This study uses focus group data from 62 centers and 48 family child care providers (FCC) who serve subsidy-receiving preschool-age children (ages 3-4) in MA (n=110). We used the state’s licensing database to recruit providers. Twenty two focus groups were conducted between November 2020 and March 2021 using an interview guide that asked about providers’ perception of quality, family engagement, professional development and educational leadership, and program operations. We use multiple phases of data analysis and coding to document the providers’ perception of quality. First, we assign theoretically derived codes and attribute codes (e.g., service region, provider type). We then analyze interviews using an inductive approach yielding initial coding of categories around the main themes. The initial codes will be reanalyzed, systematically applied, further refined, and then explored to identify interdependent themes.
Emerging initial themes both reinforce and problematize conceptualizations of quality that are focused on the educator/child dyad. Subsidized providers emphasize the importance of high-quality interactions [“the interactions that happen between the teachers and students is where the learning takes place], relationship-building between educator and children [“if children are not making bonds, then they are not feeling safe”], and the role of the educator in supporting socioemotional development. Yet subsidized providers also serve a more complex role in the lives of the children they serve [“I am not just teaching the kids but teaching parents, giving them tools to use at home...we are one big family...that’s who I’m serving so you have to just make it work”]. Subsidized providers act as a guide and point of connection with physical and behavioral health resources, e.g., early intervention and mental health services. This connecting and navigating role is relevant for both centers and FCC. In FCC, agencies (systems) often serve a critical role in providing a comprehensive network that supports the individual providers and the families they serve.
As policymakers consider new funding streams to rebuild post-pandemic child care, these findings shed light on additional priorities to support subsidized providers and improve quality of care that can link to positive child outcomes.