CREATING FAMILY-CENTERED CHILD CARE PROGRAMS
From the Adjunct ERIC Clearinghouse on Child Care
(National Child Care Information Center)
CREATING FAMILY-CENTERED CHILD CARE PROGRAMS
(Excerpted from the Child Care Bureau's Leadership Forum on
Promoting Family-Centered Child Care)
Family-centered child care is based on the premise that families are the center of children's lives. Programs that are family-centered reflect and respect the unique characteristics of all members of a child's family, including not only the child's mother and father but also all other significant adults who are involved in caring for the child. Historically, parent involvement in child care programs has been understood from a program perspective. In family-centered settings, however, parent
involvement is understood from the families' perspective. From this viewpoint, families' goals and needs are the basis for program design and practice.
In February, 1996, the Child Care Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services convened a national leadership forum focusing on promoting family-centered child care. This forum provided an opportunity for approximately 150 participants to "paint" the picture of what family-centered programs should look like and to develop recommendations for making that picture a reality.
FAMILY-CENTERED CHILD CARE: WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
Because family-centered child care is flexible by definition, it will look different in different settings. However, there are some common characteristics.
- Family-centered child care supports the connections between children and their families.
It recognizes that children draw their identities from the family. All family members are included and treated with respect and warmth. A basic belief in the value of families permeates program policies and practices. Such programs are welcoming and non-judgmental, and all staff are available to assist family members. A family-centered program speaks the languages and respects the cultures of families in the program. Staff is drawn from the community the program serves. Efforts are made to build inclusiveness and to welcome all family members as partners in the program. Family-centered programs build on family strengths and collaborate closely with other service providers. Such programs recognize various stages of development in family members and attempt to work with them to meet their needs. There is a natural give-and-take in these programs that empowers parents to make contributions to the program in ways that are not pre-determined.
- Family-centered child care supports and trains caregivers. It is important to provide training for staff on the basic principles of family-centered care. Capacity-building opportunities such as pre-service and in-service training, peer coaching, and mentoring are provided on a continuous basis. Program administrators set the tone and lead by example in their relationships with families and routinely reassess their communications with them. Joint training is also provided for staff and families.
- Family-centered child care forges true partnerships with families. Unlike partnerships in traditional models, in which parents are in a passive role of being "informed" or "educated," in this partnership, parents are in a creative role of establishing goals and making decisions. In family-centered programs, families know that their feedback will effect change.
FAMILY-CENTERED CHILD CARE: WHAT ARE ITS GUIDING PRINCIPLES?
The distinguishing characteristic of family-centered programs is that all policies and practices are based on an underlying set of principles regarding their relationships with families.
- Families are the primary influence in the lives of their children. Families are the center of children's lives. Programs should create an environment which reflects the culture, strengths, and desires of families for their children.
- It is not possible to accurately generalize about families. Professional caregivers take the time to get to know family members individually and to support them in their goals for their children.
- Families have strengths. Families and child care professionals are partners who have the shared responsibility of doing the best for the children in their care. Child care professionals need to get to know families and build upon their strengths.
- Families have something to offer child care providers. Traditionally, exchanges between arents and child care professionals have been viewed as a means of informing families about their child. However, in family-centered programs it is recognized that, while professionals bring information to parents about child development and about their experiences with many children, families provide information about the individual child, across time and in a variety of settings.
- Contemporary families experience multiple demands. Employment, housing, health care, and transportation are some issues facing families, whose lack of contact with child care programs should not be mistaken for lack of concern for their child.
- There are many ways for a family to be "involved." It is important to provide a range of options for families to participate in this aspect of their child's life, and to allow families to choose the type and level of participation which suits them.
FAMILY-CENTERED CHILD CARE: HOW DO WE GET THERE?
Achieving family-centered child care calls for action on the part of families, program providers, communities, and policymakers. The following are steps toward encouraging family-centered child care.
- Get the message out. Educate others on the importance of children and families and the role of high-quality programs in their lives.
- Provide training for staff and families. Shifts in philosophy and attitude result from training and education of staff, families, and all those responsible for the achievement of family-centered child care.
- Consider the cost of child care. Family-centered child care is not necessarily more expensive than other child care. However, when considering funding, programs must account for the true cost of care so barriers can be minimized and must support and follow up training with adequate resources.
- Collaborate. A key practice in creating family-centered care is exceptional collaboration among providers. Policymakers should view child care as a hub for service delivery. Linkages must be forged at the community level among child care programs, mental health organizations, child care resource and referral agencies, and family support services.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Additional information on this and other child care topics can be obtained by contacting the Adjunct ERIC Clearinghouse on Child Care:
National Child Care Information Center (NCCIC)
301 Maple Avenue West, Suite 602
Vienna, VA 22180
(800) 616-2242 TDD:(800) 516-2242
FAX: (800) 716-2242