Currently, more than 60 percent of children in the United States under the age of 5 are in some type of non-parental child care on a regular basis (Johnson, 2005) and care by family, friends, and neighbors (FFN care) is the most common form of nonparental child care in the nation (Maher & Joesch, 2005; Sonenstein, Gates, Schmidt, & Bolshun, 2002; Snyder, Adelman & Dore, 2005). Infants and toddlers, regardless of family income or household structure, are predominantly cared for by family, friends, and neighbors. One state study in Minnesota, for example, found that 78 percent of children under the age of 3 were in FFN care (Chase, 2005). National studies show that nearly half of all children (under the age of 6) spend time in family, friend, and neighbor care (Boushey & Wright, 2004), and nearly a quarter of school-age children are cared for by FFN caregivers (Capizzano, Tout, & Adams, 2000; Snyder & Adelman, 2004).
Recognizing the widespread use of FFN care, a number of national and state agencies have invested public funds to support the use and strengthening of family, friend, and neighbor care. For instance, since 1988 parents can use federal child care subsidies (through the Child Care and Development Fund) to pay for care by a FFN caregiver, and currently nearly a quarter (22 percent) of all children who receive federal child care subsidies use FFN care (U.S. Child Care Bureau, 2009). Additionally, more than 25 percent of states now fund quality improvement initiatives specifically aimed at family, friend, and neighbor child care (Porter & Rivera, 2005).
New understanding of how the quality of various early childhood settings affects child outcomes has led to increased attention regarding quality at the state and federal levels and prompted policymakers, researchers, and parents to ask more careful questions about the quality of care across settings, including FFN care. To date, much of the research on the quality of child care has explored the quality of care offered in licensed child care settings (that is child care centers and family child care homes). Given that FFN caregivers are generally exempt from state regulation (depending on the state), only need to meet basic health and safety requirements to receive CCDF payments for providing care, and therefore not required to meet defined program standards, the quality of the care children are receiving in FFN care is of primary importance. This review examines the current research on the quality of family, friend, and neighbor care. (Author introduction)