New Study Reveals Portrait of Family Child Care Providers

Do you ever wonder how many other family child care providers do what you do?

There are about one million paid family child care providers and another 2.7 million unpaid caregivers regularly providing home-based care to children ages birth through age five other than their own.

This number is much higher than previous reports that looked at the number of licensed or regulated family child care providers.

This data is from a newly released study that surveyed a nationally representative portrait of early care and education teachers and caregivers in center and home-based settings. They based their report on data collected in the first half of 2012 (Number and Characteristics of Early Care and 
Education (ECE) Teachers and Caregivers: Initial Findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE

Family Child Care Providers

The family child care field has a reputation for high turnover. This sometimes raises questions about whether it pays to invest in training and professional development if caregivers are not going to be in the field long enough to apply what they learn.

However, according to this study 85% of paid providers work fulltime, worked an average of almost 54 hours per week (more than double that of unpaid providers). They also had an average of 13.7 years work experience with children, significantly more than center-based teachers (10 years) and unpaid providers (5 years).

As a point of reference, elementary and secondary school teachers have an average of 10 years work experience.

This average of working 54 hours per week caring for children is consistent with previous studies. This study did not count hours providers spend working on business activities in their home after children are gone. A previous study found that providers worked an additional 13.9 hours per week.

The vast majority of paid providers were identified as “listed” child care providers who were sampled from state or national lists of primarily licensed or regulated family child care providers. They included license-exempt providers and providers participating in Early Head Start.

The vast majority of unpaid providers were identified as “unlisted” providers and were drawn from a sample of housing units that contained an adult who regularly cared for children not her own for at least five hours per week.

27% of listed providers had more than 20 years experience, vs. 18% for workers in child care centers and 15% of unlisted providers.

Virtually all (85%) of home based providers worked fulltime (35 hours a week or more), while only 32% of unlisted providers worked fulltime.

80% of listed providers served both younger and older age groups of children (birth to 3 and 3-5). Unlisted providers were much more likely to specialize in caring for children age 0-3 (37%) than listed providers (11%). The study did not look at school-age children.

32% of listed providers (vs. 30% of unlisted providers) had a college degree. A third of listed providers (34%) had no more than a high school degree vs. 47% of unlisted providers.

Child Care Centers

The study estimated that there were one million teachers, assistant teachers and aide working in approximately 130,000 child care centers across the country.  This included school-sponsored centers, Head Start, Public Pre-K. Interestingly, this number mirrors the number of paid family child care providers in the country.

More than half (53%) of center workers had some level of college degree with 26% having a four-year degree and 9% a graduate or professional degree. Education levels were higher for those who worked for children ages 3- 5 years vs. ages 0- 3 years.

Although the report found that the average hourly wage was $10.60 per hour ($22,000 a year), it lumped together all center and home-based providers in this calculation. The report did not indicate whether the wage for home-based providers was based on their gross or net income (after expenses).

The report quoted Aletha Huston as saying, “The research picture is clear – quality of care and education matters to the lives of young children, and teachers and caregivers are central to providing that quality.”

Despite this, little research has been conducted on such basic information as the number of caregivers, qualifications, compensation, hours of work and occupational attachment.  

This study helps fill in some of gaps in our knowledge about the family child care field.


The report is called Number and Characteristics of Early Care and Education Teachers and Caregivers: Initial Findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education. The report was prepared by the National Survey of Early Care & Education, October 2013.

This report was funded by the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A future report will look at other predictors of ECE quality: attitudes of caregivers, orientations, morale and mental health.

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Tom Copeland

I've been the nation's leading trainer, author, and advocate on the business of family child care since 1981. I'm a licensed attorney and have presented hundreds of business workshops for family child care providers across the country. I answer thousands of calls and emails each year to help providers, tax professionals and trainers understand complex business and tax issues. Call me at 651-280-5991. Email me at Visit me on Facebook. From 1981 to 2009 I worked at Resources for Child Caring in Minnesota (now called Think Small), where I was director of Redleaf National Institute for 15 years. I've written nine books on the business of family child care published by Redleaf Press, a division of Resources for Child Caring. I was on the board of directors of First Children's Finance, a non-profit organization providing low interest loans and consulting and technical assistance to help family child care providers suceed as a business. They operate in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Here are some YouTube videos of me talking about my work with this organization and the business of family child care. I graduated from Macalester College (BA) in 1972 and from William Mitchell College of Law (JD) in 1980. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota with my wife Diane and two cats, Duke and Ella.