Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care (FFN care) is a type of home-based child care in which a relative, friend, neighbor, babysitter, or nanny provides care with or without pay. FFN care providers are not required to be licensed if they care for 1-2 children, are a family member, or care for children in their own home. Families choose FFN care for many reasons including affordability, ability to accommodate a non-traditional work schedule, and shared culture, language, or child rearing practices.
A recent survey from the Bipartisan Policy Center found that 60 percent of licensed providers closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. FFN care was instrumental in helping families navigate these closures and changing workforce dynamics. But it wasn’t easy for FFN care providers either. They struggled with financial hardship in addition to mental strain and exclusion from state & federal systems of support.
We spoke with 9to5 Georgia member, Keyleenia Savage, to dive into her experience using both traditional daycare and FFN care, and why she’s advocating for more support for FFN care providers. Although Keyleenia’s income is above the threshold to receive child care assistance, she has struggled to find affordable childcare options and has opted to have her father care for her 2 year old son. Keyleenia is 39 years old and lives in Savannah, Georgia with her 3 children: Nolan (18), Peyon (14), and Jordan (2).
Have you always used FFN care or have you gone the traditional daycare route as well?
I used daycare for my oldest two children so I know what both are like. I use FFN care now because I know things are different from when Nolan and Peyton were in daycare.
Can you talk about your experience using daycare and why you decided to switch to FFN care?
The daycare that my oldest two attended was a family-based daycare; it was in our neighborhood, but it was a daycare facility that was family-owned and run by a husband and wife.
Four or five of my cousin’s children also attended the daycare at the same time so it was convenient for me. If my children needed to be picked up or cared for or if they were sick, someone was always available to get them. And back then, the cost of daycare was significantly lower than it is now.
My son was born the week before we went into COVID lockdown, so when I went back to work, I didn’t want him in daycare because of COVID anxiety. My father is retired – it was just more convenient for him to look after my son when I went back to work. It’s better cost-wise and it’s more efficient.
Can you expand on why you decided to turn to FFN care?
Family, friends, and neighbor care is a comfort for me. Even though my older two children were in a facility, that daycare was still family-owned back then and we knew the owners and were really close with them.
Now, my two year old son is not at school age. It’s more of a comfort for me knowing that he’s not around strangers since COVID is still raging. Cost, convenience, and security – all of those things played a major role in my decision.
I haven’t personally looked into daycare availability a lot, but the one website that I was looking at had a waitlist, and I don’t know exactly how long the wait list was. If I really did need the care immediately, I wouldn’t have been able to get it from there because they were not accepting children at the time.
What are the biggest barriers to accessing formal care options right now?
I would say cost and security are probably neck and neck. I go back and forth with putting [my son] in a facility because my dad has him five days a week. Sometimes I feel guilty because he’s not able to go out or go to his appointments. If he has appointments, he just lets me know ahead of time and then I have to make other arrangements. Plus, I looked at daycare fees and it was around $120 a week and I can’t afford it right now.
What kind of support do you think would be helpful for your father while he is looking after your son?
Just things that would help him as far as groceries or utilities– things that my son is using. Anything to help lighten the load on him because now that he’s caring for my son, he can’t go out and make money. If he’s able to get a check or just anything to help him out to where he won’t have to make extra money that would be helpful.
Are you satisfied with the education that your child is receiving through your father?
I work with my son a lot when I’m home but when he’s with my dad he does what he wants. His time isn’t structured when he’s with my father– eat at this time, take a nap at that time, learn at this time. It’s not happening at all.
Is this something that is hard for you to ask of your father when he’s already doing so much?
Yeah, I think it is a bit much. I just do what I can do when I get off work and get my son home. He picks things up really fast so I don’t have many concerns but I still want him to be structured.
Why did you get involved in 9to5 Georgia’s child care campaign and what are you hoping to accomplish with the campaign?
I would like to see FFN providers be recognized here in Georgia so they can receive some type of assistance or specialized training. In 9to5’s Community Justice Fellowship Program, we talked about doing different types of training so that if my child was choking or drowning my dad would know exactly what to do.
Is there anything else about FFN care that you want people to know?
I think it’s becoming more traditional these days because of COVID and the cost. People are asking family, friends, and neighbors to care for their children, so they’re able to work or go to school and better themselves. We hear horror stories of things happening to children at daycare facilities, so FFN care feels safer too.
I think that when you know a child personally, you take better care of them. You have more concern for them rather than having 40 children that you’re looking after at once. At traditional daycares and facilities, you have so many children coming from so many different homes. With things going on in the world now, I think FFN care is better because it’s safer and I just feel more comfortable with it.
Keyleenia’s story is not unique. Many hard working Georgia families are struggling to find and afford high quality childcare in Georgia. Due to COVID and rising costs, FFN care has been a great option for Keyleenia, especially because of the peace of mind she feels when her caretaker has a personal connection to her child. However, with no formal support for FFN care in Georgia, there’s a heavy financial burden placed upon her father who acts as her childcare provider.
FFN care can provide quality early childhood education given the right tools and support, which is why Keyleenia is advocating for more financial support and training for her father. FFN care is becoming a common and essential alternative to traditional day care, especially when there are many people like her who struggle to meet the cost of child care even though their income is above the threshold to receive child care assistance.
9to5 Georgia’s Child Care Campaign aims to make child care affordable, ensure culturally responsive, quality care for all children, and support the child care workforce. Interested in joining our child care movement? Learn more here.