Research Report

Including Family Child Care (FCC) Programs in Publicly-Funded Pre-K

Conditions for Success

child smiling and drawing

State-funded preschool is already offered in mixed-delivery settings in most states, meaning that along with public schools, children are also served in settings such as child care centers, Head Start agencies, and private schools. However, just 39% of 4-year-olds and 14% of 3-year-olds were enrolled in publicly-funded programs, such as state-funded pre-K, special education, or Head Start in the 2020-21 school year, demonstrating many children still lack access to these programs. Increasingly, decisionmakers and advocates are proposing that one part of the solution to ensuring more children have access to state- and other publicly-funded programs may lie in increasing enrollment slots available to children in other settings beyond school- and center-based classrooms, such as in family child care homes (FCCs).

In the 2019-20 school year, just 29 of 62 state-funded pre-K programs reported that they allowed FCCs to be included in their program; and of the 24 states that allowed it, only 10 states were able to report enrollment – with most serving less than 1% of preschool children in home-based settings. This leaves the knowledge base on what works in supporting FCCs in publicly-funded programs extremely limited.

In the Conditions for Success, we have outlined conditions or policies that states could establish that may set up FCC educators for meaningful inclusion in state-funded programs by synthesizing the literature base on high-quality pre-K and on learning in home-based settings. We outline what is known about high-quality pre-K and demonstrate that it could be possible for states, cities and localities to provide high-quality, publicly-funded pre-K in home-based settings if attention is paid to how states provide structures and supports for educators and families.

The Authors

Erin Harmeyer is an Assistant Research Professor at NIEER. Her research interests include family childcare quality; caregiver-child interactions; and the academic readiness skills of preschool-age children.

GG Weisenfeld is a Senior ECE Policy Specialist at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education. 

In her work, Dr. Frede applies what she has learned throughout her varied career in early childhood education, including experience as a teacher of ages 0-8, curriculum and professional development specialist at the HighScope Foundation, teacher educator at The College of New Jersey, researcher, pre-k administrator for the New Jersey Department of Education, education lead in a large Head Start grantee and early learning lead at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.