February 1995 // Volume 33 // Number 1 // Feature Articles // 1FEA3

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Membership in a Professional Association Influence the Quality of Family Child Care?

In this study, 22 family child care providers participated in a three-month child care training program. Changes in the quality of family child care were measured before and after the program using the Family Day Care Rating Scale. Results indicate that the quality of care by providers who were not members of professional associations were significantly improved after the training. Building on the relationship between provider, professional associations, and quality of child care, implications for Extension educators are presented.

Karen DeBord, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
University of Missouri
Columbia, Missouri
Internet address: debordk@ext.missouri.edu

Janet Sawyers, Ph.D.
Department of Family and Child Development
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, Virginia

For almost a decade, it has been understood that caregivers trained in child development are more likely to plan care based on developmental expectations of appropriate child behavior (Bredekamp, 1987; Jones & Meisels, 1987; Roupp, Travers, Glantz & Coelen, 1979), that child-related education as opposed to total years of education contributes to quality child care (Roupp et al., 1979), and that as a direct result of training, child care practices change (Tittnich, 1986; Snow & Creech, 1986; Vander Ven, 1986). There are limited references to additional personal provider attributes (i.e., age, gender, licensure status) that may contribute to quality of care. Only recently has it been documented that providers who belong to family child care associations offer better overall quality of child care than those who are not active in family child care associations (Galinsky, Howes, Kontos & Shinn, 1994).

Family child care, which is care for children provided in the home of the provider, is the most widely used form of child care outside the immediate family (Hofferth, Brayfield, Deich & Holcomb, 1991). While family child care is a full-time occupational career for many, individuals in this field have been inaccurately stereotyped as providing mere custodial care (Kontos, 1992). With just over 5 million children in family child care (Kahn & Kamerman, 1987), it is apparent that major investments should be made to assure the environments are of highest quality while supporting professional caregiving practices.


Thirty-six family child care providers from northern Virginia were recruited by Extension Home Economists to participate in a child care provider training program. Demographic information about the providers' educational levels, number of years experience as a family child care provider, total years of formal education, extent of child care training, licensure status, and membership in professional associations was collected. Special efforts were made to locate family child care providers who were also members of professional or support organizations. Professional affiliation was defined as membership in a local affiliate of a nationally recognized child care and development organization or as membership in a locally organized family child care association that was part of a state organizational structure.

Family child care providers were paired with University Extension educators, each working with two to four providers. The Extension educator and the provider agreed to a training schedule and method of learning. Then over a three-month period, training was conducted. Some providers were involved exclusively in self-study readings with optional access to videotapes and audiotapes. Other providers received home visits benefitting from conversations with the trainer, resource materials that were delivered and discussed, and subtle demonstrations of appropriate adult-child interactions by the trainer with the children in care.

Changes in the quality of family child care were measured by a pretest and a posttest using the Family Day Care Rating Scale (FDCRS). This comprehensive 32-item scale, designed by Harms and Clifford (1989), was selected because of the cumulative point design, breadth and number of items, descriptive explanation given with each item, and tests of reliability. Ratings using the scale were made by a trained evaluator before and after three months of individualized training. Each evaluator recruited by Extension Home Economists from their communities had a degree in child development and attended a six-hour training program to learn to use the Family Day Care Rating Scale.

Results and Discussion

At the completion of the three-month training period, 22 providers remained in the program. Nine were members of a professional child care or family child care association, while 13 were not. The remainder of the providers withdrew to find higher paying jobs or because their child care work schedule did not permit them to continue. (Note: This study took place during the time of the Gulf War. Several reasons for withdrawing indirectly related to complications due to the war.) To determine if those who completed the program differed from those who dropped out (and only completed the pre-test), a series of t-tests were conducted using the demographic variables as dependent variables. No significant differences on these variables were discovered between those who completed the study and those who did not. Based on these tests, it was determined that the final group of 22 was representative of the total group (of 36) who began the study.

To assess the independent and combined effects of training and affiliation on the quality of child care, a 2 (time: pretest vs. posttest) x 2 (affiliated vs. not affiliated) ANOVA was computed with time being a repeated measures factor. The results revealed that there was a significant time x affiliation interaction, F(1,18) = 6.23, p<.02. To determine the meaning of the significant interaction, an additional test of simple effects was computed to determine whether each group's FDCRS scores changed significantly over time. The results indicated that the scores of those providers who were not affiliated with a professional organization improved after training, t(12) = 32.68, p<.01, whereas those who were affiliated with a professional organization did not improve after training, t(8) = .12, NS.

After the three-month training period, a ten-item final perceptual evaluation was completed and returned by 87% of the providers. The results from this summary exhibit particularly high ratings for flexible, convenient, individualized training methods. On an open-ended question included on the final perceptual evaluation, 100% of the providers indicated that they were interested in more training programs. However, a more active demonstration of commitment and interest was shown by providers' actions.

Within a month after their involvement in this study, providers in two different counties formed new family day-care provider associations. This raises questions about further connections between training and affiliation. One logical question is: does training create a desire for additional support and affiliation or does affiliation create opportunities and desire to seek additional training?

These results demonstrate that for the providers in this study, the quality of family child care was higher for providers who were members of professional child-related organizations. However, the potential remains that intensive training could raise the quality of care for non-affiliated providers. These findings should be further explored.


These results indicate that training contributes to the quality of family child care primarily for providers who are not already members of professional child-related organizations. The preliminary finding that provider affiliation is related to quality of care should be further explored. The implication of information such as this is considerable. For example, training efforts can be targeted to non-affiliated providers and professional networks can be encouraged to provide initial orientation and a foundation of support to encourage and perhaps even retain new family child care providers while contributing training and networking outlets.

Implications for Extension

Extension family life and human development specialists regularly deliver training programs to child care providers in communities. Rural areas, in particular, need good training programs and opportunities to join supportive professional groups. Extension, however, must go beyond training and recognize the value of contributing organizational leadership assistance to child care providers.

Extension specialists can provide community-based knowledge to guide core groups of child care providers to start new professional organizations for child care providers. In light of developments in the child care profession towards comprehensive career-based training models, it is imperative that Extension human development specialists join in the promotion of career development plans in their states to promote high quality care while creating mechanisms for professional development in child care.

Extension educators must realize that professional development is an ongoing process. Simply delivering a few training programs will not enhance quality of care. Professional development experiences are most successful when they respond to specific individual needs, background, previous experiences, and contexts of individuals. Involving providers in the training plan and using an active hands-on approach encourages providers to share and learn from one another. Sharing and support are key benefits of provider involvement in their own professional development.

In one rural community in Virginia, the Extension staff provides newsletter contact, home visits to family child care providers, and technical assistance while maintaining a database of providers for the community. They promote professional development by supporting caregivers who have organized a family child care association. Guiding and supporting providers with group organizational techniques while providers independently run their own association takes great care and recognition of the value of empowerment.

Family child care is the choice of care for most parents with children under three (Harms & Clifford, 1989); however, parents and the general public need to understand the value of quality family child care. Further, family child care providers, as a profession, must recognize the critical role they play in communities to build a foundation for early learning and promote family involvement in children's lives. Family child care providers have a wonderful opportunity to interact with parents daily while modeling healthy developmentally appropriate interactions between adults and children. Elevated quality of care and a well-defined understanding of child care as a growing profession can increase professional recognition and visibility through these steps.

Educators concerned with quality child care environments should recognize the developmental levels of the emergent family child care professionals and recognize the contribution of their work. By supporting family child care efforts, the movement to nurture providers will promote professionalism while enhancing quality. An empowered professional front can demonstrate the collective interest in personal development with a clear commitment to children through the profession.


Bredekamp, S. (1987). Developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood serving children from birth through age 8. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Galinsky, E., Howes, C., Kontos, S., & Shinn, M. (1994). The study of children in family child care and relative care: Highlights of findings. New York: Work and Families Institute.

Harms, T., & Clifford, R. (1989). Family day care rating scale. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hofferth, S. L., Brayfield, A., Deich, S. G., & Holcomb, P. (1991). The national child care survey 1990. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

Jones, S. N., & Meisels, S. J. (1987). Training family day care providers to work with special needs children. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 7(1), 1-12.

Kahn, M., & Kamerman, S. (1987). Child care: Facing the hard choices. Dover, MA: Auburn House.

Kontos, S. (1992). Family day care: Out of the shadows and into the limelight. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Roupp, R., Travers, T., Glantz, F., & Coelen, C. (1979). Children at the center. Final report of the national day care study (Vol. 1). Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates.

Snow, C. W., & Creech, S. H. (1986). Designing in-service training. In K. Vander Ven & E. Tittnich (Eds.), Competent caregivers competent children (pp. 73-82). New York: Haworth.

Tittnich, E. (1986). Training that takes: Adult learning and adult teaching are the key. In K. Vander Ven & E. Tittnich (Eds.), Competent caregivers competent children (pp. 47-55). New York: Haworth.

Vander Ven, K. (1986). "You've come a long way baby": The evolution and significance of caregiving. In K. Vander Ven & E. Tittnich (Eds.), Competent caregivers competent children (pp. 3-11). New York: Haworth.

Author Notes

This study was conducted in the State of Virginia, however, Karen DeBord is now an Extension State Specialist at the University of Missouri.

Through ES-USDA, a new National Network for Action: Child Care has been funded with one of its objectives to provide child care and development technical assistance through land-grant university Extension systems. Currently, there are 14 state partners involved in designing the delivery of services from the network.

For additional information on becoming a Network for Action: Child Care partner contact Karen DeBord, State Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211 or correspond via the Internet to nnccinfo@mes.umn.edu.