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North Carolina Has An Opportunity With Home-Based Child Care.

October 11, 2022
By: Rob Thompson, Director, Early Childhood

For the first time in nearly three years, many North Carolina families find themselves in back-to-school and back-to-office routines that don’t center around navigating the latest public health guidance. That’s good news, particularly for school-aged children who are, for the most part, back in classrooms full-time, learning and growing with their peers. Yet this return to a new version of normalcy hasn’t come without challenges. One of these challenges is the ongoing shortage of affordable, accessible, high-quality child care options for many North Carolina families with infants and young children. The shortage is well-documented and business leaders have pointed to it as holding back our economic growth.

More and more, families are turning to home-based child care (HBCC) providers who deliver care from their home to small groups of children. These providers appeal to families for the affordability, proximity to home, and ability to account for cultural norms and values in the care they provide. However, a new report released this week by the early care and education experts at Stoney Associates points to the state’s home-based child care sector as a potential missed opportunity in the struggle to expand child care options. It also highlights unique challenges that HBCC providers face in growing their child care practices.

The report notes that North Carolina currently has far fewer licensed home-based care centers than neighboring states like Virginia. As state and community leaders explore initiatives to innovate child care delivery while growing the number of available child care options, it is increasingly important for all of us to determine how to better support home-based care and the networks that represent them.

Our Foundation recently released a funding initiative to do just that; however, large scale structural changes and support systems must be considered.

The analysis identifies HBCC networks as a viable approach for increasing the supply of home-based child care in North Carolina. These networks identify common needs among providers and link them with system supports to improve child care quality and sustainability.

In compiling the report, Stoney Associates reviewed licensing processes and available funding streams, and conducted interviews with leaders from three HBCC networks. These networks reported that their members face significant challenges opening new sites, navigating complex systems designed for larger center-based care providers, and accessing critical public funding for start-up costs and program improvements.

The report also spells out steps that North Carolina can take to build stronger connections among home-based child care providers and networks including:

 

  • Acknowledge homes that serve as few as two children as legally exempt from licensure. Providers can therefore start their businesses with only two full-time children, be included in quality improvement supports, and grow to serve a larger number of children when they meet regulatory requirements.
  • Link HBCC start-ups to state-of-the art technology to support operations as well as child assessment tools. There are many new, innovative tools on the market that can help providers run their businesses – even from a cell phone.
  • Explore new business models for providers that seek to grow their business in a non-residential setting, such as a church or community-based organization.
  • Enable expansion of legally exempt part-day programs, potentially in partnership with community-based organizations.
  • Provide regulatory ‘amnesty’ for existing HBCC providers so they don’t remain hidden and isolated from available support and improvement efforts.
  • Utilize networks to improve HBCC quality.
  • Build connections among existing HBCC networks:
    • Identifying and connecting HBCC networks in North Carolina that face similar challenges to strengthen awareness and provider voice.
    • Linking networks to national organizations like Home Grown, which can help identify additional funding and support.
    • Leveraging state and national organizations that have experience working with cultural communities and providers for whom English is a second language and can offer unique expertise.
    • Exploring potential links to faith-based entities with early childhood expertise, including national, statewide, or local organizations.

These are intriguing suggestions, some of which may be provocative, but all of which deserve serious discussion. Read the full analysis and recommendations.

About the Author

Rob Thompson
Director, Early Childhood

Rob leads the Foundation’s focus on early childhood,  working to ensure that every young child in North Carolina has the opportunity and resources to be healthy and well-prepared for success in school, work, and life. Learn more about Rob.