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New report shares strategies for equitable implementation of pre-K in family child care

pre-k pupils raising hands to answer question from teacher

New report shares strategies for equitable implementation of pre-K in family child care

May 7, 2024

As part of its commitment to conducting research that informs practices and policies aimed at protecting, promoting, and preserving the health, economic security, and cultural excellence of Black and other minoritized children and their families, the Equity Research Action Coalition (ERAC) at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) collaborated with the Erikson Institute and University of Delaware on The PreK in Family Child Care (PKFCC) Project issue series. In four publications, the team explored strategies, successes, and challenges for implementing family child care and publicly funded pre-K across the U.S.

FPG Research Associate Jenille Morgan, MA, is the first author on the group’s recently published fourth and final rapid response data brief, “Strategies Toward the Equitable Implementation of PreK in Family Child Care: PreK Funding Procurement, Child Enrollment, and Data Tracking." The publication presents key findings about how state and local pre-K systems recruit and support family child care (FCC) programs, determine eligibility requirements for FCC procurement of pre-K funding as well as child enrollment requirements, and track data to ensure FCC settings are equitably included in pre-K delivery.

To gain this knowledge, the team emailed pre-K administrators from the 26 states, 12 cities, and six counties that allow FCC to deliver public pre-K to ask them to participate in a one-time focus group about recruitment, eligibility, and data tracking for pre-K in FCC. Two focus groups with a mixture of state and local pre-K systems were held where six administrators and intermediaries spoke about pre-K in four states and one locality while all participants responded to a demographic survey.
Morgan says that she and her colleagues are working to elevate family child care, noting that it offers unique strengths such as continuity of care, and cultural and linguistic responsiveness. “Adopting a comprehensive approach to equity within the pre-K system that addresses every aspect of the system is essential to ensuring equitable outcomes for all children and educators,” says Morgan. “Thoughtful inclusion and fair compensation of family child care educators in mixed-delivery pre-K systems is not just about closing critical gaps in education accessibility and quality; it's also a recognition of their indispensable role in shaping a robust early care and education infrastructure.”

During the height of the pandemic, family child care homes provided the flexibility and support that was especially needed by families, something that these home-based programs continue to offer. Many families prefer family child care homes because of smaller child-to-adult ratios. For families of color, families of children with special needs, and families with non-traditional work hours, says Morgan, family child care homes provide a niche these families appreciate.
The earlier briefs in this series—which focuses on strategies and approaches for the equitable design and implementation of publicly funded pre-K in family child care—focused on: qualifications and compensation; curriculum, assessment, developmental screening, and monitoring; and infrastructure and support. Researchers offer guiding principles for mixed-delivery pre-K systems that authentically include FCC programs:

  • Recognize that high-quality PreK occurs in FCC, whether or not public funding is received.
  • Value and learn from FCC strengths and assets.
  • Intentionally design resources, standards, and compensation structures for the FCC context.
  • Preserve continuity of care, infant and toddler care, and the broader birth-to-5 system.
  • Make equity and justice top priorities for FCC educators, many of whom face inequities due to racism and sexism.

The researchers say that by redesigning pre-K systems to be more inclusive, equitable, and just, communities can work toward changes to transform early care and education systems. This can result in enhanced outcomes for young children and families. The goal of this project is to increase the number of states and localities that include family childcare as part of their mixed delivery system. The wide audience for these briefs ranges from states that have long implemented pre-K programs to those that have recently begun these programs as well as localities that are considering implementation.
A key finding of the most recent brief is that while state and local pre-K systems recognize the importance and benefits of including FCC, there is a need for more intentional and systematic approaches to support FCC participation. Challenges—including aligning eligibility criteria with Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, reapplication procedures, and child enrollment rules—may hinder the participation of FCC educators in publicly funded pre-K, thereby reproducing inequities in these systems.
Understanding the importance of collecting and coordinating data across other early care and education systems, state and local pre-K systems have existing data-tracking strategies in place or plan to implement early childhood integrated data systems. Some state and local pre-K systems offer critical support to ensure FCC educators can meet the data collection requirements of the pre-K system.
FPG Faculty Fellow Iheoma Iruka, PhD, ERAC founding director, is an author of the recently published brief. “We continue to see the reduction of FCC in mixed delivery systems,” she says. “Addressing the workforce crisis and advancing equity for children and families historically and presently underserved will require prioritization of family child care in pre-K and our mixed delivery system writ large.”