Stay in touch by signing up
for email updates below.

[gravityform id="1" title="true" description="true" ajax="true"]
« »
Blog | | San José Public Library

Unlocking Local Potential: Supporting Community FFN Caregivers In San José

San Jose Public Library’s FFN Caregiver Support Program

Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) child care providers stand as an essential pillar in our Early Learning and Care (ELC) mixed-delivery system, yet their invaluable contributions often remain unnoticed and unsupported. Research reveals that a third to at least half of all children under 5, and nearly two out of every five children ages 3 and under, are in the care of FFN caregivers, as many families often seek out the flexibility and relationship-based care they provide. Accordingly, FFN caregivers are a critical part of infant and toddler care infrastructure. Despite being a prevalent choice for families, FFN caregivers tend to lack access to essential resources and public programs. Recognizing how FFN caregivers in their community are disconnected from these supports, the San José Public Library (SJPL) has taken a pioneering step by establishing the FFN Caregiver Support Network. SJPL’s program is specifically designed to invest in the healthy development of children and families by providing caregivers with free and accessible individualized learning pathways, a community of peers, and support services and resources.

Who are FFN caregivers? These caregivers are grandmothers, aunts, cousins, close friends, or neighbors, all of whom are considered license-exempt and unlisted caregivers. They are often familiar and trusted faces within families and communities, extending beyond the role of a conventional caregiver. Relationships formed between FFN caregivers and the children they care for are characterized by a unique blend of warmth, trust, and often shared cultural values and languages, fostering a nurturing environment that provides care beyond traditional hours to meet the unique needs of working families. However, many license-exempt providers often lack access to supportive resources, mentorship, peer networks, and pathways that are often afforded to their licensed counterparts.

Acknowledging the lack of support available to FFN caregivers in their city, the SJPL has undergone an ambitious and innovative endeavor to uplift these providers with the goal of increasing the quality of care provided to young children and families. After conducting internal research and an environmental scan of available supports within the city of San José, SJPL found large gaps of support for FFN caregivers and families who rely on FFN care. It shared the findings with the City and presented a framework on how the library could meet the needs of their FFN community. City officials agreed to conduct a 6-month pilot program to establish the FFN Caregiver Support Network, which began in Fall 2020. After successful reports and results from the pilot, the City agreed to establish the program and dedicate multi-year funding for the Network.

Based on the needs and responses of community FFN caregivers, SJPL’s FFN Caregiver Support Network connects these providers to learning and professional development opportunities, a peer community, and a range of resources. The Network includes technology training and assistance, tech devices and internet access, health and safety training and supplies, child development workshops, ELC activities and supplies, one-on-one support, and more. The library also collaborates with local community colleges to offer courses and credits to FFN caregivers. Through a variety of accessible support and educational services, SJPL is empowering FFN caregivers in their caregiving journey and personal growth.

The strength in our program lies in our responsiveness to addressing the unique needs of FFN caregivers in our community. We offer individualized support and resources tailored to meet whichever caregiving level we may receive them at, while also facilitating opportunities for them to connect with professional networks and build relationships with fellow caregivers,” explains Michelle Ornat, Deputy Director of Public Services at San José Public Library.

Requirements to join the FFN Network program are simple: participants must be at least 18 years or older, care for children, ages birth to 8, that live in the city of San José and are not their own. The Network is a no-cost program, meaning that the program’s offered services are completely free for everyone who identifies as an FFN caregiver. Research indicates that FFN providers tend to be mostly women of color, with most of them living at or below low-income levels. This is affirmed by SJPL’s Network cohort, of which 95 percent of participants identify as Black, Indigenous, or women of color, and represents 19 different languages. 

As we highlight the success of SJPL’s innovative and community-responsive FFN Caregiver Support Network, it is important to view the Network program as a blueprint for transformative change on a statewide scale. The gaps in resources and support for FFN caregivers are not exclusive to San José and can be seen in most communities throughout California. By creating similar community-responsive support systems for FFN caregivers in other cities, we have the opportunity to fill inequitable resource gaps, empower caregivers, and elevate the quality of care for our youngest learners, especially infants and toddlers. The journey toward comprehensive FFN caregiver support is still in its early stages, and the ripple effect of replicating SJPL’s model looks like a pathway to strengthening the FFN pillar of mixed-delivery care throughout the State. 

“I have been caring for children for over 20 years. [SJPL’s] FFN program has impacted my life in so many ways. Today I feel the support and empathy of this amazing group of people who are involved in creating this program. They are creating a family of caregivers for children, always willing to help us and support us in so many ways,” shares Mayra, participant of SJPL’s FFN Caregiver Support Network.

For more information about SJPL, please visit their webpage.

Stay Connected

Stay Connected

Select One *