Registered family child care homes are a community-based solution
All parties must collaborate on short- and long-term plans for
In January 2020, there were 1,486 registered family child care providers in New Jersey. In May, Child Care Aware of New Jersey and the New Jersey Family Child Care Providers Association conducted a survey to better understand the family child care home landscape and providers' needs for re-opening.
COVID-19 Impact. Among the 1,014 family child care providers who responded to the survey, 346 closed due to the pandemic (218 responded in English and 128 responded in Spanish). Two-thirds of survey respondents indicated they have remained open and reported this was out of necessity - her own income and economic well-being, and families have been counting on her.
The number of registered family child care programs in New Jersey has been declining over the past decade. As the state looks to re-open businesses and services to jumpstart recovery, working parents will need access to child care. With parent anxiety high related to potential COVID-19 exposure, there could be a shift in parent preferences for the smaller child care settings offered in neighborhood family child care homes. Both open and temporarily closed family child care providers will need meaningful support to welcome children and keep everyone (including themselves) healthy and well.
New Jersey Family Child Care Home Provider Survey Results
We face a crisis in the declining availability of registered family child care providers in the state. In New Jersey, there were nearly 5,000 registered family child care providers in 2001. That number dropped to 3,000 by 2010 and stood at less than 2,000 registered providers in 2016. At the same time, about three-quarters of New Jersey's infants and toddlers do not have access to a licensed child care center either. These children are somewhere.
Stakeholders indicate retirement, long hours at a challenging job, dwindling enrollment causing insufficient income, technology, and confusing regulations were contributing to the decline in registered providers. There are major system barriers like low compensation, low payment rates in the subsidy program, the enrollment cap (five children maximum), and inconsistent rules or standards across initiatives. Providers and CCR&R staff also point to day-to-day barriers like the Manual of Regulations and other materials available only in English; challenges with finding and using substitutes; access to computers/electronic devices and access to Internet/wi-fi.
Throughout 2018, Child Care Aware of New Jersey interviewed stakeholders, surveyed nearly 500 providers responding in both English and Spanish, and brought together CCR&R staff, the Family Child Care Provider Association of New Jersey and individual family child care providers to create an agenda to support and advance family child care. This process revealed some common themes:
The recommendations focus on supporting children where they are by supporting their child care providers.
We observe so many allies and potential allies for family child care, and we know that in addition to changing policy, there is a need to change hearts and minds about family child care as well.
There is an opportunity to leverage the research-basis for small group size, relationships, continuity of care, and predictors of quality in family child care. The benefits of family child care may not be widely known to parents, and it is crucial to educate policymakers about how family child care fits into the systems of quality and early learning in New Jersey.