Secondary tabs

    • Reflect on what program management means for you as a family child care provider.
    • Describe roles and responsibilities that are associated with program management.
    • Describe the significance of program management for program quality.




    “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”- Alexander Graham Bell

    In our daily lives, we all do things, assume roles, or participate in experiences that require management skills. Consider all the different activities you or your loved ones engage in on a day-to-day basis that reflect managing some kind of experience or event. These can include deciding what ingredients you need to gather for a recipe and planning a trip to the grocery store, managing busy family schedules, and planning vacations or family gatherings. Take a moment and think about a few things that come to mind from your daily life that involve some type of management.

    Now, think about what enables you to do these things well. Is it the fact that you plan ahead? Or the fact that you write down a set of steps or tasks that you need to follow? Is it perhaps that you work with others to get what you need done? Or that you take into consideration what is meaningful for the situation you are in? All of your descriptions and thoughts offer a window into your sense of management. 

    Consider the following definitions that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website provides about management: “the act or process of deciding how to use something,” “the act or skill of controlling and making decisions about a business, department, sports team, etc.,” “the people who make decisions about a business, department, sports team, etc.,” and “judicious use of means to accomplish an end.” How do these definitions compare to your own definitions or ideas about management?

    In this course, you will learn about what program management means for a family child care provider and about the roles and responsibilities you can assume that contribute to the overall quality of your program. Program management encompasses a variety of tasks: establishing and maintaining relationships with children and their families, collaborating with others, planning and implementing curriculum, and evaluating program quality. This lesson provides a general overview of program management for family child care providers.

    What does Program Management Mean for Family Child Care Providers?

    As a family child care provider, you may not see yourself as a manager, but you are vital to the success of your program and the children you serve. Many times, family child care providers work alone and wear many hats. You are the teacher for multiple age groups, cook, maintenance staff, custodian, and director of your family child care home. Unlike at child development centers, you are the person who engages in management tasks like accepting new children, scheduling, managing payments, ordering materials and equipment, or providing needed support and resources for families.

    You assume a significant role that affects those in your care and determines the quality of your program. You manage the day-to-day planning of experiences and activities that meet the needs of each child in your home as well as the planning of a meaningful and intellectually stimulating environment that promotes learning and growth. You initiate and manage the development of relationships between yourself and children, families, and community members. As a family child care provider, you balance accurate record keeping with planning interesting family-engagement activities. And you manage children’s development by assessing their progress and making decisions that help promote and facilitate that development.

    With the guidance of family child care administrators, a licensing specialist, or other mentors, you strive to ensure that high-quality developmentally appropriate practices that support positive experiences for all children and their families in your care. When doing that, you also contribute to your program’s success and longevity.

    In your daily work, your utmost commitment should be to create the best possible experiences for all children and their families. You assume a significant role in young children’s development, and your daily encounters with children and their families leave a lasting impression on their lives.

    Children’s growth takes place over time, and each experience affects development. Who children become has everything to do with the experiences they have early in their lives, including the experiences they have while they are in your care. Outside of their families, you might be the person they spend the most time with during these critical years of development. Optimum development is strengthened when young children engage in meaningful interactions with adults who strive for the best and adhere to high-quality professional standards. Remember that your words and actions should reflect your mission when it comes to serving children and their families.

    Think about some of the experiences you participate in in your daily work, such as:

    • Interacting with children and their families
    • Planning and implementing experiences and activities
    • Interacting with family child care administrators or a licensing specialist
    • Collaborating with other family child care providers and back-up providers
    • Interacting with community partners
    • Reflecting on your progress and overall program success and quality

    Establishing and maintaining high-quality practices is essential for every task you accomplish every day. This process continues to evolve and develop as you encounter new situations and as you become more experienced. This course will help you understand how your management of these practices contributes to both the growth and development of the children and families in your care, and also to your overall family child care quality.  

    Relationship-Based Care

    Even though many times you will find that most daily tasks are solely your responsibility, it is also vital to be part of a supportive community of professionals. It is important to build relationships with other family child care providers and your trainer, coach, family child care administrator, licensing agent, or other mentor so that there is an underlying basis of trust. Your relationships with fellow providers and mentors are critical for your own professional growth, and within these relationships you can receive advice and constructive feedback about your practice and guidance and support when you have difficulties. Building strong relationships with fellow child care providers, mentors, your family child care administrator or local resource and referral childcare specialist also facilitates the support you can provide children and families when there is a need or concern. When there is open and honest communication, you can easily strategize together the best ways to support children and families, especially when the children and families you care for face challenges. You also recognize that you and your family child care administrator, local resource and referral child care specialist, and other supports and mentors can work together to support children and families, and you can complement each other’s efforts.

    Establishing and nurturing relationships should be at the core of your practice with the children and families that you interact with in your family child care program. When you build warm, trusting relationships with children and their families, you lay the foundation for healthy development. You build this trust by taking the time to get to know each family and child in your care, honoring and incorporating their customs and culture in your home, and inviting their input when planning activities and experiences.

    Along the same lines, when you establish trusting professional relationships with fellow family child care providers, community collaborators, and your family child care administrator or licensing agent, you set the stage for your own professional growth and development. Just as you focus on children’s strengths and talents, work with your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator to strengthen and nurture your own abilities and talents to be the best you can be as you provide high-quality professional care in your high-quality program. Part of relationship-based care in your professional relationships is being able to ask for assistance and being prepared to accept the guidance of your family child care administrators, local resource and referral and family child care specialists.

    Culturally and Linguistically Sensitive Practices

    As a family child care provider, you are likely to encounter children and families from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. As manager of your family child care home, it is important that you understand the significance of always striving for high-quality practices while at the same time acknowledging diversity and individual differences. For example, a family member may not share the same values as you when it comes to topics such as sleeping, toilet training, or eating independently. In your daily practice, you will need to be able to create welcoming, nurturing environments and provide children and their families with culturally and developmentally sensitive care that will lay the foundation for their success. This success will also pave the way for your own program success and ultimately the quality of your program.

    As a dedicated professional, you will need to work with fellow child care providers, community members, and family child care administrators to learn about the cultural and linguistic practices of the children and families in your care and to access resources to assist you in working with culturally and linguistically diverse families. It is always best to ask questions rather than assume or do nothing, and your family child care administrator or other resource people can help facilitate that process.


    Program Management: An Introduction

    Watch this video to hear family child care providers describe how they handle their many roles and responsibilities.


    Take time to review the following examples that reflect a family child care provider’s management roles and responsibilities. In your daily work as a family child care provider, to be an effective manager:

    • Get to know each child and family member in your care; learn about their background, culture, language, interests, skills, and needs
    • Learn about best practices in the field of early care and education
    • Collaborate with others (family members, fellow family child care providers, community partners, and family child care administrators) to design and implement high-quality developmentally appropriate practices for each child in your care
    • Keep ongoing information about each child’s growing skills, changing interests, and experiences that might affect their learning and development
    • Use information and feedback from others to improve your practice and strengthen your program
    • Have a good attitude and being willing to learn new information that will help improve your practice

    All these practices help make you a better decision-maker within your own program. They arm you with the information and strategies necessary to be a strong manager of the kinds of activities and experiences you want the children and families in your program to have. To ensure high-quality practices for children in your care, collaborate with your family child care administrator or licensing agent. Supporting your professional growth directly enhances the quality of your family child care program for children and families.

    Completing this Course

    For more information on what to expect in this course, the Program Management Competency Reflection, and a list of the accompanying Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the lessons, visit the Family Child Care Program Management Course Guide

    Please note the References & Resources section at the end of each lesson outlines reference sources and resources to find additional information on the topics covered. As you complete lessons, you are not expected to review all the online references available. However, you are welcome to explore the resources further if you have interest, or at the request of your trainer, coach, or administrator.



    What do you think makes a good leader? Read the following article then review the activity, Being a Leader in Your Family Child Care Program. Read through the qualities of effective leaders and respond to the questions. Then, share and discuss your responses with a trainer, coach, colleague, or family child care administrator.



    Read the following article and then use the resource Perspectives on Leadership to reflect on questions about leadership in your family child care program. Share your responses with your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator.




    True or false? As a family child care provider, you manage the development of relationships between yourself and children, families, community members, and family child care administrators in your program.


    Which of the following is a role or responsibility of a family child care provider?


    A fellow family child care provider shares with you that she does not believe her program is very important. How do you respond?

    References & Resources

    Allred, K. W., & Hancock, C. L. (2015). Reconciling Leadership and Partnership: Strategies to empower professionals and families. Young Children, 70(2), 46-53.

    Bloom, P. J., Hentschel, A., & Bella, J. (2013). Inspiring Peak Performance: Competence, commitment, and collaboration. The Director’s Toolbox Management Series. Lake Forest, IL: New Horizons.

    Derman-Sparks, L., Nimmo, J. , & LeeKeenan, D. (2015). Leadership Matters: Creating anti-bias change in early childhood programs. Exchange, 37(6), 8-12.

    Division for Early Childhood. (2014). DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education 2014. Retrieved from

    Feeney, S. (2012). Professionalism in Early Childhood Education: Doing our best for young children. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

    Jablon, J., Dombro, A. L., & Johnson, S. (2014). Coaching with Powerful Interactions: A guide for partnering with early childhood teachers. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The Leadership Challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). NAEYC Standards for Early Childhood Professional Preparation: A position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from

    Neugebauer, R. (2015). Knowledge and Competence of Early Childhood Leaders: New insights from the National Academies of Science. Exchange, 37(6), 92-94.

    Simon, F. (2015). Look Up and Out to Lead: 20/20 vision for effective leadership. Young Children, 70(2), 18-24.

    Sullivan, D. R. (2010). Learning to Lead: Effective leadership skills for teachers of young children (2nd ed.). St. Paul MN: Redleaf Press.

    Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners. (2014). Wisconsin Core Competencies for Professionals Working with Young Children & Their Families. Retrieved from