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We Are Family: What Makes FCCs Different

06 Jan 2014 by Mary-Margaret Gardiner

Looking at the differences between home-based childcare and a typical pre-k class.

As I read our latest white paper on family child care and the CLASS system, I found myself humming Sister Sledge’s hit song, "We are Family." Even though family child care (FCC) settings may differ from other child-care arrangements (and from one another), we truly are a family when it comes to the business of providing care and supporting children and families through early childhood. And the bond that ties our family together? Interactions!

When talking about FCCs, it’s often difficult to describe just what this setting looks like. At Teachstone, we define FCCs as home-based child care that is run as a business; this can include professionals who have several classrooms and employ additional caregivers, or parents who want to earn money while staying at home with their own children. Each provider’s home looks a little bit different, and although FCCs provide care to a good portion of our youngest children (about 29% of infants and 25% of toddlers receiving child-care subsidies are cared for in an FCC home), they vary in terms of number of staff, licensing and oversight, and quality. The variations are most clearly seen in:

  • The ratio of providers to children – In FCCs, the ratio is usually lower than center-based care and group sizes are smaller.
  • Mixed age ranges – FCC age ranges change throughout the day with different children attending on different days and at different times.
  • Wraparound hours – Many FCC providers offer early morning, late evening, and even overnight care; this can mean extremely long days for providers and children.
  • Additional responsibilities – FCC providers run a business in addition to caring for children, and often single-handedly. They are responsible for diapering children, as well as buying the diapers, cooking and serving the food, caring for their own children along with the other children.

As you might imagine, many FCC providers struggle because they operate as individuals with little opportunity to meet with peers, share ideas, learn, or receive professional-development support.

Given the number of children and families that look to FCC providers, it’s critical that we focus on supporting the quality of care provided in these home-based settings. At Teachstone, we’ve spent time observing FCC settings with our unique CLASS lens, examining what teacher-child interactions look like and brainstorming with providers about how best to offer support to improve these interactions.

Our white paper is just a starting point for these conversations. Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging about the four challenges Ginny highlights in the paper related to using the CLASS system in FCC settings. But I’ll be looking to all of you to share your questions, thoughts, and experiences on how to use the CLASS system to improve interactions in FCC settings. Please share through the comments below.

And, if you’re looking to brush up on your FCC and CLASS knowledge, be sure to check out the recording of our webinar, Bringing the CLASS Measure Home: Observing Family Child Care Settings.

To quote Sister Sledge:

Here's what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do


Research Summary: Using the CLASS Measure in Family Child Care Homes