The blog of the Urban Institute
February 12, 2019

Nine tips for engaging home-based child care providers in research

February 12, 2019

Home-based care providers serve nearly a quarter of the 1.4 million children in subsidized child care and millions more in the population at large. These providers may be sensitive caregivers, but most home-based care is rated as poor to moderate quality (PDF).

As states roll out new training initiatives for home-based providers to meet new Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) requirements, some state agencies and researchers are taking a closer look at home-based child care, including state-regulated family child care and care by family, friends, and neighbors.

Learning more about the goals, needs, and experiences of home-based providers, and how they engage with and are affected by training programs, can help states shape and evaluate initiatives intended to improve provider skills and child care quality.

People who provide child care in their own homes are busy. They often offer services between 10 and 12 hours a day and juggle time spent directly caring for children with the tasks associated with running a small business. Some do not speak English well, do not belong to professional networks, and may be socially isolated, making it hard for researchers to recruit them for surveys, focus groups, or other research activities.

So how can we engage home-based child care providers in research? A scan of recent studies and a conversation with experienced researchers suggest the following practical tips:

  • Take time to build relationships with community partners and ask them to help with outreach so the providers don’t get a cold call from an unknown researcher.
  • Make participation convenient for the providers. Hold focus groups at already-scheduled meetings, perhaps ones associated with a training program.
  • Consider hiring and training field researchers from the community to match providers in language and culture.
  • Sit down with the providers and talk through the survey. They work long hours and might be too busy to complete a self-administered survey, and some might struggle with adult literacy.
  • Allow providers to respond to surveys in several ways (e.g., online surveys, hard copy via mail, and in person) to increase response rates. Recognize that not everyone has internet access.
  • Translate the survey into languages other than English.
  • Offer financial incentives, such as cash, gift cards, or child care materials, to encourage participation.
  • Emphasize that you want to give a voice to a group that is often ignored.
  • Let the provider know that the goal isn’t to judge them; it’s to evaluate the organization that provides the training.

These and other tips are provided in “Evaluating Training and Professional Development of Home-Based Providers,” a brief recently released by the Center for Supporting Research on CCDBG Implementation. The brief also includes an annotated list of recent studies that state agencies and researchers can review to develop ideas about how to design rigorous research of home-based providers.

The rollout of new training requirements and federal support for studying CCDBG implementation offer researchers and state agencies the opportunity to learn more about this large but understudied part of our nation’s child care system.

 Photo by Dejan Dundjerski via Shutterstock.

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