Here’s a Quality Childcare Alternative Your Municipality Should Support

Finding safe and affordable quality childcare is a tough challenge for families with young children. While many families are familiar with center-based care, family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care is another common option.

Definitions of FFN care differ across states. The term generally refers to care provided at a residence by providers who do not have a state license because the number of children being cared for is lower than that of the minimum requirements.

In the city of Minneapolis, FFN care provides 70% of the care of children under age three. Through its work with NLC’s Cities Supporting a Strong PN-3 Agenda initiative, the City of Minneapolis is working to increase training and development supports to FFN care providers to enhance the quality of care for infants and toddlers to ensure that they are on track for school readiness by age three. The city is creating The Child Care Providers Network so that FFN providers will receive access to the evidence-based curriculum.

Data on FFN care is limited, however, in 2016 the National Survey of Early Care and Education found that about 28 percent of children under age one have a weekly childcare arrangement with a relative. Families may prefer FFN care for multiple reasons, including accessibility to families, cost, availability of nonstandard work hours, pre-existing relationships, and cultural similarities.

In Minnesota, a group of retired early childhood professionals—Elders for Infants—serves as a key early childhood advocate. Along with State Rep. Dave Pinto, the group co-founded the Prenatal to Three Policy Forums as space for early childhood advocates and those interested in this critical topic to share their plans and build toward a unified agenda.

Policy Forum Member Deby Ziesmer advocates a three-generation approach to child care that includes grandparents and other FFN providers. She notes how as childcare costs continue to rise, families are getting creative with their childcare arrangements, even sometimes enlisting grandparents to care for the children at least one or more days per week.

Research from the Berlin Aging Study found that seniors who provided child care had a lower risk of death over a 20-year period than those who did not provide care. Other studies suggest that the regular social interaction that arises from child care can lower the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, social isolation, and depression.

This year May 10th marks Provider Appreciation Day, a day to recognize child care providers, teachers and other educators of young children. As cities work to create communities for all generations, consider recognizing and supporting older FFN providers as that type of childcare has potential to provide protective health benefits for infants, toddlers, and seniors.

About the Authors: Vera Feeny is an associate for the Cities Connecting Children to Nature and Early Childhood Success programs in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.  Deby Ziesmer is the Pritzker Fellow at the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board.