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Childcare crisis and Home Based Child Care Work

The United States is experiencing a childcare crisis. MDC, an organization based out of Durham, NC, advancing systems change for equity in the South, is working to support home-based childcare providers beginning in North Carolina as one way to change the systems that brought about this crisis.


What is the childcare crisis?

Childcare is essential—to children’s safety and development, to parents’ ability to work and support their families, and to the workforce and economy at large. Yet childcare is currently inaccessible for many, with more than half of the nation’s population living in areas classified as childcare deserts, a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also unaffordable. The U.S. government currently recommends families spend just 7% of their income on childcare, but true costs are 10% for couples and 30% for single parents. At the same time, childcare providers are severely underpaid for the complex and critical services they provide, with the average childcare provider receiving less than $15 an hour in pay. (1)

We are in this current crisis due to inequitable government support and funding for child care in the United States. This stems from a historic undervaluing of domestic work in our country—work that is mostly done by women and disproportionately done by women of color. (2) These systemic inequities lead to prices being driven higher for child care and options for child care being limited so that even as the demand for child care exceeds the supply, childcare providers cannot earn enough to sustain the sector without financial support from public investments. (3)


How are families in the South being impacted?

As childcare costs are rising at almost twice the inflation rate and childcare has become harder to find, American families with young children are facing the impact. Many parents are considering leaving the workforce and many have already done so, with the percentage of stay-at-home mothers rising from 15% in 2022 to 25% in 2023.  Of course, those who are already facing poverty are hit hardest by this crisis, as many families cannot afford the loss of parental income and also cannot find childcare, leaving them with an impossible conundrum. Southern states are feeling the full force of this crisis, with the highest rates of early childhood poverty concentrated in the South.  


What is the role of Home-Based Child Care? 

Home-based childcare (HBCC) refers to any kind of childcare provided in a home as opposed to a center or institution. It can take many forms, from Family Child Care Homes (FCCH) providing licensed care as a business out of a home, to license-exempt providers offering paid care to fewer children out of their home, to Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) providers who are the grandmas, aunties, family friends, and other community members who provide flexible care and can be paid or unpaid. All these forms of home-based childcare are vital to children, families, and the economy.  

Over 7 million children in the United States under the age of 6 are cared for in HBCC settings, and HBCC is the most prevalent form of care for infants and toddlers, with 30% of all infants and toddlers receiving home-based care (versus only 12% receiving center-based care). It is estimated that 64% of children under age 6 in North Carolina are being cared for in Family, Friend, and Neighbor care. HBCC, both licensed and license-exempt, provides critical infrastructure in our early childhood system and is integral to meeting the needs of families at a time when families are struggling to find affordable childcare and supply cannot keep up with demand. Despite its prevalence, HBCC providers do not receive equitable resources, support, or recognition from our early childhood system which has prioritized licensed center-based settings. (4)  


Childcare Crisis and Funding Cliff in NC

This lack of equitable resources has contributed to a decline of licensed family childcare homes throughout the state of North Carolina. HBCC providers face policy and regulatory barriers and problematic narratives about the care they provide, which are rooted in systemic and structural racism that has been well documented throughout the U.S. childcare system. All this is exacerbated and made urgent by the upcoming childcare funding cliff North Carolina faces on July 1, 2024.
In a state-wide survey of childcare programs conducted by the NC Child Care Resource and Referral Council, results showed that all forms of childcare in North Carolina, including HBCC and center-based care, are expecting major declines in their ability to remain open, low-cost, and/or fully staffed in the wake of the end of Stabilization Compensation Grants. More than 1 out of every 4 programs are expected to close, which includes an estimated 30% of FCCH programs and 28% of child care centers. At the time of this writing, a bill allocating $67 million in emergency funding for childcare in the first half of the fiscal year has passed in the House and the Senate and has been sent to the Governor to be signed, as a response to this issue. Even with this funding, the state still stands to face a significant gap in childcare funding after July 1. This crisis is impacting all families with young children in the state, all childcare providers who rely on this work for their livelihood, all businesses who rely on the support childcare offers their workforce, and most of all impacting those who are already economically insecure. MDC recognizes that in order for North Carolinians to thrive, we must support building more equitable systems so that all kinds of childcare are resourced well, and all families can access trusted, affordable, quality care.  

One way MDC is working toward this vision of a thriving South is through our Home-Based Child Care Initiatives to advance systems change for childcare in North Carolina. MDC gathers, empowers, and supports home-based childcare providers in advocating for systems change for a more equitable future for childcare in our state. We believe home-based childcare providers are critical voices for change, as they provide critical infrastructure for children, families, and the economy, and are directly impacted daily by the inequitable systems that have led to the childcare crisis. 


MDC’s Home-Based Child Care Initiatives 

To this end, MDC developed two interconnected programs to support North Carolina’s HBCC system with investment from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina.


Home-Based Child Care Community of Practice 

Launched in 2023, the Home-Based Child Care Community of Practice is made up of 8 childcare networks supporting HBCC providers in their own communities across the state. The CoP comes together to learn as a group, to share best practices with one another for supporting providers, and have crafted a vision for the future of childcare in North Carolina which they are currently using to coalesce around advocacy goals to push forward as a collective. This is a diverse group of organizations, serving licensed, license-exempt, and FFN home-based childcare providers, in communities from rural to urban and everything in between, and coming together for a shared vision and purpose.  

The HBCC Community of Practice participates in workshops regularly via Zoom, receives one-on-one coaching and support from MDC, and has convened in person twice. At the first in-person gathering, the group was deeply impacted by a gallery walk through the historical timeline of North Carolina Child Care policy. They were struck by the interconnectedness of deeply ingrained structural racism, the devaluing of domestic work, and the resulting creation of inequitable policies, and how this has all contributed to the current system we are living under. As Program Manager Susan Nobblitt observed, “Childcare providers are carrying the weight of multiple broken systems.” From this, the Community of Practice began to craft a vision for what a more equitable childcare system in North Carolina could look like. During the second convening, the group wrestled with language and priorities to settle on a collective vision to guide advocacy work and learned more about federal and state policy changes impacting childcare and what North Carolina might learn from successes in other states.  We are excited to see the impact this group will have across the state as they work together to push for a more inclusive and equitable childcare policy in our state that recognizes HBCC as a vital part of our early education system alongside center-based care.  

To see what some of these networks are already up to, scroll to the bottom! 


Home-Based Child Care Haven

HBCC Haven is the other half of the Home-Based Child Care initiative at MDC. This North Carolina-based program, inspired by Home Grown’s Leading From Home initiative, is a leadership program that brings together a cohort of 10 HBCC providers from themountains to the coast, who are each building local provider networks, and empowers them to pursue individual advocacy goals. This is a group made up of FFN providers, license-exempt HBCC providers, and owners of licensed family childcare homes, representing different kinds of communities across the state. These providers are deep in the day-to-day work of childcare and want to see a difference made in their communities and on a state level for more equitable treatment and resourcing for HBCC.  

Haven providers meet once a month to learn together on relevant topics and advocacy strategies, and another time once monthly for an informal round table for connection, self-care, and mutual support. They also meet regularly with advocacy mentors and receive one-on-one support from MDC Program Manager Laterria Lassiter. Haven providers have also gathered twice in person. At their first gathering, providers were celebrated with a “Celebrity Status” theme, recognizing the importance of their contributions to their communities, and learned from the stories of important domestic work advocates throughout history as well as hearing from a former childcare provider and current advocate on strategies for making changeAt the most recent gathering, providers discussed what can be learned from childcare policy changes in other states like Colorado, learned about the landscape of childcare advocacy in North Carolina and strategies for finding allies, and began to think about what a next cohort of the Haven program could look like. These incredible leaders are already a force in their communities, and we look forward to seeing them accomplish advocacy goals that will lead to a more equitable and inclusive childcare system for North Carolina that recognizes and resources HBCC as the vital piece of the early education ecosystem that it is.   


What’s Next 

MDC’s Home-Based Child Care Initiative including HBCC Haven and the HBCC Community of Practice will continue to pursue the vision of a North Carolina childcare system that respects and listens to the voices of providers, is an inclusive space for all kinds of home-based care, and is a place where all families can access affordable, trusted, quality care for their children.  

We continue to reflect on how we got to the current childcare crisis through the devaluing of domestic work, systemic racial division, and individualistic ideologies that have played out throughout American history, among other factors. Stay tuned for more from MDC on how conditions were set for the childcare crisis and what lessons we can take forward. 

How HBCC Community of Practice (COP) Networks & Haven Providers are Making Moves in NC 

Download the entire report in Spanish here.