A Conceptual Model for Quality in Home-Based Child Care

Publication Date: April 3, 2019
The Role of Licensing in Supporting Quality Practices in Early Care and Education Cover

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In 2012, 3.8 million home-based child care providers in the United States cared for more than 7.1 million children. These home-based child care providers represent a diverse group including licensed family child care programs along with family members, friends, and neighbors who regularly care for children.

Over the last decade, the landscape for home-based child care providers and the children they serve has shifted in important ways. The first shift is an increased focus on promoting quality across all early care and education settings. A second shift is a recent and steady decline in the number of licensed family child care providers and subsidy-receiving, license-exempt providers.

The trend toward engaging home-based child care providers in quality improvement initiatives while also addressing the decline in home-based child care providers presents an important backdrop for state and federal efforts. At the core of implementing these efforts successfully is a need to understand the unique characteristics of home-based child care providers and the approach they take in their work with children and families.


The conceptual model described in this brief offers a new, structured approach for understanding, defining, and supporting quality in home-based child care settings. The purpose of the model is to highlight features of home-based child care that are linked to outcomes for children, families, and providers. The model is intended to generate dialogue among researchers, practitioners and policymakers.

Key Findings and Highlights

The model is organized into three broad components: Foundations for Sustainability of Care, Lasting Relationships, and Opportunities for Learning and Development. Within each component are elements. Each element is supported by available evidence from the body of research on home-based child care and research that has been conducted in center-based child care settings. Because certain aspects of high-quality child care transcend the setting in which the care is provided (e.g., adult-child interactions), the research cited throughout the brief is not limited to studies that were conducted in home-based child care settings.


Child Trends facilitated regular meetings with the authors of this brief to develop a conceptual model for quality in home-based child care. Several resources informed the initial conversations, including a list of quality features generated during an expert panel held in 2016, the National Association for Family Child Care accreditation standards, existing comprehensive literature reviews on quality in home-based child care, and Quality Measurement in Early Childhood Settings.


The purpose of the conceptual model is to spark conversations about quality in home-based child care among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. The final section of the brief offers additional thoughts on how the model can inform these discussions.


Blasberg, A., Bromer, J., Nugent, C., Porter, T., Shivers, E.M., Tonyan, H., Tout, K., & Weber, B. (2019). A Conceptual Model for Quality in Home-Based Child Care. OPRE Report #2019-37. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Home-Based Child Care:
Any regular non-parental child care that takes place in a home
Family Child Care:
Licensed or regulated family child care settings where one provider (with or without additional staff) cares for multiple children and receives payment
Quality Rating and Improvement System
Current as of: