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Author: Robertson, Anne
Resulting in 1 citation.
1. Brown-Lyons, Melanie
Robertson, Anne
Layzer, Jean
Kith and Kin - Informal Child Care: Highlights from Recent Research
Report, New York NY: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, May 2001.
Cohort(s): NLSY79
Publisher: National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP)
Keyword(s): Child Care; Preschool Children; Transitional Programs; Welfare

Permission to reprint the abstract has not been received from the publisher.

Over the last four decades, the steady movement of women with young children into the labor force has been accompanied by a vastly increased use of out-of-home care arrangements for the young children of these working parents. While many children receive care in licensed child care centers, preschools, or licensed family child care homes, a good deal of child care takes place in settings that are, for the most part, not regulated. This type of child care is referred to as "informal" or "kith and kin" care. These terms include care provided by grandmothers, aunts, and other relatives of the child, as well as care by friends and neighbors. They may or may not be legally exempt from state licensing requirements, depending on the state and the specific circumstances.

Although these may be the oldest forms of child care, and despite widespread use, kith and kin child care received very little attention from either researchers or policymakers until the late 1980s, when states were required to allow the use of federal subsidies for all legal forms of child care, rather than restrict their use to licensed providers. The passage of welfare reform in 1996 raised concerns that moving large numbers of parents from dependence on cash assistance into the workforce would result in an increase in the proportion of subsidies paid to informal caregivers. The absence of a body of research on this type of care made it difficult to assess the likely consequences for parents (in terms of their ability to obtain and hold onto jobs) and for children's well-being.

Existing studies do provide some information about informal child care providers: approximately what portion of the child care market they represent; what kinds of families use them and why; who these providers are and their reasons for doing what they do. Researchers have also provided some information about the relationships among the providers and the parents and children they serve. Research provides some insights, but no definitive findings on the quality of the child care experience in these forms of care-health and safety provisions, child-adult ratio and group size, interactions among children and caregiver, opportunities for learning, and the training and experience of caregivers. In addition, research provides some idea of the kinds of help and information these providers might want and need.

Findings on kith and kin child care come from a variety of studies: information about usage generally comes from cross-sectional representative samples, while other information comes from studies with purposive samples, which examine issues for a particular population or a very specific mode of care in a select number of communities. In addition, appropriate measures have not been agreed upon and measures have not always been consistently used in research designs. Therefore, it may not be surprising that, in some cases, different studies give different answers to the same question. Differences in the answers may be a function of the differences in the measures used. Or it may be that the context for the study--the particular income, the specific types of care studied, the ages of the children who are the focus of the research, strongly influences the research results.

Bibliography Citation
Brown-Lyons, Melanie, Anne Robertson and Jean Layzer. "Kith and Kin - Informal Child Care: Highlights from Recent Research." Report, New York NY: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, May 2001.