Family Networks,
      • Parent Child Home Programs,
      • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),
      • Local public school programs,
      • Homeless shelters, and domestic violence programs, and
      • Other services in the community, such as social, health, mental health, special education, and medical services (including dental check-up, vision and hearing screening). 


    • Reporting suspected child abuse and neglect: FCC systems are responsible for ensuring that any instance of suspected child abuse and neglect is reported to the Department for Children and Families and notifying the EEC Regional Office of such a report immediately. Systems must develop and maintain written procedures for addressing any suspected incident of child abuse or neglect.


    • Administrative support: FCC systems handle billing and payroll requirements for affiliated providers. Systems are also responsible for conducting eligibility assessments and reassessments to verify that all families receiving financial assistance through the contract program meet income, family activity, and other EEC requirements. The current administrative system in Massachusetts is paper-based. While the state is developing its information systems capacity to make the processes electronic, it is uncertain when this changeover will be operational. Thus, the systems play an important role for providers in handling administrative paperwork.


    • Transportation


  • Collection of Parent Fees

Provider Training and Professional Development
FCC systems must make professional development opportunities available to affiliated FCC providers throughout the year. Service requirements include:

  • Annual individual professional development needs assessments,
  • Maintaining records of trainings and attendance,
  • Providing or collaborating with EEC Educator and Provider Support Grantees to offer courses, mentoring, career counseling, and academic advising,
  • Classes and conferences that offer EEC hours or approved continuing education units (CEUs) that can advance practitioners along a career path towards a CDA credential, college degree, and/ or accreditation; and
  • Courses designated by EEC to address a specific need.

FCC systems have the latitude to offer trainings in a wide range of content areas, from multicultural awareness to child development, birth to age eight. However, all systems must provide affiliated providers with approved training and informational materials on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). State child care licensing requires that providers new to the system must receive training in safe sleep practices within 60 days of joining the system if the provider is not caring for infants at the time and immediately if the provider joins with infants in care. Training must be completed prior to the system’s referral and placement of any infants with the provider.

To meet these requirements, systems must assure that:

  • All staff that regularly visit affiliated FCC providers’ homes or who transport one or more child in care are trained on SIDS,
  • Written verification of the SIDS training is maintained in the appropriate provider or staff person’s file, and
  • Training and written information on SIDS is given to each affiliated provider.

Services and Supports for Diverse Families and Providers
FCC systems play an important role for linguistically and culturally diverse children and families and the providers that serve them. FCC systems are expected to enlist providers that reflect the demographic diversity of the children and families in their service area. Child Development and Education, Inc., a statewide FCC system, supports 900 providers, the majority of whom are Spanish-speaking. The system has bilingual staff who can speak Spanish and Portuguese. In addition, the system places a heavy emphasis on making home visits and providing support meaningful to providers in terms of information and practical guidance. While most community college courses are only offered in English, some FCC systems, such as Child Development and Education, Inc., are able to offer CEU-qualified professional development trainings in Spanish.

On a smaller scale, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, Inc. (BCNC) operates a Family Child Care system that serves the City of Boston. Established in 1991, BCNC trains Chinese-speaking women to become licensed FCC providers and provides ongoing assistance, monitoring, and support for its members. A home visitor provides regular training to providers and supervises their curriculum, nutrition program, and other program components important to providing quality care. In addition, BCNC organizes parent meetings, workshops, and other activities to promote family engagement. Overall, BCNC’s FCC system oversees up to 36 children; its members serve children as young as four months old.

Reporting Requirements
FCC systems must report performance data to EEC related to comprehensive services, child screening, and assessment of on-going child developmental progress. FCC systems must also submit an annual program and cost report related to the administrative and program support services that they provide. For the purposes of tracking child outcomes, the state contract does not require FCC systems to track and report detailed developmental screening results, referrals, or receipt of appropriate services. However, on an individual basis, some systems are attempting to do this independently.

For example, Child Development and Education, Inc. maintains records on home visiting activities, including screenings, referrals and services received. The system also uses reporting data internally to inform professional development trainings and other service offerings in its system. Other systems may do this to varying extents as well, depending on their capacity. FCC systems that receive other state grants and sources may be required by these funding streams to report additional data to various state agencies. However, there is presently no systematic effort to track this either through the contracts or some other mechanism.

Emerging Developments
Massachusetts is developing standards for FCC systems to support best practices and greater consistency across systems. Currently, beyond the requirements specified in the contract, there are no other means of regulating the systems’ operations. No further details are presently available on the status of these standards, including whether the new standards will be mandatory or voluntary, or how they will be enforced.

Ardith Weiworka
Executive Vice President
Child Development and Education, Inc.
Phone: (781) 322-9100

Constantia Papanikolaou
General Counsel
Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
Phone: (617) 988-6603


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