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Research projects

California Child Care Research Partnership: Are You In? Family child care providers' experiences in quality improvement initiatives
(Funded under the title: Are You In? A Systems-Level Mixed-Method Analysis of the Effects of Quality Improvement Initiatives on Participating and Non-Participating Providers)


Project Team:

Holli Tonyan, California State University, Northridge, Principal Investigator

Early Education and Support Division, California Department of Education, CCDF Lead Agency Partner

Susan Savage, Child Care Resource Center, Partner and Subcontractor

Grant or Contract Number: Child Care Research Partnership Grant # 90YE0153-01-00, funded by the Office of Research, Planning, and Evaluation of the Administration for Children and Families

Period of Funding: September 30, 2013 to September 29, 2017

Project Description.

Recent years have seen a large increase in the use of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) to enhance children’s early learning opportunities.  However, little research documents the changes that child care providers make in their provision of child care as a result of quality improvement activities. This partnership will examine quality improvement activities among family child care providers (FCCP) –an understudied sector of the child care workforce – in the context of California's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC). Through a combination of survey and in-depth qualitative methods, the project will compare providers’ experiences in two regions operating with different QRIS.  In addition, follow-up visits to FCCP two years after an initial baseline visit will document changes over time during RTT-ELC implementation. For more information, see: http://www.areyouinpartnership.com

Research Questions.

  1. What are the similarities and differences among providers who are “in” and “not in” QRIS in working conditions, beliefs, and daily routines?
  2. How do family child care providers' needs and barriers align with the Quality Improvement (QI) available?
  3. How do knowledge of QRIS and desire to participate/remain the child care workforce change over time as the RTT-ELC is being implemented?
  4. What are the conditions under which providers earn higher ratings at baseline and/or make improvements over time?
  5. How do variations in the specific QRIS available in these two regions relate to the providers’ baseline ratings and changes over time?


  • A Regional Survey mailed to all FCCP in selected service areas will provide an overview of providers' need and the barriers they face in accessing quality improvement
  • Three groups of providers will be recruited for case studies:
    • Providers "in" QRIS
    • Providers "in" other Quality Improvement Systems (QIS) that do not have the public ratings
    • Providers who are "not in" either QRIS/QIS
  • Providers who are selected for case studies will
    • Have an Initial Visit
    • Complete a survey (Case Study Survey)
    • Participate in an in-depth interview about their daily life in family child care

Opportunities for student involvement:

  • There are volunteer and paid positions available. Students who demonstrate strong research skills as volunteers may have opportunities for paid research assistant positions.
  • Research assistants are needed for data entry, transcribing interviews (listening to a recording and typing up what was said), coding and analysis.
  • Opportunities to conduct interviews will also be available to very strong candidates willing to commit to at least 6 months with the project.
  • Students who are bilingual and fluent in Spanish or other languages are particularly encouraged to apply

Presentations and Publications

Tonyan, H. A. (November, 2014).  Opportunities for children’s learning and development in home-based care.  In H. A. Tonyan (Chair), Engaging Home-Based Care Providers in Quality Improvement.  An invited breakout session at the annual meeting of the Child Care Policy Research Consortium, Washington, DC. Handout in pdf format.



Sustainable Routines: The organization of daily life in family child care




Abstract: Organizing daily activity involves negotiating many competing demands under any circumstance. Families must all find a way to do what needs to be done with the resources they have and in the circumstances of their lives. Further, people generally want to do things that have meaning and that fit with their ideals of how life should be lived. The Sustainable Routines project extends from existing research that has examined how families make decisions and organize daily life by examining the specific context of licensed family child care, paid child care that takes place in a private home. Family child care providers must negotiate a complex set of interests: children of diverse ages (often from a few weeks up to school-age children who arrive after school is over), the diversity of the children and families who may or may not share cultural values or background with the provider, their own household often including their own children and other family members, and regulating or service-providing agencies like licensing, subsidies for low-income families, nutrition programs, and professional development and support programs. In particular, we are interested in how eating, sleeping, physical activity, and media use all fit into everyday life because these are all behaviors that are important in maintaining healthy weight. Without understanding how each of these fits into the providers' ideas about what they do and their overall daily routine, it will be difficult to promote healthy behaviors in family child care in a sustainable way.

In order to learn more about how family child care providers do what they do and why, we interviewed them about their daily life. For more information, please see http://www.csun.edu/~htonyan/SustainableRoutines.htm

We are no longer actively collecting data for this project. Thank you to all the people who made this project possible!

Opportunities for student involvement:

  • Archival qualitative analysis: read through transcripts of completed interviews and code them. Possible topics could include (but are not limited to): practices around food/eating, practices around media use, providers ideas about their work/professionalism
  • Prepare a poster and present the results of your analysis

Presentations and Publications

Tonyan, H. A. (March, 2015).  Sustainability of daily routines as resilience in the face of difficult working conditions.  In H. A. Tonyan (Chair), Home based care as a context for supporting children’s development: Researching providers, programs and interventions, a poster symposium presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Philadelphia PA. Click the following links to download - Handout: text in pdf format. Poster itself in pdf format.


Secondary Analyses of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development


Abstract: One of the richest resources in the USA for understanding the role of early non-parental child day care in children’s lives is the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD). Extensive publications from that research have already provided a wealth of information about children’s experiences, including rich observations of the kinds of caregiving behaviors children have received like physical contact, verbal stimulation, and cognitive stimulation. Such research suggests that children in higher quality care settings, those involving more resources and more positive interactions, show better long-term outcomes than children in lower quality care settings. However, the observational data have only been examined to date by overall summary scores, whereas analyses of similar observational data from other studies have suggested that a holistic, cluster analysis that examined raw observational data to extract profiles of observed behaviors (rather than the traditional summary or composite scores) might add important information about children’s experienced care to help us better understand the long-term effects of early care. For example, one child who received a great deal of physical contact might have received the same score as another child who received a great deal of verbal stimulation, but we might expect the child with a history of verbal stimulation to have relatively higher scores on measures of language development. With rich information about family background, child care contexts and experiences, and long-term outcomes, this public-use data set provides a wonderful opportunity for further understanding profiles of care received by children in a variety of circumstances as well as correlates, antecedents, and consequences of those profiles of care. We have begun by examining child care providers values and beliefs with a poster that was presented at the Society for Research in Child Development in Montreal, Canada. We are currently revisiting that analysis to make it more sophisticated for publication.


Dataset: Children were followed from birth through ages 14 and 15; with observations in home, child day care, and school settings; extensive interviews and surveys of parents and child care providers attitudes and beliefs are also part of the data set. My main focus is on observations at 6, 15, 24, and 36 months as well as the follow-up at 54 months.


Opportunities for student involvement:

  • Assist in data screening and analysis of a large data set. For information about the study and the data set, please see http://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/seccyd/overview.cfm
  • Assist in literature review, examining the extensive publications from this data set as well as related publications not using this data set; as related to Dr. Tonyan’s hypotheses.
  • Assist in preparing the data files for analysis (e.g., we have to do a lot of recoding to create data files that analyze child care providers instead of children).
  • Based on literature previously published from this data set as well as other literature,
    • write a proposal for analysis, including a clear statement of hypotheses to be tested with the data set
    • in coordination with Dr. Tonyan (no independent analysis of the data set), conduct analyses
    • prepare a poster, and possibly a full manuscript based on the results