California’s Family Child Care Networks: An Opportunity to Bring to Full Scale

Image of child with a mask at a family child care center in California

Family child care (FCC), a fragile system even before COVID-19 and now with issues compounded by the pandemic, is facing significant challenges. California’s state-supported FCC networks, staffed networks for people who provide home-based care, now have a presence in 30 of the state’s 58 counties. FCC networks could play a critical role in sustaining FCC providers, an important source of child care for infants and toddlers as well as mixed-age groups. Although many licensed FCC homes across the state have closed during the pandemic, FCCs affiliated with networks have largely remained open, initially limited to serving children of essential workers.

AIR directed a study which involved  surveying  all identified networks and conducting  in-depth interviews with a representative sample of network directors in California. Susan Muenchow, principal researcher, and Cecilia Zhang, research associate, administered the survey, analyzed responses, and conducted and coded the interviews. Peggy Daly Pizzo, former director of the Early Learning Project at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, reviewed the national literature on family child care networks and options for strengthening the health care services in FCC homes.

The resulting report and brief describe the history and current state of FCC networks in California, their roles in the pandemic and the challenges they face, and recommendations and opportunities for the future.

Key Findings

  • FCC providers need better compensation and benefits—and FCC networks may be instrumental in linking providers to health insurance.
  • FCC networks demonstrate best practices, but they need to have a platform for sharing them.
  • A cost model is needed to determine the true cost of the networks’ central functions, such as FCC home visits, role in determining family eligibility for subsidized care,  and training and assistance with business support.

For more information about the study, please contact Susan Muenchow.

Image of Susan Muenchow
Principal Researcher