This family child care option serves 30 children 6 weeks to 5 years of age in 10 family child care homes. Hours of operation for the homes are generally 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m, 5 days a week, 12 months a year. Family child care providers operate as independent entities licensed by the state and under contract with Puget Sound ESD Head Start, and are paid by the state child care subsidies for basic child care hours. From Head Start, providers receive training and technical assistance, equipment and supplies, liability insurance payment subsidy, assistance with recruitment of children, enrollment of Head Start families, payment for substitutes to free-up their time for training, mental health consultation, monthly meetings, and a monthly newsletter.
Head Start families and children receive the same services that center-based Head Start families receive, including a developmentally appropriate program, health and nutrition screening and follow-up, social service assistance and referrals, mental health services, policy council representation, parent meetings, and a monthly newsletter. A provider also may serve children not enrolled in Head Start, but in that case must have at least two openings for Head Start children in order to participate in the program. Family child care providers usually include 5 to 6 children, but can be licensed for up to 12, with an assistant.
Staff feel that family child care offers several advantages over the "normal" Head Start setting. The smaller environment of family day care, staff members indicate, is better for some children, particularly those whose home lives have been disrupted by various traumatic experiences. For some families, it is very important for siblings to be together during the day and to have a single provider. (It was also noted that the mixed ages in family day care can be less awkward for children who are developmentally delayed.)
Family day care providers can enroll children in Head Start at a younger age, permitting earlier screening and intervention. Parents also may develop a more personal relationship with the family day care provider than with Head Start classroom teachers because of the small number of children in the home, the informal setting, and the twice-a-day parent/provider contact. Since the training, materials, and resources provided to Head Start family day care providers benefit all children being cared for in the home, Puget Sound Head Start staff feel that this program has spillover effects, improving the overall quality of local child care for all children.