Critical Infrastructure: Supporting and Strengthening Informal Child Care
Family, friend, and neighbor care is child care provided by family members, friends, neighbors, or babysitters, and it is often defined by what it’s not. It’s not licensed child care, which is provided by teachers and child care workers in child care centers or family child care homes that follow regulations set by the state regarding child/staff ratios, safety and environmental standards, discipline practices, staff education and certification, and more.
While FFN care is not licensed and regulated, it is a critical component of many families’ support systems, and it is often used together with licensed child care. This report describes the important role family, friend, and neighbor care plays in child development and family economic security, and shares ways that supports for it can be strengthened.
The child care system is an integral part of what MDC calls the “infrastructure of opportunity,” the aligned institutions, policies, and practices that make upward mobility possible.
For families with young children, child care is a critical part of the community and the family’s infrastructure—both for the child’s development and for parents who support their children by trying to meet education and employment goals and obligations.
There are myriad child care needs—full-time, part-time, emergency, respite, mornings out, after-school, etc.—and both formal and informal arrangements, like licensed child care centers and family and friends, to meet those needs. Imagine these care options, not as a continuum or rank order from formal to informal, but as an ecosystem that meets different needs at different times, with choice dependent on available child care settings and resources (time and financial), family and community priorities, and with pros and cons, quality and outcomes, variable throughout.
MDC is helping one North Carolina foundation, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, understand family, friend, and neighbor care and what parents and caregivers need to support the significant number of families and caregivers engaged in informal care in the Forsyth County, where two-thirds of young children 0-5 are not enrolled in licensed child care.
For more information, contact Trina Stephens.