The Annie E. Casey Foundations releases annual updates to their KIDS COUNT Data Book to report on the well-being of America’s children. The aim is to increase public awareness of the challenges facing disadvantaged children and families while heightening public interest in strategies and policies that hold promise for meeting some of those challenges.
This year, the report focuses on improving early childhood development, particularly child care, to create opportunities for young children living in low-income neighborhoods to access education and skills necessary for success.
Quality child care is not meant to take the place of the role of primary parents, but it is important to realize its influence on early childhood learning and development. Many parents in low-income neighborhoods turn to “family, friend and neighbor care,” which is offered in a home-based setting outside a child’s own home, by both regulated and unregulated providers. It can be provided by caregivers as a business enterprise or by relatives. This essay is focused on developing strategies to help support and improve this particular form of child care.
Quality child care is a key element in assuring that millions of kids receive a good start in life.
Findings & Stats
Non-Parental Child Care
In 2003, about 15.5 million children (65% of all children under 6) regularly receive non-parental child care. Of these, 42% spend all or part of their time in a home-based setting, and 39% of these come from families with incomes below 200% of the poverty line.
The First Five Years
From birth to age 5, children make dramatic progress in the linguistic and mental abilities; their emotional social and moral development; and their ability to learn self-control. This makes the role of caregivers all that much more important.
Children in the lowest socioeconomic groups, on average, start school months behind their middle-class peers in pre-reading and pre-math skills. This gap triples when the poorest children are compared to the most affluent 20%.
Most Child Care is Home-Based
Only 24% of all paid providers work in center-based settings.
A Blend of Center- and Home-Based
38% of children younger than 5 who were in non-parental care regularly experienced multiple care arrangements.
Broken Down by Race
37% of black families use family, friend and neighbor care, and so do 27% of white families.
Why Do Families Choose It?
Families choose family, friend and neighbor care to accommodate fluctuating work schedules, circumvent transportation issues and for its affordability as well as for preference, trust, personal comfort, culture and relationships.
Recommendations include improving the levels of data, research and evaluation; promoting stronger local organization integration between at-home and center-based child care; expanding technical assistance and promoting best practices and; making early care and development a higher policy and funding priority.
Statements & Quotations
Family, friend and neighbor child-care providers contribute to the healthy development of young children, and they help determine how ready millions of American children are to learn and succeed.
Given the critical importance of school readiness on a child’s future success and the achievement gaps that exist across income and racial groups, we must reach our youngest children early and help them develop the capacities they need to succeed in school and in life.
Quality child care that encompasses strong developmental experiences has a long-term positive impact on academic achievement and provides important social benefits for vulnerable children at risk of poor outcomes.
Our focus on family, friend, and neighbor care should not be interpreted as a failure to appreciate the critical importance of quality center-based care. Indeed, it would be difficult to overstate the invaluable contributions of center-based care to millions of children, including millions of low-income children and their families.