Informal Care

Free Opportunity for Early Educators in FFN Settings

1506_Forum_v7_English150At BTWIC, we have spent the past year hosting small forums across the state, to convene “Family, Friend, and Neighbor” (FFN) providers and learn more about their needs and support requirements. To further disseminate and integrate this information, we are holding a free conference at the UMass Boston Campus Center on June 6, 2015.

The average cost to put an infant in formal care in Massachusetts is roughly $16,500 (Washington Post), and a 2015 report entitled “Status of Women in the States” found that the median salary of a woman working full-time in Massachusetts is $48,500. This means that the average working mom in Massachusetts spends nearly 1/3 of her paycheck on child care. Again, using the data in “Status of Women in the States”, we can see that, nationwide, women are nearly twice as likely to work part-time as men, and 93.9% of women surveyed cited “Child Care Problems” as a main reason for their work status.

1506_Forum_v7_Spanish150For many households, center- or family-based early education programs are only part of the solution. Indeed, only 25% of the children under 4 in Massachusetts are enrolled in a public early education program. Although the state provides approximately 55,000 vouchers for eligible children, many families from a variety of income brackets turn to relatives and friends to help ease the burden of child care. These individuals are considered as “Informal Care” providers, or “Family, Friend, and Neighbor” (FFN) providers, and they play an important part in the early education system.

Child Care Aware’s 2014 report “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care” notes that, nationwide, 52% of children spend some amount of time in an informal care setting. With the recent push to ensure that children enter kindergarten “ready to learn”, it becomes even more vital to ensure that these providers are able to access available tools that give the children in their care developmentally appropriate play activities to boost literacy and numeracy at a young age. This is why we hope to reach a good group of informal caregivers with this effort. If you’d like to help, please download the embedded flyers and share them with your network! If you would like to register, please visit We look forward to seeing you on June 6!

Are We Missing 50% of the Children?

young girl with spoonWe know that high quality child care is critical to starting children down a path toward achievement. Key academic, social and cognitive skills are formed during the early years– skills that are crucial to success in school and in life.

So we understandably focus a lot on the quality and strengths of staff members in programs such as Head Start and public and private child care and pre-K settings. But did you know that this focus misses about 50% of the children between birth and school age?

In actuality, at least half of all children under the age of six are not in licensed, formal environments. They are in Informal Care, or Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) Care arrangements.

What is Informal Care?

It is home-based, offered at either the caregiver’s or child’s home. It is provided by grandparents, other family members, friends or neighbors. It is the dominant form of child care among working families with young children. It is also true that low-income children and children of immigrants are more likely to use informal care arrangements than higher-income children or children of native born parents.

In their 2011 review, “Quality in Family, Friend and Neighbor Child Care Settings”, authors Amy Susman-Stillman and Patti Banghart report that one of the strengths of FFN care is that the adult/child ratios are often lower than those found in licensed, formal settings. They also state that there is generally a strong level of warmth and support for children, and that parents and providers experience positive relationships and communication. These elements contribute to the high level of satisfaction families report about these arrangements.

What characteristics are found among Informal Care providers? These individuals:

  • Are less likely to have a high school diploma than licensed providers
  • Typically have little training or education in early childhood development and education
  • Tend to have education levels similar to that of the parents served
  • Often are the same race/ethnicity and speak the same language as the parents
  • Are most often grandmothers.

Informal Care providers are typically more isolated and less connected to early childhood training and resources than those working in formal settings. Susman-Stillman and Benghart report that these individuals are very interested in being able to support children’s development. Others have noted, however, that they often face unique challenges to accessing technical and resource support.

Forty-six per cent of children from birth to three years of age are in FFN environments. The role that FFN caregivers play in supporting healthy development and school readiness, particularly among low-income children, is just as critical as the one played by providers in formal settings. Support to these individuals to improve the quality of their caregiving is vital to strengthening early education for children in low-income settings.


[cta id=”3313″ align=”none”]