In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Family Day Care

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Nature of Family Day Care
  • Policy and Regulation of Family Day Care
  • Family Day Care Organization and Support
  • Quality in Family Day Care
  • Professionalism in Family Day Care
  • Family Day Care and Training/Professional Development
  • Family Day Care as Women’s Work
  • Views and Experiences of Family Day Care Providers
  • Views and Experiences of Parents in Family Day Care
  • Experiences and Outcomes for Children in Family Day Care

Education Family Day Care
Sue Owen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0180


Family day care is a form of childcare based in the home of the provider: in other words, the care of children by non-relatives in a home-based setting. Most of what is written about family day care concerns its provision for preschool children of working parents, but it is also a significant provider of out-of-school care for younger school-age children. Family day care, or translated equivalents, is the most common name for this type of provision but “family child care” is increasingly used in the United States and Canada, “educator” in Australia and New Zealand, and “Childminder” in the UK and Ireland. It is widely spread across the world, within (this should be “with” or “including” since not all the providers in these countries will be part of the organized systems) highly organized and publicly regulated systems in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and northern Europe. It is less widespread or less regulated in other parts of the world, but notable exceptions to this are Portugal and Japan. An international perspective paper produced in 2011 by the Researchers’ Network of the International Family Day Care Organisation (did you mean to replace “s” with “z” here??) took information from ten countries and highlighted the different forms that family day care can take: for example, differences in the extent to which providers are licensed, assessed, and supported through formal structures and systems. In many of these countries family day care has historically been the most extensive form of full day care for children. However, recently, due to greater recognition of the importance of childcare and education and of the labor force participation of women, governments have been investing more heavily in group provision, and this has affected the position of family day care in some countries. For instance, in Sweden subsidies to parents have been concentrated onto group provision, resulting in a huge drop in the number of family day care providers. Despite its prevalence, there has been less research into family day care than into other forms of childcare and education. And the majority of studies have been carried out in the United States, where the family day care context (characterized by a large proportion of unregulated providers) is different from that in countries requiring adherence to basic national standards. Despite this, there is still a body of evidence and analysis to draw upon in discussions of policy, practice, and support, and a strand of theoretical debates using family day care as a case study of the gendered nature of care work and the problematizing of the concept of professionalism. This article includes studies on the topics that have been most central to the growth and development of family day care and most often addressed by research. These include works that are seen as early central texts in the study of family day care as they have often initiated terms and frameworks used by later scholars.

General Overviews

Most family day care research studies begin with short descriptions of the activity, but there are few extended overviews or histories of it. Statham and Mooney 2003 in an essential, relatively recent, introduction to the subject outline the situation of family day care internationally and their edited volume includes chapters on relevant issues. An earlier collection of essays, Peters and Pence 1992, provides a similar introduction but is more focused on the United States. It includes chapters that have framed some of our understandings of family day care since its publication: for instance, the danger of allowing our greater knowledge of group-based childcare to color our approach to family day care rather than examining it on its own terms. A report from the European Childcare Commission, Karlsson 1995, looked at family day care activity across the EU nations and indicated a wide variety of regulation, organization, and support even though the actual practice of family day care is similar in all countries. The international scene was then brought up to date by Davis, et al. 2012, which took information from respondents in ten countries across a range of issues using a systematic template to ensure some consistency. This section also includes some of the earliest scholarly articles on family day care from the United States, such as Kontos 1992, a research monograph that provides a useful overview, examining practice and research at the time. Cited here also is a chapter that describes the family day care service in Israel, a country that has included family day care in the development of a professionalized system of childcare and education that exists alongside an earlier, unregulated local service (see Rosenthal 2003). This helps to illustrate how different approaches can address some of the big overall questions in any study of family day care: the appropriateness and problematic nature of “professionalism” and the systematic organization and support of large numbers of independent providers. A systematic review of family day care research from Australia, Bohana, et al. 2012, helps to set the scene in another country that has a highly organized system of family day care and where scholars are engaging in significant areas of research. Finally, a study of family day care history is valuable for anyone wanting to understand the nature of the activity and the societal views of it that have led to current policies. There are few specific family day care histories but Owen 1988 (see Policy and Regulation of Family Day Care) provides a history of childminding in Britain using mainly legislative sources, and Auerbach and Woodill 1992 introduces the history of family day care in the United States.

  • Auerbach, Judith D., and Gary A. Woodill. 1992. Historical perspectives on familial and extrafamilial childcare: Toward a history of family day care. In Family day care: Current research for informed public policy. Edited by Donald L. Peters and Alan R. Pence, 9–27. New York: Teachers College.

    In this seminal book of essays, the authors provide one of the few discussions available on family day care history, this time in the United States, and with the aim of illuminating the ways in which policy is developed and some of the elements of the development of a service that policymakers and researchers need to take into account in order to understand its nature.

  • Bohana, India, Elise Davis, Lara Corr, Naomi Priest, and Huong Tan. 2012. Family day care in Australia: A systematic review of research (1996–2010). Australasian Journal of Early Childhood 37 (December): 138–146.

    This review of research acts as background to a strand of research from this team in Australia. It found few research studies on family day care and “several important gaps that require research.” They looked at the Australian context but confirmed earlier findings from other countries about the lack of research studies. They emphasize the different situation in the United States and caution drawing conclusions from studies done in a less regulated context.

  • Davis, Elise, Ramona Freeman, Gillian Doherty, et al. 2012. An international perspective on regulated family day care systems. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood (on-line annexe) 37 (December):127–137.

    This study took information from ten countries on the extent of family day care, regulations, subsidies and income sources, training requirements, organization, provision of support, among other areas. It makes recommendations related to the great variability in professional requirements, training, and support and the possibility of learning from successful models that relate to the intrinsic nature of family day care regardless of the specific conditions in individual countries.

  • Karlsson, Malene. 1995. Family day care in Europe: A report for the EC Childcare Network. Brussels: European Commission, Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs, DGV/A/3 - Equal Opportunities Unit.

    Provides a description of family day care in the twelve countries of the (then) European Union plus four other non-EU European countries, including a comprehensive table of the terms used for the occupation. It is thus one of the only overviews of family day care in a range of countries, with a range of support and regulation approaches. It ends with a case study of Finland as a country that already met many of the recommendations based on the author’s findings.

  • Kontos, Susan. 1992. Family day care: Out of the shadows and into the limelight. Research Monograph of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

    Kontos identifies family day care as a subject with its own “ecology,” a concept she developed in later papers. This is an important first step in looking at what was known of family day care, its effects on children’s development, and implications for policy and practice. The title indicates the way in which family day care was perceived by society—a marginal service characterized by variable quality.

  • Peters, Donald L., and Alan R. Pence, eds. 1992. Family day care: Current research for informed public policy. New York: Teachers College.

    This early collection of essays relates the research agenda to a discussion and recommendations for improved US public policy relating to family day care that had previously been largely unregulated and unrecognized. All the chapters provide valuable historical context; but the concluding one, by Emlen and Prescott, is often cited as a central contribution to thinking about family day care. It suggests that the language used to describe it could hide much more complex concepts and practices than appear on the surface.

  • Rosenthal, Miriam K. 2003. Family day care in Israel: Policy, quality and the daily experiences of children. In Family day care: International perspectives on policy, practice and quality. Edited by Ann Mooney and June Statham, 93–107. London: Jessica Kingsley.

    This chapter draws on a long-standing suite of research led by Rosenthal at the Hebrew University of Israel. It is cited here because of its description of a dual system of family day care in which an unregulated sector continues to operate alongside one set up deliberately by the state to fill perceived gaps in the quantity and quality of care for infants. It draws conclusions about how state policy can affect outcomes for children in family day care.

  • Statham, June, and Ann Mooney. 2003. Across the Spectrum: An introduction to family day care internationally. In Family day care: International perspectives on policy, practice and quality. Edited by Ann Mooney and June Statham, 11–20. London: Jessica Kingsley.

    This is the introductory essay in a collection that is essential reading for an understanding of family day care internationally. The collection is divided into three sections highlighting central issues for family day care: “Policy and Organization,” “Understandings of Family Day Care,” and “Carer’s and Parents’ Perspectives,” with contributions from a number of countries. Most of the chapters provide information on research studies being undertaken in those countries.

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