The Decreasing Number of Family Child Care Providers in the United States

Family child care (FCC) is child care that is offered in a provider’s home. FCC providers offer small mixed-age group settings in nurturing and familiar home environments. Survey response data from state licensing agencies show that more than 97,000 licensed family child care homes closed in the United States between 2005 and 2017i. However, these same survey responses show an estimated increase of 7 percent in overall licensed capacity (number of slots for children) across all types of licensed child care facilities—from 9.3 million to nearly 10 million.

The drop in the number of FCC providers can be a hardship for families, especially parents who work nontraditional hours, live in rural communities, have infants and toddlers, or who do not speak English as their primary language. Low-income families and vulnerable populations may be most affected by the lack of available family child care. Families may choose FCC because it better fits their preference for care in a home-like setting that meets their cultures, backgrounds, and values. Families with lower incomes, families needing care for infants and toddlers, and families who are Hispanic or African American are more likely to use FCC than center-based careii.

Decrease in Child Care Facilities 

Total Centers & Homes: 328,107 in 2005; 233,251 in 2017. Small family child care homes 190,206 in 2005; to 99,614 in 2017. Cente
Total Centers and Homes started with 328,107 in 2005 and fell to 311,168 in 2008, 291,793 in 2011, 260,012 in 2014, and 233,251 in 2017. Small Family Child Care Homes started with 190,206 in 2005 and fell to 165,764 in 2008, 152,603 in 2011, 124,328 in 2014 and 99,614 in 2017.  Centers started with 107,138 in 2005 and changed to 111,952 in 2008, 111,701 in 2011, 110,146 in 2014, and 109,414 in 2017. Large Family Child Care Homes started with 30,763 in 2005 and changed to 33,452 in 2008, 27,489 in 2011, 25,538 in 2014, and 24,223 in 2017.

Data from the 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017 Child Care Licensing Studies show changes in the number of licensed child care facilities1. Information is reported on two categories of licensed FCC homes: small FCC homes with one caregiver and large FCC homes with two or more caregivers. An analysis of the data shows that between 2005 and 2017, the number of licensed small FCC homes fell by 48 percent. During that time period, 90,592 small FCC homes closed—compared with 6,540 large FCC homes that closed. This graph shows the decline in the two types of FCC providers, along with a small increase in the number of child care centers.

Increase in Licensed Slots

However, analysis of the Child Care Licensing Study data from 2005 to 2017 shows an estimated increase of 7 percent in overall licensed capacity (number of slots for children) across all types of licensed facilities—from 9.3 million to nearly 10 million. The largest increase was 1.3 million slots (17 percent) in the licensed capacity of centers. Across the years of data collection, more than 80 percent of all licensed slots were in child care centers. For small FCC homes, slots decreased by 39 percent, but small FCC homes made up only 13 percent of the total number of slots in licensed child care facilitiesiii.

Why Are Small FCC Homes Closing?

The fact that licensed capacity grew even though the total number of licensed facilities dropped (especially small FCC homes) needs to be studied further to understand the reasons this happened. These numbers also need to be looked at in the context of families’ need for child care in specific geographic areas and for specific types of care (such as infant/toddler care, care during nontraditional hours).

Addressing the Decreasing Number of Family Child Care Providers in the United States (2019), by the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance, looks at this issue. This paper provides questions that states and communities can ask to assess what is happening in their local areas. You can access this resource at https://childcareta.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/public/addressing....

1 The Child Care Licensing Studies are large-scale studies of child care licensing policies, programs, and regulations. Data reported here about the number of licensing facilities were collected in the National Association for Regulatory Administration’s child care licensing programs and policies surveys for 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017.

i National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance. (2019). [Analysis of responses to the National Association for Regulatory Administration’s child care licensing programs and policies surveys from the 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017 Child Care Licensing Studies]. Unpublished data.

ii National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance. (October 2019). Addressing the Decreasing Number of Family Child Care Providers in the United States. Retrieved from https://childcareta.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/public/addressing...

iii See note i.