Supporting family child care providers

Looking into Family Child Care, a set of online learning modules, was designed for agency supervisors to use as a guide in training staff members to more deeply understand their work within the family child care setting and to more fully support family child care providers.

The modules offer:

  • Foundational concepts relevant to improving family child care.
    They embrace core elements of practice, including perspective-taking, communication, reflective practice, developing partnerships, and learning to handle conflicts.
  • Practical tools for reflecting on and improving support of providers.
    Each module contains a narrated presentation, along with goals, handouts, activities, and suggested readings for the trainer to review in preparation for the training.

About the project


The Looking into Family Child Care modules are part of a long-term project to improve quality in family child care by building the capacity of agency staff to support family child care providers. The project began in 2010 with funding from the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation for an in-person training program for family child care support staff.


The modules have been designed to be used in staff training sessions by agency supervisors, trainers, or others who offer support and supervision to staff who work directly with family child care providers.

Participant feedback

Thirty-four staff and supervisors from six agencies and organizations throughout the United States have used these modules in staff training sessions.

  • More than half of agency staff members reported that the training changed the way they do their work with family child care providers.
  • Many supervisors reported that having a framework for coming together with staff and listening to their perspectives was the most helpful aspect of the modules.
  • “Although many of us have been doing the work with family child care providers, some of our consultants are new to the work, and it is always good for the more experienced to give knowledge and insight. The modules have also given us a new perspective and have inspired us in our work.” — supervisor feedback


Research suggests that supports such as networks or professional organizations, coaching and consultation, or home visiting programs are associated with higher quality caregiving in family child care homes. Moreover, programs and organizations that offer their staff ongoing training, reflective practice, and/or professional development may be more likely to offer more effective support services to providers.

Making family child care centered training materials available online offers greater access for professional organizations to engage staff in training sessions that contribute to their supportive work with family child care providers.

Core elements of practice

The modules’ content is based on the core elements of practice identified by Bromer and Korfmacher. These elements were derived from support specialists’ reports of their own practices with providers and changes they made to their practices as a result of training.

Core Elements of Practice

  1. Social support: Getting together regularly with other colleagues at work or across agencies gives specialists opportunities to share ideas and get support from each other.
    • Group meetings with other specialists gives opportunities for brainstorming approaches and strategies.
    • Group meetings reduce the isolation of working with home-based providers.
  2. Reflective practice: Weekly opportunities for reflecting on work with providers offers specialists support and stress reduction.
    • Reflective supervision can help specialists “step back from the situation” and give themselves “that moment to check out what’s going on.”
    • Reflection can help specialists set boundaries for themselves between work and personal life.
  3. Perspective-taking: Specialists find their work with providers is more effective when they can take the provider’s perspective.
    • Perspective–taking involves approaching differences with an open mind.
    • Perspective-taking involves examining your own “biases” in working with providers.
  4. Communication: Communication and listening skills are key to working effectively with family child care providers.
    • Communication skills allow specialists to shift the focus of their visits with providers from problem solving to listening.
    • Communication skills allow specialists to gather information and ask open-ended questions about providers’ goals before offering advice or solutions.
  5. Developing partnerships: Effective specialists build collaborative partnerships with providers.
    • Developing partnerships means shifting from telling providers what to do, to sharing in the problem solving with providers.
  6. Learning to handle conflict: Specialists experience a lot of conflict and difficult situations in their work with providers. Having the following tools to use can reduce stress and frustration:
    • Asking questions rather than making assumptions.
    • Gathering information about a situation through observation.
    • Asking for help and support from supervisors and co-workers.

Bromer, J. & Korfmacher, J. (2012). Evaluation of a relationship-based training pilot for agency specialists working with home-based child care providers: Final report summary. Chicago, IL: Erikson Institute.

Experience the modules

We invite you to experience the Looking into Family Child Care modules.

Getting started

Below are several resources for getting started with the Looking into Family Child Care modules.

Select a module title below to enter into the module.

Orientation to Family Child Care

This module orients trainers to the core elements of practice for family child care providers. It also guides the trainer in supporting staff in ongoing discussions of what they know and how they think about some key aspects of family child care.
Enter the module

What is Family Child Care?

This module invites us to think about what we know about family child care, the features that make it unique and different from center- based care, the advantages in nurturing children’s development, and the role of agency staff in supporting providers.
Enter the module

Engagement of Providers, Part I & II

This module focuses on provider engagement as a collaborative dialogical process that enables us to go deeply into the provider’s experience, explore our own reactions, and imagine new perspectives. We also explore the power of empathy for joining with providers and the potential of asking questions for developing shared meaning.
Enter the module

Working with Mixed-Age Groups

This module discusses the benefits and challenges family child care providers might encounter when working with children of mixed-ages. In addition, it focuses on the home visitor’s perception of working with mixed-age groups and ways to engage in conversation with providers around this topic.
Enter the module

Cultural Considerations

This module focuses on supporting staff in reflecting on cultural issues and perspectives that may arise in their work with FCC providers. You will work with staff to better understand how culture affects child-rearing values and to recognize that cultural differences can lead to dilemmas and conflict.
Enter the module

Social Emotional Development & Behavior in Children

This module focuses on the importance of social emotional development from the prenatal period through childhood, increasing understanding of behavior as communication, and understanding how behavior and social emotional development are linked together. At the foundation is the importance of trusting relationships when communicating around children’s challenging emotions and behaviors.
Enter the module

Trauma in Children

The focus of this module is on trauma in children and why it is important for support specialists and family child care providers to have knowledge about this topic. The module raises awareness of how to recognize signs and symptoms of trauma, how it impacts health, and focuses on the support that professionals working with FCC providers need to incorporate self-care and recovery activities and strategies into their practice.
Enter the module

To be notified when new modules are available, contact the project team at [email protected].

Resources for family child care

“Supporting Family Child Care Quality: Systems, Program, & Provider Perspectives”
play-button-23x23Watch webinar


“A Provider and State-Level Perspective on Promising Strategies, Opportunities, and Challenges”
play-button-23x23Watch webinar

“Supporting Family Child Care Providers in Supporting Children & Their Families: Understanding Social Emotional Development, Behavior, & What it Communicates”
play-button-23x23Watch webinar

Interested in customized training?

Looking into Family Child Care is a powerful example of the early childhood expertise and resources that Erikson and our Continuing Education team can bring to your staff through our customized training.

Explore customized training for your agency or organization