ABC's and 123's:

A Blog by Action for Children

What is Family Child Care, Really?


When most people think of licensed child care, they often imagine a big center with lots of classrooms, teachers, and children. This makes sense, given child care centers make up 97% of licensed child care, but it also leaves a vital source of child care out of the picture: family child care. Family child care may make up less of the child care sector than center-based care, but according to Department of Children and  Youth data, in Ohio, FCCs are still serving over 15,000 children. In fact, in central Ohio, Family Child Care programs make up 23% of all licensed child care programs and are more likely to have Publicly Funded Child Care agreements in place to serve children most in need of care. 

Two of the biggest differences between centers and family child care homes are the program settings and the number of children that can be served at the program. Family child care consists of a provider caring for children in their own home. This often provides a more natural setting that children may find easier to adjust to. Given this unique setting, each FCC classroom looks slightly different! 

In addition, while centers have multiple staff members and can serve classrooms full of children, FCCs are usually staffed by only one or two people, meaning they are allowed to oversee a much smaller number of children due to state regulations. These numbers vary based on the type of FCC and number of staff. For instance, Type-A homes typically have an additional staff member, allowing them to serve 7-12 children, while Type-B homes are allowed to serve 1-6 children. Regardless of the number of children, however, things like quality standards and background checks remain the same across all types of child care.  

There are many reasons that families choose family child care! FCCs are typically smaller and can offer more personalized care. Because there are fewer children and generally only one provider, it is easy for families to form relationships with the caregivers from FCCs. The bonds become personal, and this tight-knit care can develop to offer more benefits like sibling care or personalized caregiving hours. Family child care programs are also often neighborhood-based, offering intimate, high-quality care that’s uniquely grounded in community. 

[Opening my family child care program] has allowed me to help many others in the process by providing a safe, loving, and nurturing environment for children to thrive. [It’s] allowed me the opportunity to help families and children while also using my education and experience to not only create opportunities for myself and my family to excel in business but for others who are called to this work as well. Ultimately, I love bringing out the best in others personally and professionally.”
Brittany Glenn, Family Child Care Program Owner

But running a family child care program isn’t always easy. Action for Children’s recent Central Ohio Child Care Provider Survey Report explored the challenges that family child care providers face. Almost half of central Ohio FCC providers surveyed do not take a salary for themselves, spending the income they receive on operating expenses. Even further, about 60% of FCC providers reported that their monthly revenue did not cover their expenses, meaning these providers were likely taking money out of their own pockets to stay open.  

To try and combat these uncertainties, providing access to resources and support networks is essential to the prosperity of FCC programs. As recently featured in an article by All Our Kin, Action for Children started Ohio’s very first Staffed Family Child Care Network, The Village, in 2022. A Staffed Family Child Care Network is “a community-based programs with paid staff. These programs offer a menu of ongoing services and resources to affiliated FCC educators.” This program offers a chance for FCC providers to connect with each other, receive support from Action for Children staff, and engage in networking opportunities and business supports.  

“What I love most about The Village is the network and connection. You guys help us. You genuinely care and want to support us. You have events, coaching… there’s just so much! And everything is just for Family Child Care, to help us be our best. I love it!”
– The Village at Action for Children participant

There is always more we can be doing to help improve these circumstances for family child care providers. A major adjustment needed is increasing awareness about FCCs and the benefits of home-based care. Licensed family child care programs are just as high-quality and legitimate as the most popular and well-known center-based programs, earning high Step Up To Quality ratings and accreditations from the National Association for Family Child Care. We also must help people recognize that FCCs are small businesses. Beyond being caregivers, cooks, cleaners, and drivers, their responsibilities extend to marketing, budgeting, management and operations for their program. They truly have to be jacks of all trades! 

Family Child Care professionals are an important part of providing care for the transformation of children. Consider taking action on their behalf by donating to The Village at Action for Children! Your support helps us continue providing quality support to these caregivers. You can also help without spending money just by making your voice heard — tell your family and friends about the importance of family child care, and keep your eye out for policies and initiatives that will help these providers! 

Author: Shea McHugh, Advocacy Associate at Action for Children 
Contributors: Alicia Smith, Program Manager, Family Child Care Services 

Action for Children is the local child care resource and referral agency for central Ohio, and is committed to assuring quality early learning experiences for all children. Our services focus on transforming the lives of children by supporting the everyday heroes who most influence our children’s early growth; care givers, educators, parents, and guardians. Learn More.

The Village services are provided by Action for Children and funded by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and Action for Children’s generous donors.

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