Abstract: (Converted as ePoster, See Poster Gallery) Perception of Quality in Early Care and Education Among Child Care Providers Serving Children Receiving Child Care Subsidies (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

(Converted as ePoster, See Poster Gallery) Perception of Quality in Early Care and Education Among Child Care Providers Serving Children Receiving Child Care Subsidies

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Dupont Circle, ML 3 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Yoonsook Ha, PhD, MSSW, Associate Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Jonathan Borowsky, Postdoctoral Associate, Boston University, Boston, MA
Wendy Wei, PhD candidate, Harvard University, MA
Suh Hyun Soo, Research Fellow, Boston University, Boston, MA
Sophia Goncalves, Undergraduate student, Boston University, Boston, MA
Pamela Joshi, PhD, Senior Scientist, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Kate Schneider, PhD, Scientist, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
High quality early care and education support positive child outcomes and parental employment. Low-income, disadvantaged children benefit the most from attending such care (Phillips, et al., 2017). Numerous studies examine characteristics of quality care using either global or specific measures of quality, including structural (e.g., group size, educational credentials) and process (e.g., teacher-child interactions) quality (Slot, 2015). These studies, however, find only moderate or null associations between the quality measures and child outcomes (Bowne, 2017; Burchinal, 2012). Moreover, despite the important role of quality care for disadvantaged children, studies that examine quality in providers serving these children, particularly those receiving subsidies (“subsidized providers”), are very limited. Because of diverse and unique needs of the children that they serve, subsidized providers may perceive quality differently than providers serving private-paying children only. This study is one of the first studies that examine subsidized providers’ perception of aspects of quality that are important in serving subsidy-receiving children.

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.