Raising Quality Through Family Child Care Networks in Chicago

Oct 09, 2009

By Teresa Lim

One of the challenges to improving the quality of care for young children is ensuring that providers have adequate access to resources and support. For family child care (FCC) providers, the use of networks is one strategy being employed to increase provider outreach. How effective are these FCC networks in improving the quality of care, and what services and supports appear to be the most useful to providers? The Herr Research Center for Children and Social Policy addresses these questions in a study on family child care networks in Chicago. Findings from this study are presented in a new policy brief and full report. The study, which was conducted from 2002-2004, compares the effects of participation in an FCC network to no membership in a network. Two types of FCC networks are further analyzed: voluntary, provider-led associations and staffed FCC networks (networks with a staff coordinator who organizes and delivers resources and services to providers).

Overall, the study finds that providers who are part of an FCC network score higher on child care quality than providers who are not part of a network based on two measures: the Family Day Care Rating Scale (FDCRS) and the Arnett Caregiver Interaction Scale (Arnett CIS). Moreover, providers who are members of staffed networks score higher on quality than providers that participate in provider-led associations. Networks with the most positive impact on providers are staffed networks that have coordinators specially trained in infant care and that provide direct supports and services to providers. Regular communication between network staff and providers, onsite training at networks for providers, specialized infant training for coordinators, and frequent visits to FCC homes to assist providers in working with children were all among useful services the study found to be linked to higher quality care.

The policy brief and report recommends that state policymakers and FCC networks offer incentives to FCC providers to join staffed FCC networks, invest resources to recruit staff coordinators with training in infant development, and maintain regular communication between network staff and members.

CLASP has advocated for FCC networks as a way of raising quality of FCC homes where many young children are in care. In some states, direct contracts through the child care subsidy system are used to support networks and ensure that low-income children are in care meeting higher quality standards.

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