This was a collaborative project with Community Teamwork Inc., and the Children's Village at the Mill and was funded by the UML Committee of Industrial Theory and Assessment.
The study gathered information and provided insight to families and providers about how family involvement and support might best accommodate the lives of ethnically diverse, single and low income working parents. To provide genuine family centered services, "Child care should neither attempt to substitute for parents nor tell parents how to rear their children. Child care must ... support parents in their role of securing the wellbeing of their children; it is providers who have to meet the needs of parents and children, not the reverse" (McGurk, 1996, p. 9). We talked to parents about their needs and how they might best be supported from a family, not a program, perspective.
The surveys built upon what families told us in focus groups held at the Children's Village at the Mill, and the large nationwide study of childcare sponsored by the NICHD, tailored to the demographics of Lowell.
By interview and survey, we gathered descriptions and parental ratings of the methods of achieving a family centered system, focusing on goals espoused by the federal ACYF Child Care Bureau (1997):
- How providers support children's family and ethnic identities
- How providers respect parental culture.
- How providers build on family strengths.
- How providers establish partnership and encourage feedback
- How providers and programs incorporate the flexibility in response to family need.
- How the program supports and trains caregivers
The goal of the pilot study was to form the foundation for a wider assessment of parental needs across a variety of child care centers and work environments. We hoped our findings would be useful to child care centers in helping them to support families.