Supporting Child Development in Informal Care

Engaging Families, Friends, and Neighbors in Early Childhood Education

“Informal” child care, often referred to as Family, Friend, and Neighbor care (FFN), is home-based care for young children provided by grandparents, family friends, or relatives, outside of formalized early education and care programs. The goal of our “Child Development in Informal Care” initiative was to identify training and networking opportunities for FFN providers while promoting access to developmentally-appropriate activities for the infants and toddlers in their care.

In 2014, BTWIC embarked on an effort to increase access to resources for FFN caregivers, helping to ensure that all Massachusetts children enter kindergarten ready to learn. FFN caregivers are not always reached by programs reaching out to parents of young children. Through forums to engage these caregivers, we created experiential learning and networking opportunities that otherwise did not previously exist.

Following initial focus group research and input from our Informal Care Advisory Committee, we set out to host community forums for FFN caregivers across Massachusetts, with a particular focus on Greater Boston. These forums were designed to present in-depth information and experiential learning on topics of interest, to connect caregivers with resources and potential partners, and to gather feedback on how to improve access to developmentally appropriate activities for children in informal care.

We held our first community forum for FFN caregivers in June 2015 at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Attendees participated in a workshop sessions covering topics such as literacy, safety in the home, behavioral challenges, and healthy eating. Over the course of the next 12 months, we conducted forums at the Nurtury Learning Lab in Jamaica Plain and the Haitian Community Center in Everett, as well as an additional forum in Springfield, MA. The sessions were conducted with an experiential learning focus to facilitate participatory adult learning. BTWIC brought local subject matter experts (for example, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Public Schools, the Department of Public Health and Springfield South WIC), to facilitate the small group discussions and provide hands-on guidance.

Intensive outreach was a critical element to this work, including:

  • working community-based organizations to reach their constituencies
  • Disseminating 2,000 flyers in churches and community spaces
  • utilizing radio and local television to increase visibility

Nearly 200 community-based organizations received information about the forums, helping to make visible a sector that remains invisible. 100% of the attendees who responded to the forum evaluations said that they found the event “very worthwhile.” For more information on informal child care in Massachusetts, visit our Resources section.