According to the Center for a Child Care Continuum at Bank Street College of Education, child care is a continuum that extends from care by parents on one end to center-based early care and education on the other, with other informal care by relatives, friends, and neighbors falling between parents and family child care providers. This idea assumes that children should be in a safe and health environment wherever they are with their parents, their grandmothers, aunts, friends or neighbors, in family child care homes or center-based early childhood programs. It also assumes that anyone who provides child care for children parents, other relatives, friends, neighbors, or early childhood professionals should have some knowledge about how children develop and some skills to support that knowledge.
The field uses the term “kith” (individuals who play the role of surrogate family) and “kin” (extended family) or “family, friend, and neighbor” for this population of caregivers, because of the nature of their relationships to the parents of the children for whom they provide care. They are also variously described as “informal caregivers,” “unregulated providers” or “license-exempt providers,” terms that relate to their legal status as caregivers for whom other regulations do not apply.
For further information, see Porter, T. (1999). Infants and Toddlers in Kith and Kin Care: Findings from the Informal Care Project. Zero to Three (19)6.