By Julie Weatherington, Consultant and Trainer
Family child care is often described as a second home for children, where families, in a relationship with a professional family child care provider, work together to care for and educate one another. Practice-based coaching is an effective tool to improve program quality in all types of early care and education settings, including family child care. Many children today are cared for in family child care programs, and it’s important work to support these providers with the individualized resources they need to grow and improve.
In this blog post, we look at some of the strengths and challenges of implementing practice-based coaching with family child care programs, and we share examples of how the uniqueness of the family child care setting supports quality improvement.
The structure of family child care programs can support immediate and long lasting change. Foundations for Families uses a strengths-based approach to practice-based coaching and embraces the uniqueness of family child care programs when working with providers in this setting. A thoughtful approach to practice-based coaching in family child care programs can lead to immediate and impactful improvements. As in all practice-based coaching, the process starts with a period of observation. After an observation has taken place, the coach and family child care provider collaborate to develop program goals, and then work toward completion of those goals.
It is important to take into consideration the unique characteristics of family child care when initiating a coaching relationship.
- Providers wear many hats and often work alone or with a small support staff, so their time may be limited. In our work with family child care providers, we have found it helpful to be flexible for when coaching takes place. Finding an ideal time for the provider will help to support the process.
- Family child care providers typically serve mixed age groups. Throughout the day, they might have infants, toddlers, preschoolers and/or school age children in their care. We are sensitive to the fact that providers are implementing a mixed age group program and we encourage program improvement strategies that take this into account.
- Technology might be limited in some family child care programs. When technology is limited, it requires the coach to plan how information will be shared. The coach might bring a laptop or tablet to the coaching session. Or, if the coach might normally follow up with emailed resources and information, those materials could be printed and brought to the home instead.
- Resources might also be limited. While some providers might have easier access to resources and financial support (e.g., those operating through state or federal funding), many providers may be funding program improvements out of their own program expenses. Coaches can help providers to think creatively about low or no-cost improvements and how to maximize available resources.
What are other important considerations for coaches working with family child care providers? Because family child care providers are working in their home, it is important that the coach is aware of cultural considerations when working with the provider. As coaches work to build their relationships with the provider, being tuned into the norms of the home is essential; for example, considering if shoes are removed when entering the house, or being aware of cultural practices at mealtime.
We have found family child care providers to be highly motivated to make program improvements. Because family child care providers are the owners/directors of their program, they have the authority to make immediate changes. Consider an example where the provider wants to eliminate screen time from the program. She can decide to remove the television from the child care space and/or updated her policy. These “easy” wins can have lasting impacts on the program, children and families and build momentum for more challenging changes.
Similarly, family child care providers are in control of their own training hours and content, there is an inherent motivation to make professional development opportunities worthwhile. Coaches can leverage those strengths and motivations by working with the provider to identify affordable and accessible professional development and resources that is relevant to their goals.
Family child care providers serve mixed age groups, and the children are often with the provider for many years. This valuable continuity of care allows for improvements to instruction practices, gained through coaching, to have longer lasting effects, allowing the child to experience these effects at different developmental stages. Additionally, these providers build strong relationships with families extending the information, resources and growth to the families they serve.
Learn more. Practice-based coaching is an essential tool in continuous program improvement, and our team has extensive experience coaching teachers, providers, and administrators in center-based and family child care programs. If you’re interested to learn about the coaching services offered by Foundations for Families, please be in touch. We would be glad to discuss your program’s needs.