Family childcare, also known as an "in-home" day care, takes place in a provider's personal home. This is usually a single provider who is caring for multiple children and families. This can be a licensed or unlicensed situation. In many states, if a caregiver is providing care for more than one family, he/she must undergo the licensure process.
The first advantage of this setting is that the group of children tends to be smaller than a day care center and have a less “sterile” feel to many parents than a larger center. The caregiver is typically able to spend more time with each child and to provide more individualized care. The child is also able to interact with the same small group of children each day. Over time, it can lead to a feeling of an extended family to the child. The parent is often able to get to know the caregiver on a more personal level than he/she would with several teachers in a child’s room at a larger center. A provider that has a number of children may also hire an assistant to help provide care and keep the ratio of caregivers to children at an acceptable level.
A licensed family childcare provider will also take part in the state’s food program and will have a set curriculum as a center does. This allows parents to be assured that their child is receiving proper nutrition and is participating in structured learning activities and skill building, rather than just watching television or sitting around the house all day.
Another advantage is that there is often more flexibility in terms of pick-up and drop-off times, as well as the hours of care that are provided. Many family care providers will be open later than centers or will be willing to provide care later in times of an emergency at the parent’s work. Some may still charge a late fee, but this is often much less strict than at a larger center.
As with day care centers, disadvantages must be considered, as well. First, some parents may not feel safe leaving their child in a home with only one provider. For the reasons discussed under day care centers above, this could lead to an increased risk of something happening to the child physically, emotionally, or sexually. For example, a provider may be handling the feeding of a young infant when one of the toddlers playing together falls and hurts himself/herself. The caregiver’s ability to divide their focus and care for all children at once can become an issue, especially if the group is large and there is not an assistant to help out. In addition, not all family caregivers are as fully trained as staff in a center, and therefore, there may not be a set curriculum for learning.
There are also issues with coverage for vacation times or when the provider is sick that must be addressed. It is common for family care providers to take one or two weeks off per year for their own family vacation or personal needs. In addition, if the caregiver is sick and has not arranged to have someone fill in for them, the children will be unable to be in the home and the parent will need to have backup coverage for these times.
General household issues must be worked out in advance with the provider, such as if the child must remain in the home at all times or if field trips or errand running trips are permitted. If excursions are permitted, the parent must question whether the provider has an appropriate vehicle and child safety seat so as to properly and safely transport the child. Another issue is whether there are pets in the home and if so, whether they have access to the child during the day. For example, in some homes, there may be a dog or cat who is kept in a separate area of the home when children are present while in others, they may be allowed in all areas of the home. This can be particularly important to consider if the child has an allergy or a fear of a certain type of animal, or if the animals in question could pose a danger to the child.