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August 2012Vol. 13, No. 7Evaluating Home-Based Child Care

A recent research brief by Child Trends and sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) highlights results from a study of 341 home-based child care providers across five States. The goal was to identify quality profiles of home-based child care providers to guide professional development content and increase overall quality of home-based child care.

More than half of young children in nonparental care situations attend home-based care. Low-income families, single parents, and parents with low educational attainment are more likely to use home-based care for their child care needs. While research has shown that these child care services provide children with affection and sensitivity, they offer fewer educational and instructional services than center-based care facilities.

The home-based providers who participated in the study were grouped into three quality categories according to their scores on observational measures, including:

  • Teaching and interaction
  • Tone and discipline
  • Provisions for health
  • Instructional supports for literacy
  • Caregiver sensitivity

The groups were labeled as either low, moderate, or above moderate in quality. Only 12 percent of the sample was rated as providing above-moderate quality of care, and 88 percent were placed in either the moderate or low quality groups. Four characteristics were identified as distinguishing elements between the low, moderate, and above-moderate quality provider groups.

  • Experience and training. Providers in the above-moderate quality groups had an average of 15 years of experience and 43 hours of training in the previous 2 years. The moderate quality group averaged 10 years of experience and 27 hours of training. The low quality group averaged 7 years of experience and 23 hours of training. 
  • Composition/characteristics of the care settings. Nearly all (98 percent) providers in the above-moderate quality group were licensed, 82 percent in the moderate quality group were licensed, and 67 percent of the low quality group were licensed. Additionally, providers in the low quality group served the greatest number of subsidized children, 22 percent compared to 15 percent in the moderate quality group.
  • Provider attitudes. Providers in the above-moderate group were more confident in their abilities and more motivated than their peers in the low and moderate quality groups. Child-centered beliefs were more prevalent in the moderate and above-moderate quality groups. 
  • Provider supports. Just 29 percent of providers in the low quality group belonged to a professional organization, compared to 69 percent of the above-moderate and 46 percent of the moderate quality group.

The study's findings indicate that improving the quality among home-based providers is needed and may be done by increasing access to current professional development and tailoring content to the population's specific needs. However, the authors note that, while findings are consistent with previous research, additional research on the effectiveness of different professional development approaches is needed.

Identifying Profiles of Quality in Home-Based Child Care by Nicole Forry, Iheoma Iruka, Kirsten Kainz, Kathryn Tout, Julia Torquati, Amy Susman-Stillman, et al. is available on the OPRE website:  (1 MB)