Supporting and Enhancing Family, Friend and Neighbor Care in Maine
Throughout the United States, family, friend and neighbor (FFN) care is the most common child care arrangement for children under the age of 5 whose parents are employed.
FFN caregivers provide care to a significant portion of children from low-income families in Maine. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported that 4,707 children who received child care subsidies or benefits were served by FFN caregivers in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2007; the majority are school-age (49%), followed by infants and toddlers (29%) and preschool-age children (22%).
While Maine has been a leader in advancing quality in child care, they had not previously organized planning around this segment of early care and education. Beginning in the fall of 2007, the Office of Child and Family Services within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services launched a strategic planning process to focus on family, friend and neighbor care. Two purposes framed this work: to better understand family, friend and neighbor (FFN) care in Maine, and to develop a plan to effectively support and include FFN caregivers in their early care and education system.
The Planning Process
The Early Childhood Division requested and received technical assistance from the National Infant Toddler Child Care Initiative (NITCCI). The 18-month process involved a committee convened by the Early Childhood Division that included representatives from health, early care and education, state government, adult education, higher education, child development services, home visiting and parent support, labor, and advocacy groups, meetings facilitated by NITCCI, and extensive data collection. A planning tool, entitled, The Relationship between Family, Friend and Neighbor Care and Key Elements of State Early Childhood Systems, was developed by NITCCI.
Recommendations and Next Steps
The final report, released July, 2009, included nine recommendations which build on existing elements of Maines early care and education system and related programs. The recommendations included developing regular communications with FFN caregivers and families who use FFN care; improving public knowledge of FFN care; including FFN in Maines professional development, planning, research and evaluation efforts; tracking public funds that support or could support FFN care; developing consistent health and safety policy for FFN care; providing information to FFN caregivers on child development and school readiness; exploring public and private sources for educational, health and safety supplies and equipment; and exploring how FFN care can be supported through Maines early care and education Quality Rating System Quality for ME.
In the spring of 2010, Maine allocated $1 million dollars to fund and evaluate pilots to work with FFN caregivers to support quality care; the request for proposals is currently being drafted. The work has been informed by FFN initiatives in other states, particularly Minnesota. Although Maine is in the initial stages of implementing the FFN recommendations, this work is significant and could be replicated in other states. Maines efforts build an evidence base for how the quality of FFN care might be enhanced, FFN caregivers supported, and outcomes for children improved.
Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child and Family Services (2009). Supporting Family, Friend, and Neighbor Child Care: A Strategic Plan for Maine. Available at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/ffn-report.pdf
National Infant Toddler Child Care Initiative (undated). The Relationship Between Family, Friend and Neighbor Care and Key Elements of State Early Childhood Systems Available at http://nitcci.nccic.acf.hhs.gov/resources/FFN_toolkit.htm
Reviewed February 2016
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