This report highlights parental care choices—both current and ideal—and the value that family, friend, neighbor (FFN), and nanny care holds for California parents.
Subsequent briefs will present data on the characteristics of FFN and nanny caregivers themselves, including their typical arrangements, compensation, well-being, and more.
Family, friend, or neighbor care is a common choice with deep value to parents.
- We estimate 26 percent of parents with children under age three rely on an FFN caregiver, along with 29 percent of parents with children age three to five. Nanny, nanny share, or au pair care is less common: around 12 percent of parents with children under age three hire nannies, along with 9 percent of parents with children age three to five.
- The greatest proportion of Black families use FFN care, and nanny care is most prevalent among White families. While FFN care is found at similar levels across household incomes, the use of nanny care increases with parent earnings.
- For parents leveraging two or more forms of early care and education, one of the providers is almost always an FFN or nanny: 84 percent of children under age three and 94 percent of children age three to five in multiple ECE arrangements have an FFN caregiver and/or nanny.
Parents weigh multiple factors in their ECE decision making.
- Parents using FFN or nanny care rate “cultural background” and “language(s) spoken” as very important to their decisions more frequently than parents using other types of care. Meanwhile, factors such as “health and safety,” “close to home or work,” and “it just felt right” do not vary much by care arrangement.
- Parents living at or above 120-percent area median income (AMI) rated most of the decision-making factors “very important” less often than parents in other income groups.
- Black and Latine parents with infants and toddlers were more likely to agree that “cultural background” was very important. For children age three to five, “learning opportunities” were most often “very important” to Asian and Latine parents.
Approximately one in five parents see their current ECE arrangements as ideal. Additionally, families have vastly different definitions of their ideal.
- For children under age three, Latine parents were most likely (21 percent) to say that their current arrangement matched their ideal, and Asian parents were least likely (10 percent). For children age three to five, White parents were most likely (35 percent) to already have their ideal, and Asian parents were least likely (13 percent).
- Among parents of infants and toddlers, 22 percent who use only FFN care agreed that their current arrangement was the same as their ideal, along with 27 percent of parents who use nannies. Among parents with children age three to five, the share is lower: 16 percent of parents who use only FFN care and 7 percent of parents who use nannies. For this older age group, parents more often indicated their current arrangement was ideal when they had a combination of caregivers (usually FFN or nanny care in tandem with licensed enrollment).
- Parents living below 80-percent AMI were least likely to see a combination of options as ideal, regardless of the age of their child (17 percent of parents with children under age three and 16 percent of parents with children age three to five). Parents in the Bay Area were most likely to see a combination of arrangements as ideal: 38 percent of parents with children under age three and 33 percent of parents with children age three to five.
Payment in cash is less common for FFN caregivers, but both FFNs and nannies often receive nonmonetary compensation.
- While nannies are paid by definition, 28 percent of FFN caregivers do not receive anything in return for the care they provide.
- Parents who use FFN care pay a median of $160 per week (when payment is provided at all). On the other hand, parents who employ nannies pay $430 per week.
- Around 48 percent of parents who use FFN care provide nonmonetary compensation, along with 60 percent who use nanny care. Nonmonetary exchange may be in addition to cash payment. The most common example is help with a caregiver’s food, supplies, or transportation.
FFN and nanny care hold unique value to parents, and California’s policies should empower families who use it and/or wish they could.
- Policy discourse should embrace a more expansive and flexible understanding of parents’ wants and needs for care: not only do parents’ choices vary, but they also vary in their definition of an ideal.
- Parents of color are less likely to have access to their ideal. Parents should be included in policy development to help California’s child care system evolve in an equitable direction.
Finally, this research on parental preferences and the importance of FFN and nanny care reflects only the first portion of our study.
- We are also conducting survey and focus group research with FFN and nanny caregivers themselves.
- In tandem with our parent survey, we aim to expand the knowledge base around the utilization and nature of license-exempt care arrangements, as well as the experiences and well-being of the caregivers themselves.