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A Review of the Literature on Home-Based Child Care: Implications for Future Directions, Final

Published: January 15, 2010
Child Care
Supporting Quality in Home-Based Child Care, 2007-2010 | Learn more about this project

Home-based child care—regulated family child care and family, friend, and neighbor care—is a common arrangement for many young children in the United States, especially those from low-income families and families of color. Research suggests that home-based care may be the predominant form of nonparental care for infants and toddlers (Brandon, 2005). It also represents a significant proportion of the child care for children whose families receive child care subsidies (Child Care Bureau, 2006). Parents use these arrangements for a variety of reasons, including convenience, flexibility, trust, shared language and culture, and individual attention from the caregiver. Parents may also turn to home-based child care if they have very young children—infants or toddlers— because there are few spaces in child care centers.

Regulated family child care has been an issue for research and policy since the 1980s, when states actively began to invest in efforts to expand the supply of child care options and improve its quality. In contrast, family, friend, and neighbor child care did not emerge as a focus of research and policy until the mid-1990s, after the enactment of welfare reform when data began to emerge about significant proportions of child care subsidy dollars expended on this type of care (Porter & Kearns, 2005a). In the past decade, growing recognition of the role that these unregulated settings play in the child care supply has prompted a growing number of studies (for example, Anderson, Ramsburg, & Scott, 2005; Brandon, 2005; Capizzano, Adams & Sonenstein, 2000; Porter, 1998) and an increasing number of initiatives that aim to support these caregivers.

Although there are more studies that examine quality in family child care than studies that examine this question in family, friend, and neighbor care, information about the quality of home-based care is fairly sparse and presents a mixed picture. Some research suggests that home-based child care environments are relatively safe and that caregivers are affectionate and responsive (Layzer & Goodson, 2006; Paulsell et al., 2006; Tout & Zaslow, 2006). These studies also found that little time is spent on learning activities, such as reading or higher-level talk and engagement with children (Layzer & Goodson, 2006; Paulsell et al., 2006; Tout & Zaslow, 2006).

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2019