African American Mothers' Perceptions of Quality Childcare

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African American Mothers' Perceptions of Quality Childcare
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Copyright 2004 By Herman Theodore Knopf


TABLE OF CONTENTS page LIST OF TABLES vi ABSTRACT .. vii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION . 1 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE 7 Introduction 7 Measures of Quality ... ... 9 Process Quality .............. 9 Structural Characteristics ... 21 Stakeholder Determined Characteristics: An Objective Reality?................................................ 25 3 RESEARCH METHODS .. 38 Introduction to Phenomenology . 38 Subjectivity Statement ... 44 Methods ............. 45 Participants . 46 Selection criteria 46 Selection procedures .. 47 Demographic information .. 48 Participant compensation ... 50 Data Collection .. 51 Participant interviews .51 Focus group 56 Data Analysis . 58 Phenomenological reduction .. 59 Imaginative variation . 60 iii


Synthesis of composite textural and Structural descriptions 61 Validity of Findings ....61 4 FINDINGS . 68 Introduction 68 Geri .... 69 Textural Description .............. 69 Structural Description 75 Amy ............... 78 Textural Description .............. 78 Structural Description 83 Composite Textural Description Composite Structural Description .. Essence ... 95 Structural Characteristics of Care .. 95 Child Safety ... 97 Child Learning ... 98 Feelings Associated with Quality .. 99 5 DISCUSSION 101 Introduction 101 Key Findings .. 101 Child Learning ... 102 Child Safety ... 103 Parent Needs .. 103 Connecting Mother and Expert Perceptions ..... 105 Limitations ..... 108 Limitations of Phenomenology .. ... 108 Interview Structure ..... Lack of Interest Among Participants ................. 109 Focus Group ................... 109 Relationship with Participant ..... Implications for Research .. 111 Implications for Practice 112 APPENDIX A INVITATION BROCHURE . 116 B BACKGROUND INFORMATION BROCHURE ... 119 C INTERVIEW GUIDE 121 iv




LIST OF TABLES Table page 3-1 Background Information 65 3-2 Type of Care Used . 66 3-3 Reason for Enrollment ... 67 vi


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy AFRICAN AMERICAN MOTHERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF QUALITY CHILDCARE By Herman Theodore Knopf August 2004 Chair: Kristen M. Kemple Cochair: Diane E. Strangis Major Department: Teaching and Learning This qualitative study examines African American mothers’ perceptions of quality childcare. Using phenomenological research methods, 28 interviews were conducted with 10 mothers of at least one child in his/her next to last year of childcare (children were entering kindergarten in the fall of 2005). Two questions guided this study: (1) What is the essence of quality childcare from the perspective of African American mothers? (2) Does this phenomenological study of African American mothers reveal descriptions of childcare that differ from descriptions in the extant literature on definitions of childcare quality? This study found that although all of the mothers focused on similar aspects of care when evaluating quality, they placed different levels of importance on each aspect according to identified needs for childcare and purposes for enrollment. The aspects that all mothers attended to were child safety, child learning, relationships with teachers, the cost of childcare, the hours of operation, the physical location of the childcare, and parent vii


and child feelings associated with attendance in childcare. With regard to the second question this study supports some of the previous research in the field, namely the aspects of care that parents attend to when evaluating quality. The discussion section describes the study’s limitations and implications for practice and future research. Some implications for practice include the importance of consistent communication between parents and childcare providers so that parents know how their needs are being met and to help them develop relationships with their children’s caregivers, leading to positive feelings regarding childcare enrollment. viii


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION What does “high quality” childcare mean? This is a loaded question that is difficult to answer. It is, however, an important consideration due to a number of interrelated trends in American culture, society, and politics. It has been well documented that children are increasingly being cared for by people unrelated to them (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2000). This phenomenon is occurring primarily due to the continued increase of primary caregivers (parents and families) entering the workforce. This trend has stimulated significant research interest in determining the effects of early center-based childcare experiences on children’s social and cognitive development (Cost Quality and Outcomes Study Team, 1995b; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2002).The studies have found that high quality care is correlated to positive student outcomes (socially and academically) but that the majority of care available is of minimal or poor quality. These findings have stimulated policy debates over the role of local and national governments in providing early childhood experiences for young children as well as the influence that government should have in monitoring and improving the overall quality of childcare. Of great concern is that although high quality childcare is associated with benefits to children, an inclusive description of what constitutes high quality childcare does not exist. Currently different stakeholders perceive quality in different ways, which leads the pursuit of quality childcare along different trajectories. Without an inclusive description of quality it may 1


2 be unlikely that true high quality care will actually be reached. To begin understanding what quality childcare is we must first examine the history of childcare in the US. The care and education of children under the age of five has changed significantly since its early beginnings in the mid 1800s. In response to changing family needs and values, what once existed solely for the protection of young impoverished children has become a commonplace phenomenon within American society (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). As the need for childcare has become greater so has interest in the quality of care and education (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). In its infancy, childcare for young children was thought to be a necessary evil for poor families and single mothers. The first recorded American day nurseries were the Boston Infant School (1828) and the Nursery for the Children of Poor Women in the city of New York (1852) (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). These centers were established to offer care for children whose mothers had to leave them to go to work and only provided custodial care. The majority population believed the programs were damaging to children (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). With the exception of wartime crises such as the Civil War and the Second World War, childcare was thought to be detrimental to young children and was used only by poor families and single mothers. The first generally accepted day nursery was established to care for children during the Civil War in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1865 (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). This program was acceptable only because great numbers of mothers were needed to help a nation in crisis deal with the war (Day, 1983). In the early 1900s, as the influx of immigrants increased and more women began to work in factories, the need for childcare rose and its purposes also changed slightly. In addition to providing custodial care for children of poor working


3 immigrant mothers, day nurseries also attended to the task of “Americanizing” the immigrant children (Steinfels, 1973). As the need for childcare increased so did public concern for the health and safety of the children in care (Kagan & Cohen, 1996; Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). This concern stimulated licensing efforts that provided minimum standards for sanitation, adequate diet, fresh air, and safe housing facilities (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). By the 1920s, although still retaining the stigma associated with families with broken homes or poor families with working mothers, day nurseries began to cooperate with nursery schools to meet the intellectual and social needs of young children. In 1929, the National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE) established 17 essential standards for the education provided in day nurseries (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). These standards included understanding emotional and behavior problems of children, and provisions for some education of the children in care (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). Of the accepted childcare centers that existed during World War II, the best known were the Child Service Centers run by the Kaiser shipyards in Portland, Oregon (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). The US Maritime Commission built these centers with $750,000 of federal funds so that mothers could work in the shipyards while their husbands were off fighting in the war (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). These centers provided care and education for children from 18 months to school age, were open 24 hours a day to accommodate the mothers’ works schedules, and even prepared the evening meal for each of the families so that the mothers would not have to prepare dinner after they returned home from work (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000).


4 By the mid 1960s, childcare for young children was more accepted and was thought to be a means for diminishing the existence of poverty among US citizens. Head Start, established as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, was guided by the assumption that families were poor because they lacked the education and social skills necessary to productively function in American Society (Hymes, 1991; Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). By compensating for the inadequate parenting skills of poor mothers and providing an enriched learning environment, Head Start sought to break the cycle of poverty (Hymes, 1991; Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000; White & Buka, 1987). By modeling the curriculum of Head Start after the traditional nursery schools of middle class America, the US government believed that poor children would be more successful upon entering the public school system (White & Buka, 1987). This interest in providing compensatory education for young children also stimulated an interest in the best way to educate young children, which ultimately led to the curriculum studies of the late 1960s and early 1970s (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). As middle class mothers’ employment rose so did the emphasis on providing quality educational environments for children enrolled in early childcare settings (Hymes, 1991; Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000; Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2000). It appears that interest in the type of care that was provided to young children was stimulated by the changing trends of the White middle class. All early forms of childcare, distinct from preschool or nursery school, seem to have changed so that they are more similar to the type of care that was used by White middle class (Lubeck, 1994). As White middle class values seem to have become the standard bearer for the childcare industry, the values of other cultures have been unnoticed. The


5 reported history of early childhood education and care in the United States seems to have ignored the specific history of childcare use among African American families. The lack of literature describing African American perceptions of childcare coupled with my personal life experiences led to the interest in African American perceptions of quality. Although all of my experiences have led to my interest in studying African-American perceptions of quality, it has been my involvement with the local childcare regulatory board that has had the most impact. As a member of the childcare board I am only exposed to centers that are characterized as low quality. Centers brought before the board do not comply with the state and local health code regulations, which were designed to ensure the safety of young children. Through anecdotal observation it appeared that the majority of centers that came before the board were operated by African American directors and had served predominantly African American populations. This led me to wonder if cultural values influenced African American perceptions of quality. That ultimately led me to investigate how quality in early childhood settings is defined in the literature and in publications by early childhood associations. The literature describing quality in early childhood settings seemed to be coming from the same value system: White middle-class (Lubeck, 1994). Although the description of quality for early childhood settings was similar to my personal view, I was left with the impression that the voice of African-American stakeholders had been left out. The impression that African-American values were silenced in the mainstream definition of quality inspired my prior research investigating African American childcare directors’ perceptions of quality and ultimately the current inquiry of African American mothers’ perceptions of childcare quality.


6 The purpose of this study is to give voice to one of the predominantly silent stakeholders in childcare, African American mothers. In an effort to come to an inclusive description of quality childcare, this project seeks to educe an account of African American mothers’ perceptions of childcare quality. Chapter 2 describes how quality in childcare has been treated in the literature, focusing on process, structural, and stakeholder defined quality. The review of literature concludes with evidence from the few empirical studies of African American mothers whose children are in childcare. Chapter 3 includes a brief introduction to phenomenological epistemology and methodology and describes the methods that were used in the current project to reveal a description of African American mothers’ perception of quality childcare. Chapter 4 presents the research findings or descriptions of quality from African American mothers. Chapter 5 presents a discussion of the findings, implications for practice and future research, and a presentation of the limitations of this study.


CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE Introduction Since the 1960s, the United States has experienced an increase in the enrollment of young children in center-based early childhood experiences. In 1965, less than 10 % of children aged 3 to 5 years were enrolled in nursery school (White & Buka, 1987). By 1999, 60 % of 3 to 5 year old children were enrolled in center-based early childhood care and education programs (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). As the need for early childhood programs increased, so has the volume of research conducted to determine the effects of childcare on young children’s development. As the results from these investigations became public the interest of parents, policymakers, and practitioners in the quality of childcare became stronger. Investigators have identified that high quality childcare leads to positive student outcomes including cognitive and social development, increased responsiveness, and increased language skills (Campbell & Ramey, 1994; Cost Quality and Outcomes Study Team, 1995a, 1995b; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2002). Although the benefits of high quality care were positive, it was of concern to learn that the majority of childcare was of moderate to poor quality (Cost Quality and Outcomes Study Team, 1995a, 1995b). The children who attended these poor quality centers did not reap the academic and social benefits associated with high quality childcare (Peisner-Feinberg, Burchinal, Clifford, Yazejian, Culkin, Zelazo, et al, 1999a, 1999b). 7


8 Despite the correlation of outcomes with quality, the research designed to observe the effects of quality on outcomes has not used an inclusive definition of high quality childcare. By not including the voices of all stakeholders when defining what quality childcare is or should be the field has narrowed the definition and marginalized other stakeholders. Before we can truly identify what quality childcare is we must broaden the scope of the definition to include all voices. After these voices have been included, and an inclusive definition has been reached, we can then attend to the task of increasing the level of quality that is provided to children while in childcare settings. This chapter examines how quality has been treated in the early childhood literature. First a description of different ways that researchers have assessed quality will be presented; then a more theoretical definition will be presented. The chapter will conclude by describing the research questions of the present study. Before describing research findings the definition of key terms must be presented. This review focuses on center-based childcare experiences for children between the ages of 3 to 5. The decision to focus on this age group was made due to the higher numbers of childcare centers that serve only 3-5 year old children, including Head Start and other government funded programs. Center-based childcare is provided by an organization (either proprietary or non-profit) that has the sole purpose of caring for and educating young children. For purposes of this literature review, center-based childcare consists of the following additional criteria: (1) operated in a facility designed or converted for the purpose of caring for children (not in a home); (2) at least one class of children all between the ages of 3-5; and (3) focused on meeting immediate custodial and educational goals.


9 The terms preschool and childcare are used throughout this chapter and are essentially describing the same type of program, center-based childcare. Both terms are used in accord with the terminology used by individual authors when reporting results from their research projects. When center-based childcare is referred to as preschool in this review, the study being described used the term in their report; the same is true for the use of childcare. Measures of Quality In the literature, the term high quality childcare has been treated in three distinct ways, which, when considered collectively, illuminate a clearer definition. When taken separately, each of the three definitions of high quality childcare reflects different research aims, epistemologies, and cultural/stakeholder group values. These three ways of defining quality will serve as the framework for this review. The three different ways of defining quality are as follows: Process quality, structural characteristics of quality, and a stakeholder-relevance definition of quality. These process and structural characteristics of quality are rooted in researchers’ assumptions about the most important aspects of childcare settings that provide for optimal development and preparedness for school. These constructed definitions of quality have influenced how program quality has been measured. Process Quality One way that researchers have evaluated the quality of childcare centers is by assessing what has been termed process quality. Assessments of process quality survey the interactions between teachers and children, interactions among children and the materials and activities available to the children, to determine either high or low levels of


10 quality (Phillips, Mekos, Scarr, McCartney, & Abbott-Shim, 2000). Although open-ended classroom observations have been used to assess process quality (Howes & Smith, 1995; Sheridan & Schuster, 2001), the most commonly used instruments are the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS) (Harms & Clifford, 1980; Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 1998) and the Caregiver Interaction Scale (CIS) (Arnett, 1989). Measures of process quality. The ECERS was developed as a means of objectively rating global quality in early childhood education programs. The authors of the scale report that in addition to being used to relate childcare quality to child outcomes, the ECERS has also been used as a program improvement tool (Harms et al., 1998). The ECERS is a 37-item classroom observation scale that examines and rates each item on a 7-point scale (1= inadequate, 7= excellent). The scale is broken into seven subscales: Personal Care Routines of Children (5 items), Furnishings and Display for Children (5 items), Language-Reasoning Experiences (4 items), Fine and Gross-Motor Activities (6 items), Creative Activities (7 items), Social Development (6 items), and Adult Needs (4 items). After the 37 items are scored the items in each subscale are averaged together giving each subscale a score ranging from 1-7. In order to obtain the overall quality score for the classroom environment the subscale scores are averaged together to obtain a final quality score ranging from 1-7. In 1998, Harms, Clifford, and Cryer published a revised edition of the ECERS (ECERS-R). The revision focused on making the scale more representative of the changing early childhood field (Harms et al., 1998). Specifically, the ECERS-R was designed to incorporate more items about cultural diversity and the inclusion of children with special needs into the characterization of high quality childcare programs. Although


11 most of the changes to the revised scale were embedded within the pre-existing items of the ECERS, the ECERS-R emerged with new titles for the subscales and 6 more items. The new subscale titles were Space and Furnishings (8 items), Personal Care Routines (6 items), Language-Reasoning (4 items), Activities (10 items), Interaction (5 items), Program Structure (4 items), and Parents and Staff (6 items) (Harms et al., 1998). As reported by the authors, the ECERS-R has a total internal consistency of .921 and inter-rater reliabilities of .921 (Pearson) and .865 (Spearman) (Harms et al., 1998). The ECERS and ECERS-R are considered by researchers to be valid and reliable forms of assessing quality because they assume a child’s perspective and provide concrete observable criteria for scoring, which leads to researcher objectivity (Cryer & Phillipsen, 1997; Kontos & Stevens, 1985).It is important to note that although the ECERS was revised in 1998, the research cited in this review used the original version of the scale. The CIS is a measure that relies on observations to rate teacher interactions with children on 26 items, that are categorized into four subscales including Positive Interaction (10 items), Punitiveness (4 items), Permissiveness (4 items), and Detachment (8 items) (Arnett, 1989). The items on the scale are statements describing the nature of the teacher’s interactions with her/his students. Different observers conduct two 45-minute observations on different occasions for each teacher being observed. During each observation the evaluators rate the teacher’s interactions on a four-point scale (1= not at all, 4= very much) according to the question “To what extent are each of the following statements characteristic of this caregiver” (Arnett, 1989, p. 546). After the scale has been completed the raters then compute subscale averages that are used to conduct a


12 factor analysis to compare interaction styles between teachers. Arnett (1989) reports 80% agreement between observers using the scale. Process quality and child outcomes. Researchers using process indicators of quality in early childhood classroom environments have sought to determine the effects of high quality care on the development of young children. Specifically, investigators examined the relationship among quality childcare and cognitive and social development (Cryer & Phillipsen, 1997; Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999b) as well as the relationship between quality childcare, positive social interaction with teachers, and children’s attachment security (Howes & Smith, 1995). One of the most comprehensive studies of the effects of high process quality childcare was conducted by the Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes study team (Cost Quality and Outcomes Study Team, 1995a, 1995b; Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999b). The Cost, Quality and Outcomes study was longitudinal and examined a nationally representative sample of children attending childcare centers to determine the level of quality and its effect on child outcomes with respect to language, math, attending behaviors, and children’s problem behaviors. The children participating in the study were recruited during their next to last year in preschool and were followed through second grade, spanning a total of five years. The initial sample included 826 preschoolers from 183 classes in 151 centers. Due to attrition at year five of the study the sample had diminished to 418 children that represented 160 of the original 183 classes (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999a). The detailed ethnicity of the sample population was not reported. According to the Technical Report (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999b), the ethnicity of the sample population was 69.9 % White in the first year of the study and increased to


13 78.6 % in year five. All other ethnic groups are reported together as “children of color” (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999b). Distribution by gender remained relatively constant throughout the tenure of the study. In year 1, 50.7% of the sample was male and 49.3 % was female. In year five, 50.8 % of the population was male and 49.2 % were female (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999b). The Cost, Quality and Outcomes study team used four observational measures of process quality and a self-report survey to measure teacher-child relationships. In addition to using the ECERS and the CIS (described above), they used the Early Childhood Observation Form (ECOF) (Stipek, Daniels, Galuzzo, & Milburn, 1992) to rate the extent to which the classroom teaching style was didactic versus child-centered, and the Adult Involvement Scale (AIS) (Howes & Stewart, 1987) to measure teacher responsiveness. The Cost, Quality and Outcomes study team used the scores from each of the four measures to compute a single composite quality score by using principle component analysis (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999b). The researchers also measured the quality of the teacher-child relationships through the use of the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale (Pianta, 1992) a self-report survey in which the teachers rated their relationship with each child participating in the study. The researchers found that the overall quality of care in childcare centers across the country was slightly above minimal with mean ECERS scores of 4.26 in year 1 and 4.05 in year 2 (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999b). The teachers were found to be moderately sensitive having a CIS mean score of 2.96 on a 4-point scale. The researchers used other measures to assess children’s communication, cognitive, and social development. When comparing the students who were enrolled in


14 high quality childcare to children attending low quality childcare, the Cost, Quality and Outcomes study team found positive correlations between the level of quality and child outcomes. The children participating in high quality childcare attained higher scores on all measures of language, math, attention, and problem behaviors. Over time however, the differences between the two groups tended to diminish, an effect that was attributed to the effects of early elementary experiences rather than prior childcare experience (Cryer & Phillipsen, 1997; Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999b). Children identified as at-risk were affected more by the quality of childcare than other children. Howes & Smith (1995) tested their hypothesis that quality childcare has direct and indirect influences on children’s development. They asserted that the level of process quality present in an early childhood classroom would have a direct effect on the play activities offered to children and would directly affect the type of interactions that children would have with teachers (Howes & Smith, 1995). They also hypothesized that the level of quality may indirectly influence the cognitive activity through the types of play activities offered to children. In particular, they were interested in examining the relationships among several variables: Child care quality, teacher behavior, children’s play activities, children’s emotional security, and children’s cognitive activity. Classroom quality was assessed through the use of ECERS for the preschool age classrooms. The researchers used an attachment measure to determine the relationship between each child participating in the study and his/her primary teacher. Teacher interaction, children’s play activities and cognitive activities were assessed solely through observation where each variable was coded during 20-second intervals (Howes & Smith, 1995).


15 Howes & Smith (1995) found no significant differences between subsidized and non-subsidized childcare settings. They did find that classrooms that had more highly trained teachers received higher ECERS scores than classrooms with less educated teachers. When comparing results for all of the classrooms participating in the study investigators found that scores were only minimally adequate on the ECERS with a score of 4.25 (Howes & Smith, 1995). Alarming was the fact that, of the participating centers, 15% of the preschool classrooms were rated as potentially harmful to children’s development. Along with the findings specific to the quality of the childcare the researchers found support for their hypothesis that classroom quality was indirectly associated with attachment security and cognitive activity and directly associated with positive teacher/child social interaction and children’s play activities. Using the ECERS and the CIS to compare classrooms in other countries. The ECERS and the CIS measures of process quality also have been used to compare the quality of childcare among centers from different countries. The importance of these studies lies in the fact that investigators found differences between countries. These differences suggest that culture may have an influence on how quality is perceived. The following section will describe studies that have investigated the global differences in childcare quality. Tietze, Cryer, Bairrao, Palacios, and Wetzel (1996) reported their findings from a study that used both the ECERS and the CIS to measure and compare the quality of childcare in five countries. These countries were Austria (43 classrooms), Germany (103 classrooms), Portugal (88 classrooms), Spain (80 classrooms), and the United States (401 classrooms). The investigators used US data from the Cost, Quality, and Outcomes Study


16 (Helburn, 1995). The data reported from the European countries were obtained from the European Child Care and Education Study (European Child Care and Education Study, 1999). The first purpose of the study was to test the validity of the process quality assessment instruments (ECERS and CIS) after they had been translated into each country’s respective language. The second purpose was to describe the differences in process quality among the five countries (Tietze, Cryer, Bairrao, Palacios, & Wetzel, 1996). In the five-country comparison, Tietze et al. (1996) found that the ECERS and the CIS remained valid forms of process quality assessment, but both had problematic items. To achieve validity of the ECERS between countries the researchers had to remove 8 of the original 37 items. The Adult needs subscale (4 items) was removed because the items were not thought to measure process quality. Items 3 (Nap/Rest) and 33 (Provisions for Exceptional Children) were removed due to the high frequency of responses in various countries indicating that the items were not applicable. Item 22 (Music/Movement) was dropped due to the inconsistency of definition among translations. And Item 31 (Cultural awareness) was dropped due to an “extremely skewed distribution” (Tietze et al., 1996, p. 460). Specifically this item was thought to be invalid due to the lack of diversity found in the European countries. For the CIS, the Permissiveness subscale was not included due to unclear factorial structure. The Sensitivity and Harshness subscales had good internal consistencies ranging from .85 to .94 and .83 to .93 respectively. The internal consistency of the Involvement subscale ranged from .39 to .78 with the Portuguese version having low internal consistency.


17 The cross-country comparisons found that differences in quality existed between the five countries. When compared using the CIS scores, the countries differed significantly only on the Sensitivity subscale. In descending order, the CIS Sensitivity subscale mean scores were as follows: Austria (3.00), Spain (2.96), Germany (2.75), Portugal (2.72), and the United States (2.68) (Tietze et al., 1996). The mean scores from the ECERS show that Austria had the highest level of process quality (ECERS mean = 4.70) and Spain had the lowest (ECERS mean = 4.06). Interestingly none of the countries had a mean score above 5, which is considered ‘good’ by the authors of the ECERS. It is also noteworthy that the variability in the mean scores from the US (SD = 1.00), Spain (SD = .90) and Germany (SD = .71) were much higher than the other countries (Tietze et al., 1996). Tietze, Bairrao, Leal and Rossbach (1998) used the ECERS scores from observations conducted during previous research (Tietze et al., 1996) to compare childcare centers from Germany and Portugal. The research of Tietze et al. (1998) had two main purposes: 1) To further examine the validity of the two adapted (translated) versions of the ECERS; and 2) To focus their efforts on testing the hypothesis that the ECERS would indicate quality differences between and within German and Portuguese childcare classrooms (Tietze, Bairrao, Leal, & Rossbach, 1998). The purpose for their research project was similar to the 1996 study but, they chose not to use the CIS as a measure of process quality. In order to isolate potential differences as much as possible the researchers selected childcare sites from several different areas within each country. This was similar to the US Cost and Quality study. Portugal was categorized into two geographic areas


18 (north and south) with a total of 88 classrooms. Germany was separated into four geographic areas (southwest, northwest, east, and Berlin) with 103 classrooms overall. Within each geographic area centers represented rural and urban areas. This enabled the researchers to analyze potential differences within each country as well as differences between Germany and Portugal. The researchers found that significant differences in quality were present between different geographic areas within Germany as well as between German and Portuguese childcare classrooms. They also found that the differences between East and West German childcare classrooms were of higher magnitude than the differences between West Germany and Portugal. East German classrooms had an average ECERS score of 3.99 where West German classrooms had an average score of 4.67 and Portuguese classrooms had an average score of 4.23 (Tietze, Bairrao, Leal et al., 1998) An interesting finding from both the multinational and the Germany/Portugal studies is that each country and region had unique value systems and prioritized the subscales of the ECERS differently. As noted in Tietze et al. (1996) the dimensions of process quality that seemed to illustrate such differences were on the items ‘Personalized care routines’ and ‘Availability and use of space and play materials’. Although specific subscale scores are not reported, the researchers found that the highest scores for personalized care were for Portugal and Germany and the lowest for Spain. The highest scores for availability and use of space and play materials were found for Germany and the United States and the lowest for Portugal and Spain (Tietze et al., 1996). These differences across countries illustrate the role that culture had in influencing process quality.


19 Using ECERS and field notes to compare classrooms. Another group of researchers interested in comparing the process quality of childcare classrooms used the ECERS to measure quality (Sheridan & Schuster, 2001). This research differed from the work of Tietze et al. (1996 & 1998) in that Sheridan and Schuster (2001) used field notes to record additional observation data. Field notes, as defined by the researchers, were informal written descriptions of classroom characteristics and descriptive statements used to provide scoring rationale. Similar to the work of Tietze et al. (1996 & 1998) that found across-country differences, Sheridan & Schuster (2001) found different levels of quality between Sweden and Germany, with different early childhood practices. The differences between these two countries were highlighted by the fact the German investigators evaluated Swedish schools and vice versa. The process of curriculum and lesson planning (i.e. designing activities and learning experiences for children) illustrates the different cultural values of German and Swedish child care teachers. In the Swedish schools care and education were based on a structured schedule with several gatherings, large and small group activities and were focused on long term goals for each student. This was revealed through observations of the teacher and child interactions, the teachers’ written lesson plans and the lesson plan displays presented for parents and other adults. Observers in the German classrooms perceived that few organized activities or gatherings occurred during the day. In fact, the German planning seemed to be conducted on a daily basis as the teachers chose short activities to maintain the children’s attention. The researchers “interpret this finding as if the concept of planned activities has another meaning for teachers in Sweden than for German teachers” (Sheridan & Schuster, 2001, p. 115).


20 Studies that used process quality measures to assess childcare classrooms were able to establish a link between relatively high quality scores and positive student outcomes (Cryer & Phillipsen, 1997; Howes & Smith, 1995; Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999a). Specifically this research was able to show that teacher interaction style and the type of activities provided to students have an impact on student achievement. When process quality measures were employed to compare childcare quality between countries researchers found that differences in quality existed between the five countries studied (Tietze, Bairrao, & Rossbach, 1998; Tietze et al., 1996). This finding suggests that cultural values may influence how teachers interact with their students. This had a negative effect on quality scores in countries whose values were different from those assumed to be optimal according to the assessment instruments. The important role that values played in attaining certain levels of quality was illustrated most poignantly when the differences between East and West Germany, a country that had (at the time of data collection) only recently become unified, were taken into account. Prior to unification, East and West Germany were under two entirely different political systems, each having different desired student outcomes. The influence that cultural values had on teacher interaction style could also explain the variability of quality scores in US childcare classrooms (SD = 1.00 as reported by Tietze et al., 1996). This high variability might be a reflection of different values rather than different levels of quality. In addition to assessing levels of quality in childcare centers based upon interaction patterns between teachers and children and the types of activities and materials prepared for children, researchers have attempted to determine the quality of care provided to children by assessing structural characteristics.


21 Structural Characteristics Investigators have identified a variety of components that are defined as structural. At least two levels of characteristics have been identified (Cryer, Tietze, Burchinal, Leal, & Palacios, 1999). The first level, classroom characteristics, includes staff/child ratio; space per child; and teachers’ education level, tenure at the center, experience, ages and wages (Cryer et al., 1999). The second level, center characteristics, includes the total number of children enrolled; percent of preschool-aged children enrolled; number of daily hours open; and the director’s education, wages/salary, years of experience, and tenure at the center (Cryer et al., 1999). Relating structural components to process quality. Researchers have compared process quality scores to structural characteristics of childcare settings in order to identify the structural elements that are most closely associated with high process quality. The goal of this type of research was to identify elements that were likely to predict high levels of process quality (Howes, Phillips, & Whitebrook, 1992). Investigators exploring the relationship between structural characteristics and process quality tested the hypothesis that certain structural characteristics were present in all centers attaining high process quality. The researchers’ interests in determining whether or not structural characteristics were predictive of overall quality was due in part to the fact that structural characteristics of childcare centers are monitored by licensing agencies (Fuller et al., 2003; Phillips et al., 2000) The most commonly examined structural characteristics of childcare were teacher/child ratios, group size, and teacher education (Burchinal, Roberts, Nabors, & Bryant, 1996; Burchinal et al., 2000; Howes & Marx, 1992). Howes and Marx (1992)


22 compared the process quality, teacher/child ratios, overall group size, and teachers’ level of education between US and French childcare centers. They found that the lower teacher/child ratios and group sizes in US classrooms did not correlate with higher quality as measured through observations of teacher/child interactions. In fact, they found that the French classrooms scored higher on quality measures, despite higher child/teacher ratios. The investigators theorized that this finding was due to higher levels of teacher education and lower teacher turnover (Howes et al., 1992). In the studies conducted by Burchinal et al. (1996 & 2000) the researchers examined the effects of quality childcare on children through their first three years of life as measured through process characteristics. While examining these effects Burchinal et al. (1996 & 2000) also compared structural characteristics of the classrooms in the study. Although the research focused on younger children, the findings are important as they conflict with the findings from Howes et al. (1992). Burchinal et al. (1996 & 2000) found that teacher/child ratio and overall group size strongly correlated with other process measures of classroom quality. High levels of process quality, lower group size, and lower child/teacher ratios were related to better child outcomes (higher levels of language and cognitive development). When examined further, the for-profit status of the childcare center was highly correlated with less desirable structural characteristics. In particular, for-profit centers were more likely to use higher child/teacher ratios and were more likely to have larger group sizes. However, these findings should be interpreted with caution as the sample sizes were small (79 children in Burchinal et al., 1996 and 89 children in Burchinal et al., 2000).


23 Cryer et al. (1999) extended prior research comparing quality across four countries (US, Germany, Portugal, and Spain) by examining how structural characteristics were related to process quality. The researchers took the process quality scores (ECERS and CIS) from their 1996 study and compared those to structural characteristics data collected after the fact through interviews with classroom teachers and center directors. Structural characteristics were classified on two levels (classroom level and center level). The researchers found that although no significant differences existed in overall process quality, the specific structures used to achieve process quality were different (Cryer et al., 1999). For example, in Germany the teachers had much higher levels of education than the teachers in the US, but the levels of process quality were relatively the same. It appeared to the researchers (Cryer et al., 1999) that the US attained its level of quality by using smaller child to teacher ratios in lieu of teacher education. This finding is somewhat overshadowed by the second major finding that no single structural characteristic correlated with high process quality. The researchers reported that there was an interaction effect, and that several structural characteristics seemed to act together in correlation with process quality. Another study examined the relationship of structural characteristics, financial dimensions and regulatory quality, with process quality (Phillips et al., 2000). The investigators defined financial quality as an aspect of structural quality that focused on teacher wages and parent fees. Regulatory quality denoted structural components of the childcare program that were easily regulated by licensing agencies, particularly child/staff ratios and teacher education and training. Information regarding teacher wages, parent fees, and teacher training and education was obtained through interviews


24 with the directors, teachers, and parents. These data were compiled and compared to determine significant relationships. The findings indicated that high correlations existed between the structural characteristics (financial, regulatory) and process indicators of quality. Of the three variables, financial characteristics specifically teacher wages had the strongest independent relationship to process quality (Phillips et al., 2000). Additionally, the researchers found that, except for Virginia, the states that had the most stringent licensing regulations also had the highest process quality scores. In order to explain the discrepancy for Virginia’s high regulatory standards and low levels of quality, Phillips et al. (2000) noted that Virginia does not strongly enforce its regulations. Even though the studies that attempted to establish a link between specific structural characteristics and process quality were inconclusive (Burchinal et al., 1996; Burchinal et al., 2000; Cryer et al., 1999; Howes & Marx, 1992), they did contribute to an increased understanding of quality. For instance, Cryer et al. (1999) found that when high levels of process quality were present so were several structural characteristics. Although the specific structural characteristics varied from classroom to classroom, the relationship was revealed when several optimal structures were combined to achieve high process quality. Single structural characteristics were not predictive of process quality, but when several optimal structural characteristics were present in a classroom the researchers also found high levels of process quality. The relationship between process quality and financial (teacher wages) and regulatory structures (teacher-child ratio and teacher training) found by Phillips et al. (2000) also was interesting. It appeared that when childcare centers were consistently held to a higher regulatory standard and were able to attract and retain highly qualified teachers they were more likely to score high on process


25 measures of quality. These findings suggest that there is another unidentified mediating variable influencing the relationship between structural and process quality characteristics (Phillips et al., 2000). Stakeholder Determined Characteristics: An Objective Reality? Exploring literature that describes a more relativist approach to defining quality also contributes to understanding quality. Moss (1994) explained that when examining quality in childcare, attention should be paid to different stakeholder groups since each group has different values with the potential to influence the outcomes for children. The different expectations that each stakeholder group has for the provision of care may also influence how quality childcare is defined. Six major stakeholder groups, children, parents, family, employers, providers, and society should be consulted when identifying how quality is to be achieved (Katz, 1994; Moss, 1994). Based on their stake in the education process they desire different features. For example an employer may be concerned with the hours of availability for care and the provider’s ability to care for sick children, since these variables influence an employee’s availability (Moss & Pence, 1994). Parents may have different foci such as providing a safe and nurturing environment or educational attainment. As stakeholder groups vary so do the individual stakeholders within each group (Moss & Pence, 1994). Different parents have different values associated with their own cultural and economic positions. This relativistic definition is controversial. Sheridan and Schuster (2001) disagreed with Moss (1994), stating that an objective definition of quality can and should be constructed. Establishing a content and pedagogical approach to quality assessment


26 that identifies a minimum level of quality and standards would contribute an objective definition of quality . Parents as stakeholders. Investigations with parents, one stakeholder group, revealed findings about their perceptions of quality. The majority of literature examining parents’ perceptions of quality early childhood programs focused on either the criteria parents used to select childcare for their children or the outcomes that parents sought from their children’s early childhood program. Studies that focused on parent-determined criteria for childcare selection yielded both similar and conflicting results. Mensing et al. (2000) reported findings in which 7 mothers from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds were interviewed regarding their rationale for choosing specific forms of childcare for their children. Mothers stated that trust in their child’s caregiver was the most important requirement when selecting childcare arrangements. Transportation, convenience, and cost were among the other important factors mothers considered after the trust requirement was met. Although learning opportunities and school readiness were mentioned by all of the mothers, these factors were not as important as the first four (Mensing, French, Fuller, & Kagan, 2000). In an earlier study Endsley & Bradbard (1987) used questionnaires to examine the childcare selection trends of 87 parents who were dissatisfied with childcare arrangements. After analyzing the questionnaires, the investigators found that parents attributed 80% of their dissatisfaction to process quality features such as a lack of educational stimulation, caregiver undependability, lack of peer stimulation, caregiver neglect, and discrepant caregiver-parent values. Of the types of care that the parents used prior to choosing proprietary center-based care, care in which the children were placed in


27 the home of non-relative caregivers was the most common and received the most complaints (Endsley & Bradford, 1987). Cryer and Burchinal (1997) compared observers’ rating of classroom environment scores (ECERS) to parent perceptions and values of quality as reported on surveys completed by the parents. The parent surveys were designed to identify the degree to which parents valued the specific aspects of the classroom environment measured by the ECERS. Cryer et al. (1997) found that parents’ values were consistent with early childhood professionals’ values of high quality childcare. Parents valued teacher interaction, health, and safety above curriculum and adult needs. Investigators also found that parents typically reported that their child’s classroom was of higher quality than that found by the observers and that these higher scores were on the items that parents valued most. The researchers believed that this phenomenon was due to either parental naivet or parents evaluating the classroom based on what they wished for their child rather than an objective reality (Cryer & Burchinal, 1997). In a study that examined data from the National Household Education Survey of 1995, Early & Burchinal (2001) linked childcare characteristics (setting, hours spent in care, and number of childcare arrangements) to family ethnicity, income, and child’s age. Through their analysis, they found that income, ethnicity and child age were related to the type of care parents selected. Regarding the relationship between income and childcare selection, families with higher income levels were more likely to enroll their children in childcare centers than families with lower annual household incomes. Different family ethnicity was also linked to differences in childcare enrollment. Specifically they found African-American preschoolers were more likely to be enrolled in center-based care than


28 White or Hispanic children (Early & Burchinal, 2001). The most significant variables influencing the type of care that parents selected were related to the value that parents placed on care for ill children and the specialized training of the caregiver (Early & Burchinal, 2001). Parents that placed high value on care for ill children were less likely to choose center-based childcare due to the inability of childcare centers to care for sick children. Parents that selected center-based childcare situations placed high value on the caregiver’s ability to speak English (the importance of English speaking caregivers increased with the child’s age) and specialized training of caregivers. Early & Burchinal (2001) asserted that the propensity of African American families to choose center-based care was due to the similarities that existed between center-based care and elementary school environments and the parents’ desired outcome for their children to be prepared for school. However, this assertion was not empirically supported from their research and no relevant research was cited to support this claim. In a study examining the link between parents’ educational aspirations for their children and the families’ theory of intelligence, race, community, and children’s gender and age the researcher found that race was predictive of the families’ aspirations, but only when mediated by theory of intelligence (Wentzel, 1998). She found that African American families held stronger incremental theories of development believing that their child’s intelligence was malleable whereas European-American families held an entity theory of intelligence believing that intelligence is not malleable. This belief of African American families that their child’s level of intelligence was changeable was highly correlated with African American families having higher educational aspirations for their children. These parents desired for their children to perform well in core academic areas.


29 This expectation of high academic performance may be related to the desire of African American families for their children to experience didactic learning activities while in childcare as they may believe that these skills can only be fostered through explicit instruction (Wentzel, 1998). In a classic study, Joffe (1977) examined care provided in two programs. The two preschools served almost entirely different populations with one of the preschools serving a predominantly low SES African American population and the other serving a mostly middleclass White population. The investigator reported findings that highlighted the differences between African American parents and White parents. These parents differed in the images that they had of their children and the expected outcomes they held for their child as a result of being enrolled in the childcare program. Through individual interviews with parents the researcher was able to describe that White parents view their child as a tourist who is learning the social skills, emotional integrity, and intellectual knowledge necessary to function in society (Joffe, 1977). These parents believed that their children were tourists in the sense that they envisioned their children’s days to be filled with fun new experiences that give them exposure to the culture and values of the society that they were in. As a result of childcare enrollment, the parents expected that their children would become socially and emotionally adjusted as individuals and would possess the intellectual readiness skills necessary for school. African American parents on the other hand viewed their children as a child when at home and a student when at school. They believed that their child was to learn the skills necessary for later school success specifically focusing on academic tasks and the socialization necessary for later school success. The main distinction between African American parents and White


30 parents was the motivation that they expected their child to receive from the teacher. White parents expected the teachers to provide the necessary learning activities, but were concerned that their children were being ‘pushed’ too hard to learn. This was in stark contrast to the African American parents who believed that their children should be constantly challenged. Investigators who examined the type of care and experiences that low-income mothers desired for their children, interviewed 14 mothers over a 3 year period (Holloway, Rambaud, Fuller, & Eggers-Pierola, 1995). The investigators found that the mothers desired the following outcomes for their children: Respect for themselves and others, the ability to share and cooperate with others, numeracy skills, and literacy (letter recognition). Although the mothers thought that socialization and play activities were important, they emphasized the importance of academic readiness. Most of the mothers believed that their children should be engaged in didactic learning experiences focused on developing academic skills such as literacy and numeracy (Holloway et al., 1995). The mothers’ views of appropriate pedagogy and child outcomes were found to be related to their current cultural model of childrearing. The mothers felt that since preschool education should prepare the children for school, teaching practices should be different from what they could do with their children at home. This belief seemed to influence the mother’s preference for structured learning activities over more constructivist play and learning experiences (Holloway et al., 1995). It seemed that the mothers were enrolling their children in care to receive experiences that they felt that they could not provide. Several of the mothers did not feel confident in their knowledge of child development


31 and the level at which their children should be progressing. Because of this, the mothers expected their children’s teachers to provide them with essential information. Other stakeholders. Moss (1994) described the influence of power relations in determining what is used to measure quality. The stakeholder with the most power will determine the definition of quality that is used to guide the delivery of service. This can be seen in US childcare most clearly through the relationship between childcare regulations and level of quality. The most powerful stakeholder group in US child care communities is the licensing agency because they have the power to grant and revoke childcare centers’ licenses (Phillips et al., 2000). Due to this power, structural characteristics of quality may be seen as more important when establishing quality definitions, as these are the aspects of childcare monitored by licensing agencies. Local and state licensing agencies have had a significant influence on how quality is measured. By reporting the positive relationship between states with stringent licensing requirements and high process quality scores, Phillips et al. (2000) emphasized the importance of licensing agencies. This finding is not surprising considering the fact that licensing agencies have the ultimate power, the ability to punish childcare centers that do not comply with regulations. The larger stakeholder group that includes the majority of licensing agencies and the leaders of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has been White middle class. In the US, the cultural group that dominates much of society is the White middleto upper-middle class. It seems that the researchers cited in this review are from White middleto upper-middle class society. Due to the influence that culture has in determining what should be measured when defining quality there is an


32 enormous gap in the literature. Stakeholder groups that have not been well represented in the literature include childcare teachers, childcare directors, children, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. Of the literature focusing on stakeholder-defined quality, the most interesting is the discussion of the influence that stakeholder power has on determining how quality is measured. When relating this to the other ways that quality childcare has been treated, the stakeholder group that has had the most influence on the definition must be considered. The most pervasive and often-cited organization influencing childcare is NAEYC. NAEYC’s position statement (Bredekamp, 1987; Bredekamp & Copple, 1997) describing developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) in early childhood education is the most frequently cited source when describing early childhood pedagogy and quality. Process measures of quality were derived parallel to NAEYC’s position statement. Although the ECERS and NAEYC’s position statement were developed independently they were influenced by the same research findings, value systems, and assumptions regarding optimal early childhood programming. Both the ECERS-R and the 1997 edition of Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs were revised to incorporate cultural sensitivity and children with disabilities in response to criticisms from the field (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Harms et al., 1998). It seems as though cultural sensitivity is important only if minor adjustments to the program are necessary to accommodate families who are from ‘different’ cultures. Major differences between familial-determined child outcomes or appropriate practice and ‘expert’ opinion are attributed to a deficit in parent knowledge rather than valid cultural difference (Zinzeleta & Little, 1997).


33 Other evidence of NAEYC’s influence on the construction of a definition of quality in childcare consists of the similarity between NAEYC’s accreditation criteria, the ECERS, and the most studied structural characteristics of quality. Through NAEYC’s accreditation criteria the organization seeks to establish itself as “the standard-bearer for [early childhood] program excellence” (Goffin, 2003). NAEYC’s accreditation criteria (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2003) consist of the following 10 components: interactions among teachers and children, curriculum, relationships among teachers and families, staff qualifications, administration, staffing, physical environment, health and safety, nutrition and food service, and evaluation. These accreditation criteria cover all content areas of process quality monitored by the ECERS (Harms & Clifford, 1980; Harms et al., 1998) as well as the structural components of teacher education, staff/ child ratios, class group size, and teacher benefit packages. The influence that NAEYC has had is of some concern in that only one perspective seems to have dominated all quality definitions. NAEYC has based its guidelines and accreditation criteria on child development research that has recently been questioned due to lack of representation of diversity among researchers as well as among study participants (Lubeck, 2000). Other developmental psychologists have questioned the relevance of child development knowledge on the grounds that the research guiding current teaching practices was conducted in a different time, and that recent societal changes have influenced the nature of children’s development (McNamee, 2000; Zimiles, 2000). In addition, the decontextualized situation in which prior developmental research has been conducted has also been called into question, with the researchers suggesting that future research be conducted within the classroom environment by teachers who are


34 intimately acquainted with the subjects of the research (McNamee, 2000; Zimiles, 2000). In an article questioning the appropriateness of DAP, Lubeck (1998) argued that NAEYC based its recommendations on a narrow set of values and was misguided in its attempt to standardize childcare pedagogy at the expense of cultural variation. She believed that “recent changes (in curriculum, assessment, and training and qualification schemes) make it even less tenable that one set of beliefs and practices will hold sway for all time” (Lubeck, 2000, p. 277). This is similar to the argument presented by Moss (1994) wherein quality was described as a phenomenon that is relative to a specific stakeholder group and is ultimately defined by the group that has the most power whether perceived or actual. It appears that definitions of quality are influenced more by the values and purposes of the researcher or stakeholder than by any objective reality. Stakeholders employing process measures to determine quality believe that rating interactions and activities will provide an accurate representation of quality (Harms & Clifford, 1980; Phillips et al., 2000). Stakeholders monitoring structural characteristics of quality believe that teacher-child ratio, teacher education, teacher wages, and group size are accurate measures of quality (Cryer et al., 1999). Stakeholder constructions of quality are rooted in individual values and desired child outcomes. Considering this, Moss (1994) seems to have established the most accurate and complete description of high quality childcare, “Quality’ is never an objective reality, to be finally discovered and pinned down by experts. It is inherently subjective and relative, based on values and beliefs, that may not only vary among and within societies, but will undoubtedly vary over time” (p. 5). In other words, as we continue to identify what constitutes quality childcare, we must place


35 the definition in context of the stakeholders constructing it and continue to explore the definition as it is constantly changing. Few empirical studies have explored the definition of quality from the perspectives of stakeholders other than academics and other ‘experts’. The studies that have examined other stakeholder groups’ perceptions of quality have focused primarily on how parents perceive quality childcare. The majority of these studies show parent-identified aspects of quality through a biased researcher lens. The research using questionnaires to examine parent perception of quality is flawed in that there is a high level of researcher bias. Concern exists regarding the design of the study conducted by Cryer & Burchinal (1997). To gather information on parent values, they used surveys that were derived from the ECERS. By using the ECERS to identify aspects of the program that the parents would evaluate, the researchers narrowed the field of options and possibly influenced what the parents believed to be most important. Thus the report of findings was more a report of how parents rated researcher-determined characteristics of quality rather than a description of all the criteria that parents used to determine quality. These investigators that used questionnaires to elicit parental descriptions of quality defined quality on expert terms. A more open-ended form of data collection might have yielded quite different results, results that might have been more similar to those found by Mensing et al. (2000). These investigations have only illustrated the degree to which parents agree with expert opinion. It appears that the main purpose of these studies was to learn how to teach parents to make ‘better’ decisions rather than to inform practice or shape the definition of high quality childcare. This is illustrated most clearly by Zinzeleta & Little (1997) as they described a seven-step process that parents used to select


36 childcare. They asserted that parents possess values and beliefs that are based on a lifetime of experiences. The authors believed that the flaw in the process is that parents do not use information provided by ‘experts’ to inform their decision (Zinzeleta & Little, 1997). A limited amount of research has been conducted to specifically include the voice of parents when defining quality childcare. Parents are important stakeholders when defining quality childcare. Parents select childcare arrangements based on their values, their need for care, and their desired child outcomes. Because parents are the primary decision makers for the type of care that is used, their perception of quality childcare needs to be heard. In order to refocus the efforts to include parents in the discussion of quality childcare, research should be conducted with the sole purpose of describing quality from the perspective of parents. This research should not be biased by the researcher’s ideas of what quality should be, nor should this research compare parental values along cultural or racial lines. Such comparisons may lead others to conclude that one set of values is more valid or more correct than another. These are the aims of the current research project. Of the racial/cultural group values that have been explored through current research literature, the values of non-White families have been almost completely unheard. The investigations that have explored African American values have only used these voices to identify a need for more education of these families so that they make ‘better’ childcare selection decisions (Zinzeleta & Little, 1997). The literature that has been discussed is limited in that it has included the views of primarily one culture, White middle class. Although some of the studies have included information gained from


37 diverse cultures, it appears that the main goal was to show how these cultures are not educated enough to make good decisions regarding the appropriate setting and pedagogy for their children. The current study of African American mothers’ descriptions of quality childcare will help fill this gap in the literature. In accord with the belief that each stakeholder in the field of early childhood care and education has his/her own specific view about the ideal childcare situation, this research seeks to learn how a specific stakeholder group views quality childcare. The research questions guiding this study are: (1) What is the essence of quality childcare from the perspective of African American mothers? a. What outcomes do African American mothers desire for their children as the result of quality childcare? b. What aspects of childcare programs do African American mothers identify as key indicators of quality? c. What characteristics of childcare programs do African American mothers focus on when choosing quality childcare? The following chapter will discuss how such a description will be attained.


CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODS This chapter begins by providing a brief description of phenomenological research epistemology and methodology and its evolution since Husserl’s (1931) initial conception. The chapter then describes my experiences related to childcare quality. What follows are a description of participant recruitment and selection process, and specific information about each of the 10 participants. The chapter concludes with a presentation of the data collection and analysis procedures. Introduction to Phenomenology Before a researcher engages in any kind of qualitative research it is important for him/her to consider and identify his/her assumptions regarding what constitutes valuable knowledge (Crotty, 1998). The epistemology that the researcher finds to be the most suitable should serve as the foundation from which research methodology selection and implementation will be grounded (Crotty, 1998). Phenomenology, the study of phenomena and experiences, is grounded in the epistemological assumption that the world is made up of phenomena and experiences (Crotty, 1998; Husserl, 1931; Moustakas, 1994). These experiences are perceived through the physical senses and are the initial focus of phenomenological inquiry (Husserl, 1964). Through phenomenological methods researchers seek understanding of phenomena by directly observing physical manifestation of phenomena and experiences so that they can describe every aspect of the experience (Crotty, 1998; Husserl, 1931; Schwandt, 2001). After 38


39 observing the phenomenon’s physical characteristics, the researcher reflects on all possible meanings of the experience to identify the essential characteristics that transcend specific incidences of the experience and describe their relationship to the phenomenon (Husserl, 1964; Moustakas, 1994). In this way, from the phenomenological perspective, to know is to describe fully, aspects of experiences that form the essence of phenomena. The epistemology of phenomenology is a combination of subjectivism and objectivism. It is objective in the sense that phenomenological research is focused on seeing the “reelle Immanenze”, or the objects the one perceives through his/her senses free from the biases of prior experience with the phenomenon (Husserl, 1964). After one has focused on the phenomenon being experienced from multiple vantage points he/she reflects on the possible meanings of the experience (a subjective activity) and arrives at the universal aspects of the experience (essences) which are considered to be the objective truths of reality (Husserl, 1964). This form of research is considered to be subjectivist in that the labor of arriving at the essence of an experience is subjective in nature; the analysis occurs in the mind of the researcher (Moustakas, 1994; van Kaam, 1966). By intentionally focusing on the phenomena of the world and reflecting on the meaning of the phenomena (intentionality) one is able to describe the universal truths, or Essences, of the phenomena (Moustakas, 1994). The epistemological assumptions of Phenomenology guide a researcher in all areas of inquiry including the purpose and goals of research, the types of questions that can be answered, the methods that are employed to reach valid findings, the manner in which research findings are interpreted, and how validity is achieved.


40 Transcendental Phenomenology, as described by Husserl (1931), van Kaam (1966) and Moustakas (1994), is most fundamentally a search for the universal truths that take the form of descriptions of experiences. These universal truths of experiences form a single objective reality that is shared by all people. This description of universal truth is what is referred to as the Essence of the phenomenon (Husserl, 1931, 1964; Moustakas, 1994) or objective phenomenology. Essence is defined by Husserl (1931, 1964) as the universal aspect of experience that transcends the physical objects of experience and applies to all situations of the experience real or theoretical. The term ‘objective’ was chosen because this epistemology views its fruits as universal truths achieved by objectively studying the phenomenon totally free from personal bias. Phenomenology, like many other theoretical frameworks, has evolved over time (Crotty, 1998; Schwandt, 2001). Schwandt (2001) identified a divergence of phenomenological aims that have evolved differently on different continents. The phenomenology conceptualized in Europe changed after it had been in the United States. Specifically modern US researchers (Seidman, 1991; Worthen & McNeill, 1996) described phenomenology as a way to view phenomenon through the lens of others. Instead of searching for the truth of an experience researchers are interested in describing the multiple truths that are created from viewing the phenomenon from different perspectives (Schwandt, 2001). The fruit of phenomenological research has changed from Essence to essence. That which was once thought to be a description of universal truths of experience, has evolved to become characteristics of experience that are situated within the context of the participants being studied (Crotty, 1998) or subjectivist phenomenology. In other words the aim is no longer to describe universal truths that


41 apply to all, but rather a description of a phenomenon that is situated within the context of culture and shared experience. My beliefs are aligned with the assumption that the essence of a phenomenon is rooted within the context of individual and group cultural experiences. The changing epistemology of phenomenology is particularly important to the study of African American mothers’ perceptions of quality. If I assumed, as Husserl did, that Essences existed, then the specific culture and ethnicity of the participants being studied would be irrelevant. Research designed to describe specific phenomena from the perspective of particular cultures would not be a true representation of the Essence of the phenomena. I am more subjectivist in my belief that there is not an objective Essence of experience that is universal across cultures and varied experiences. The current investigation, following the epistemology and methods of phenomenology, seeks to describe the phenomenon of quality childcare from the perspective of a population of childcare consumers that has not been adequately heard. By providing African-American mothers the opportunity to describe how they perceive quality childcare, a more diverse view of what quality really means will be established. In doing so this research will broaden the view of how quality childcare is achieved. The ultimate goal of phenomenological research is to describe in great detail all aspects of an experience (Crotty, 1998; Husserl, 1931; Moustakas, 1994). Researchers engaging in phenomenological work are interested in first experiencing the phenomenon from a fresh perspective free from bias, from as many vantage points as possible, then describing the phenomenon or experience as fully as possible (Moustakas, 1994). The methods employed to achieve this type of description guide the researcher through the


42 processes of Epoche (bracketing), Phenomenological Reduction (identifying themes and providing textural descriptions), Imaginative Variation (identifying structural themes and description), and finally Composite textural and structural description which is the essence of the experience (Moustakas, 1994 p. 180). Epoche is a process through which the researcher identifies and sets aside all biases and judgments regarding the phenomenon being studied (Moustakas, 1994). The process begins as the researcher identifies all aspects of personal experience that have the potential to color the lens through which he/she is observing the phenomenon of inquiry. Throughout the research process the researcher must stay mindful of his/her potential bias and keep these in check as much as possible. This is especially important during the data collection process, as any bias at this point has the potential to influence all other aspects of the research. Finally, the researcher presents any life experience related to the phenomenon of inquiry to the reader so that they may also be confident that the researcher bias has remained bracketed. Although my experiences have shaped my perception of what quality early childhood education is, these experiences and assumptions must be bracketed so that I may describe the phenomenon of African-American perceptions of childcare quality through a fresh and unbiased lens. Throughout this research project I have made every effort to focus only on what is before me, putting my prior knowledge of the subject aside, as I sought the essence of African-American mothers’ descriptions of quality. Once the data have been collected, the researcher then progresses to the next stage of phenomenological research, Phenomenological Reduction (Moustakas, 1994). During this stage the researcher examines the interview transcripts for themes. At this point the


43 researcher makes note of all aspects of the experience that are unique to the phenomenon being studied. By identifying the themes of the data the researcher reduces the data to be analyzed. After all relevant and invariant themes are identified the researcher constructs textural descriptions of the phenomenon for each of the participants. Textural descriptions are descriptions of the observable characteristics of the phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994). For example, if one were describing the textural characteristics of sad, he would provide a description of the actual facial characteristics including the posture of the mouth, eyes and brow. The individual textural descriptions are then combined to construct a composite textural description that is used to construct the essence of the experience (Moustakas, 1994). After the phenomenological reduction is complete, the researcher returns to the original data to engage in Imaginative Variation to identify the foundational themes of the experience (Moustakas, 1994). The structural themes are the meanings or causes of the textural description. The researcher uses the information provided by the participants as well as unbiased ideas that come through the process of free fantasy variation (Husserl, 1931; Moustakas, 1994). Free fantasy variation is a brainstorm where the researcher identifies all possible meanings and structural characteristics, reflects on the validity of these characteristics, then provides an unbiased description of the individual structural characteristics for each participant. Once the individual structural descriptions are completed the researcher combines the individual structural descriptions to create a composite structural description that is consistent among all participants. Once both the textural and structural composite descriptions are completed the researcher combines them to come to the essence of the experience (Moustakas, 1994).


44 Subjectivity Statement The subjectivity statement is provided so that all related experiences of the researcher are presented transparently. This ensures that the reader can critically examine the truthfulness of the research as being bias free which contributes to the validity of the research and the reader’s assessment of the ability of the researcher to remain in epoche. As a researcher engaging in a phenomenological study of African-American mothers’ perceptions of quality, I have many life experiences that have shaped my view of childcare quality which must be bracketed in order to study the phenomenon from a fresh perspective. I am a White, middle-class male who has lived in the state in which the data are being collected for most of my life. In addition to being a ‘local’, I am involved in many areas of the local childcare community including facility operation, staff education, and health code regulation. Prior to beginning my doctoral program I was a childcare director for 3 years. In that role, I was responsible for the center’s compliance with local and state regulations, as well as providing care and education for the children and families attending the childcare center. While in this role I interviewed, hired, and trained all staff at the facility. I also played an instrumental role in the daily operations of the center including helping to design the curriculum that the teachers in the facility implemented. In addition to operating a childcare facility I was academically involved in the local childcare community as an instructor at the local community college where I taught the required state of Florida childcare worker orientation course as well as a course in child development. These courses focused on local and state childcare regulations and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) as described by the National Association


45 for the Education of Young Children (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). I have also worked for the local university as an instructor for an early childhood curriculum course and as a supervisor for practicum students and interns who are preparing to become early childhood teachers. Most directly related to the phenomenon of childcare quality I have regulated childcare centers within the county as a member of the local Childcare Center Board. This board’s responsibility is to review field inspectors’ reports from centers that violate state and county regulations and to make recommendations to the County Health Department regarding punishment for those violations. In addition to these professional activities I have personal life experiences that are noteworthy. Although I have not yet raised any children of my own, during analysis of the data I became an expectant parent. Methods This section describes the strategies that were used to recruit participants, collect data, as well as the analysis procedures employed. In addition to a description of these procedures, rationale for the choices made are also presented. The methods selected and employed for this study were aligned with the assumptions of transcendental phenomenology and were guided most specifically by the work of Moustakas (1994), and van Kaam (1966). The detailed description of the methods used for this inquiry are presented for the reader so that he/she may adequately evaluate the rigor of the research process and findings.


46 Participants Selection criteria To achieve the depth of description necessary to reach the essence of quality childcare from the perspective of African-American mothers, homogeneous sampling was used (Glesne, 1999). The following characteristics were used to identify potential participants. The women selected to participate in this inquiry are all African American mothers of at least one 3 or 4 year old child who was enrolled in his/her next to last year of preschool (child entering kindergarten in Fall 2005) in a childcare center that is contracted with Marion County Child Development Services which includes federally funded Head Start classrooms. All of the mothers who participated in the study enrolled their child prior to September 2003. The race of the participants is important because the main purpose of this research is to give voice to underrepresented stakeholders, i.e. African American mothers. The age of the children is also important for several reasons. In a prior project in which parents were interviewed to gain information regarding their dissatisfaction with childcare, they generated significantly more data when their children were three than at any other age (Holloway et al., 1995). That study was used as a guide for recruiting mothers of three year old children, due to similarities in the populations studied as well as the topic of inquiry. Also, aligned with the assumptions of phenomenological epistemology, the parents needed some experience from which to draw upon to inform their descriptions of childcare (Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 1991). Mothers of three year old children were more likely to have experienced childcare. Finally, the age of the children was important for participant selection due to the higher use of center-based care when children reach


47 age three (Early & Burchinal, 2001). I recruited participants from Marion County rather than Alachua County because my involvement with the Alachua County childcare community had the potential to influence access to parents and the parents’ descriptions of quality (see Subjectivity Statement). Of specific concern was the fact that Alachua County childcare directors might hand-select eligible participants due to fear that their center would be negatively characterized, or that they would inform the participants of my role in the community, causing an influential power relationship, where the parents might describe what they think I want to hear rather than what they really think, which would negatively influence the validity of the research. In addition, Marion county was selected as the recruitment site because I endeavored to recruit participants with whom I did not have a prior relationship. Selection procedures Participant recruitment began by contacting Marion County Child Development Services to obtain a list of childcare centers that have a relatively high African American enrollment. Using this list I telephoned the directors of these centers to describe the study and to get permission to come to the center and to talk with parents. I obtained permission from four different childcare centers, a community college child development research center, two head start centers, and one proprietary childcare center. I then directly distributed invitations to participate (see Appendix A) to mothers as they retrieved their children from their childcare center and by leaving extra invitation brochures with childcare center directors. The first 16 parents willing to participate that met the criteria were selected to participate in the study.


48 Demographic information Sixteen African American mothers from Marion County, Florida, were initially recruited to participate in this study. During the study six participants discontinued their involvement in the study. One of the mothers was pregnant at the beginning of data collection, and due to health complications she decided to discontinue. Four of the mothers who initially agreed to participate were unable to be contacted. After 10 failed attempts to contact them by telephone, they were removed from the study. Finally, a sixth participant decided after the first interview that she didn’t have the time to continue meeting to complete the interviews. All data collected from the mothers who decided not to participate in the study were eliminated from consideration, leaving 10 mothers. This number of participants was successful in similar research as it allowed the researcher to gather an ample amount of data to obtain validity, while at the same time limiting the amount of data generated so that the researcher could provide in-depth descriptions of the phenomenon (Mensing et al., 2000). Of the ten participants, 4 had their children enrolled in Head Start programs, 4 had their children enrolled in the community college child development research center, and 2 had their children enrolled in the proprietary childcare center. Background information describing each of the participants was important when seeking their perception of a phenomenon since any differences between participants may have influenced how they saw the world. A Background Information Questionnaire (BIQ) was completed by all participants during the first interview (see Appendix B). Table 3-1 shows basic demographic information from the participants.


49 Each of the mothers had unique life experiences and situations that led them to the specific childcare arrangements they were using at the time of data collection. Although all of the mothers were using a childcare center for at least part of their childcare plan, some of the mothers used center-based care in concert with other forms including family childcare homes, babysitters, and other family members. Table 3-2 describes the variety of childcare arrangements that the mothers have used in the past as well as the type of care they used during data collection. The final descriptive piece important to understanding what has led each of the mothers to their descriptions of quality childcare was the reason that they chose to enroll their child in some sort of childcare arrangement. Table 3-3 lists the mothers’ reasons for using childcare as they reported on the Background Information Questionnaire (see Appendix B). What follows is an in depth description of two key informants. These two informants were selected due to the depth and richness of the interview sessions which will help to illustrate what these mothers were looking for when selecting childcare. Geri and Amy were specifically selected because they data provide examples that are representative of the data as a whole. Later in the chapter the key informants will be seen again to illustrate the interview process. The decision to present only two detailed descriptions of quality in this report of findings was made to increase the readability of the report and provide more depth for a few of the cases. Although detailed descriptions are presented from only two participants, all data were analyzed and included in the composite descriptions. Detailed descriptions from all of the participants may have the effect of disguising the essence of quality rather than illuminating it (Kvale, 1996).


50 Geri. Geri (36) is a single mother of 6 children ranging in age from 17 years old to her youngest, George, who is three. She works as a cook for the Head Start program during the week and works as a cook for an amusement park on the weekends. She reported her annual household income as under $15,000. Three of her children are currently enrolled into some type of childcare. John (11) and Greg (8) attend a family childcare home that is located across the street from their home and her youngest son, George (3), attends Head Start. Geri has enrolled her children in these childcare arrangements because she needs someone to care for her children while she is at work, and while she “runs around town taking them to their doctor appointments”. She specifically enrolled George in the Head Start program because it was convenient for her, and was available during the hours that she needed care. Amy. Amy (24) is a single mother of two children, Tony (3) and Tom (5). She worked the night shift at a local hospital as a nurse and reported an annual household income of $21,000.00. Amy indicated that she enrolled her youngest child in the Head Start program primarily because she wanted to make sure that he was ready for school. At the time of data collection, Amy’s youngest child, Tony, was attending a Head Start classroom during the day, and went to Amy’s mothers house in the evenings while she worked. In the past she has used a variety of childcare arrangements consisting of parent care (she stayed at home), family member care (Amy’s mother, and her brother), a baby sitter, and family childcare homes. Participant compensation Because the participants led busy lives, a thank-you gift for participation was provided to acknowledge my appreciation for their willingness to dedicate the time to


51 participate. As a thank-you gift, the mothers were each given a gift certificate for a free pizza after each interview. This was provided only as a token of appreciation and was not viewed as payment for participating. Although the mothers were notified that they would receive the gift certificates, this was not emphasized during the recruitment process. In fact, the actual certificates were not available until most of the interviews were complete, and when they were presented to each of the mothers they were surprised by the gift, an indication that the mothers were not participating in order to receive this reward. Data Collection Data collection consisted of participant interviews and a focus group discussion. The specific strategies used to collect data through these means are described in the following section. Participant interviews The methods selected for data collection should take into consideration the fact that it is not the researcher’s perception that is of interest (Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 1991). Typically in phenomenological research, open-ended semi-structured interviews are used to gather data from participants (Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 1991). Interviews are the primary source of data in phenomenological interviews because, if structured properly, they allow the researcher to gather data while simultaneously reducing the influence of researcher bias (Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 1991). Therefore, an interview structure must be designed that elicits participants’ descriptions rather than the researcher guiding the description of the participants’ experience (Seidman, 1991). Seidman (1991) suggests a three interview per informant structure for phenomenological research. The current study followed this design with the exception of two participants.


52 In addition to enabling me to gain a full description of the phenomenon through the three interview format, multiple meetings with each participant allowed me to establish the rapport and trust needed for an in-depth description of an experience (Seidman, 1991). The timing of the three-interview structure was important. Most of the interviews were scheduled so that two interviews did not occur on the same day, and the interviews were no longer than two weeks apart (Seidman, 1991). This schedule allowed the informants to think about the content of the interviews between each one. The duration of each interview was from 30 to 75 minutes, which is in line with the 60 minute duration suggested by Seidman (1991). This duration is suggested for two reasons. First, if the interview was too long the participant and/or the researcher may have gotten tired and become inattentive. Additionally the duration enabled the busy mothers to schedule a reasonable amount of time. Due to their work schedules and my availability the data collection process extended from January – March 2004. For eight of the informants, the first interview (see Appendix C) focused on each participant’s description of past experiences with the phenomenon and what led them to the specific phenomenon being studied (Seidman, 1991). The interview elicited descriptions of past experiences with childcare and how the parents chose the childcare arrangements they have used. The second interview (see Appendix C) began with a brief member check wherein the researcher presented the main themes, or aspects of care that the participant described in the first interview. Then the participant indicated the degree of my understanding. The majority of the second interview elicited descriptions of the phenomenon in the present (Seidman, 1991) or what type of childcare they were using currently, whether or not they considered it to be high quality childcare, and how they


53 came to this determination. The third and final interview (see Appendix C), which also began with a brief member check, was centered around the meaning of the experience (Seidman, 1991) that the parents attribute to quality child care. During this third session, the participants were given the scenario in which they had just won the lottery then posed the question, “If you could do anything for your children during the day, what would it be?” This enabled the participants to disregard any barriers they might have when selecting childcare enabling them to describe their ideal childcare center, the highest quality of care that they could want. Two of the participants did not follow this specific interview structure. During our second interview, one of the mothers invited her husband to participate. This had a negative effect in that the husband tended to dominate the interview, biasing the description presented by the mother. This second interview was discarded, and during the third meeting the content from interview protocol 2 was revisited, and the content from interview protocol 3 was also covered. The other participant whose interviews did not follow the three interview structure also participated in two interviews where protocol 2 and 3 were merged. The decision to merge the protocols for this participant was influenced by the availability of both the participant and the researcher. This participant’s schedule significantly conflicted with the researcher’s which made coordinating convenient times difficult. When designing the interview guide it was important to consider carefully how the questions were phrased. The questions that informed the structure of the interview were open-ended and were designed to elicit participant perceptions not specific researcher directed information from the participants (Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 1991).


54 These open ended questions asked the participants to describe the phenomenon being studied and were followed up with questions that are based on the initial description and were employed only to get a full description (see Appendix C). Any questions that required the parents to respond in a specific way were considered to be biased and were eliminated from the analysis. It is important to mention however that the need to do this was extremely limited. To help the participants feel comfortable during the interviews and to make them convenient, the interviews were scheduled according to the mothers’ availability, and were conducted at a location convenient for the parents. The majority of the mothers elected to have the interviews conducted in their homes, while two of the mothers felt more comfortable conducting the interviews at the childcare center that their children attended, a request that was accommodated. In order to limit the potential distraction to parents or researcher that monitoring children may create, several options for supervision were presented to the parents. Most of the parents were willing to conduct the interviews during a time when their children were still in care, thus not needing any other assistance for childcare. For the parents that needed to meet when their children were at home, the researcher was able to offer babysitting services provided by a student of the College of Education. Susan, the babysitter, is an African American woman, who was also interested in the topic of the study. Having Susan assist as the babysitter not only enabled the researcher to gain access to mothers who might otherwise not have been able to participate in the study, it also thought that this might help to develop the trust of the mothers.


55 All of the interviews were audiotape recorded and transcribed verbatim by the researcher. After the transcriptions were complete the researcher compared samples of the interview transcriptions with the audio recordings side by side to check for accuracy. The descriptions that follow are brief vignettes describing the first few moments of my first meeting with Geri and Amy. These are provided to give the reader a brief glimpse into the lives of these women and to illustrate the interview process. First meeting with Geri. The first meeting with Geri almost didn’t occur because she was almost an hour late returning home from work. While waiting for her to arrive I observed that she was living in a mid-sized home which had 2 abandoned cars in the driveway. When she arrived she immediately apologized, but explained that the home childcare provider called her and was unable to care for her children on the day of the interview. Thus she had to retrieve her son which meant that three of her children would be home during the interview. We entered the dimly lit house together and she immediately worked to get the children settled in their regular after school routine. Once every one was engaged in either completing homework or watching a movie, Geri joined me in the living room, sitting on the adjacent sofa to begin the interview. All three of our interviews were conducted in this living room with her children playing in another room. First meeting with Amy. As I approached Amy’s apartment building I noticed a plethora of child sized bikes and outside toys beneath the stairwell leading up to her apartment. It was clear that all of these items did not belong to Amy’s children alone, indicating that several families with young children resided in this apartment building. After several knocks on the door, Amy answered with her eyes half open, as if I had woken her from a deep sleep. I inquired as to if this was still a good time for her and she


56 replied that she had just gotten home from work a few hours ago and was sleeping, but was still interested in talking with me. All of our interviews were conducted in her two bedroom apartment, two of which were conducted in the morning while her children were at school; the third was conducted in the evening just after supper time. Although her children were home for the final interview, they stayed in their room most of the time that I was there, emerging only to introduce themselves and to ask their mother for assistance resolving a dispute over a toy. Focus group The purpose of this focus group was to have the participants synthesize the meaning that they had each individually constructed during the interviews thus serving as an additional member check. This assisted in developing composite descriptions of the phenomenon being studied. By having the participants come together to discuss meanings of childcare quality they continued to make meaning of quality childcare as they were exposed to the differing opinions of their peers. According to Morgan (1997), following individual interviews with a focus group discussion allows the researcher to follow up on any questions that arise during the analysis of individual interview data. The focus group was used to check the accuracy of my description of quality childcare from the perspective of the participants. In this way the focus group contributed to the validity of the study because member checking was a way for me to check the truthfulness of my findings (Cryer et al., 1999; Frankel, 1999; Wolcott, 1990). Two weeks after all of the interviews had been conducted and transcribed, I invited all of the participants to participate in a focus group discussion. The meeting was


57 audio taped, transcribed verbatim and analyzed. The focus group was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon to decrease the complications of coordinating work schedules among all of the mothers. Of the 10 mothers invited, due to a lack of availability only four of the mothers were able to attend. The focus group session lasted 67 minutes and was conducted at one of the childcare facilities to which some of the mothers bring their children. The discussion was semi-structured. I prepared discussion questions, but also remained flexible during the discussion session to focus on topics of importance to the participants. This is what has been termed a structured focus group wherein the facilitator has 4-5 distinct topics with preplanned probes under each topic (Morgan, 1997). The format was an open-ended focus group guide that was based on each of the participant’s descriptions of quality childcare (see Appendix D). This form of focus group discussions is suggested by Morgan (1997) for novice facilitators to help to keep the discussion on topic. The focus group began with a brief introduction of all participants, during which each of the participants shared their name, and their favorite flavor of ice cream as a discussion starter. Next I asked the parents to brainstorm a list of the most important things they think of when identifying a high quality childcare center and these were written on a large chart for all of the mothers to read. Then I asked the participants to individually make a top ten list using the terms generated during the brainstorm and write this list on paper provided. After the lists were generated, the informants were paired off and instructed to discuss the similarities and differences of their top ten lists. Finally I presented a draft of the findings in the form of a topic web and a childcare selection flow chart and received input regarding the accuracy of the essential description of childcare


58 quality. This gave the participants an opportunity to review my findings to ensure that an accurate portrayal of their perceptions of quality was presented. During the focus group meeting I served as a moderator with the sole purpose of keeping the discussion on topic while encouraging the group to interact freely (Morgan, 2002). After the focus group discussion was transcribed I analyzed the data using the same phenomenological methods used to analyze the individual interviews. Data Analysis This section describes the specific strategies that were employed to analyze the data collected through interviews and the focus group. As described earlier in the chapter the Phenomenological analysis process consists of three main levels of analysis phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, synthesis of composite textural and structural descriptions (the term structural in this section refers to aspects of the phenomenon that form the foundation of textural descriptions, this is not to be confused with structural characteristics of childcare such as teacher/child ratio). The progression through these stages led the researcher to the essence of the experience, which in this case is a description of the essential components of quality childcare from the perception of these African American mothers. For the current study I completed all of the stages of phenomenological analysis as evidenced by the descriptions provided in chapter 4 as well as samples illustrating the coding process which include an example of an individual code book (Appendix E) and individual thematic description (Appendix F). In addition to providing an audit trail, peer review (Frankel, 1999) was employed by sharing all stages of the research project with members of the dissertation committee.


59 Phenomenological reduction During this stage I read through all of the transcripts from the participant interviews and coded them. The codes used for analysis were derived from the participants’ actual words. In a few instances, researcher-imposed codes were used to identify lengthy sections of text that had a singular meaning. Codes were attached to the smallest section of text that was related to the individual code. Coded sections ranged in size from individual words to entire paragraphs of text, depending on the richness and depth of the description. After the individual interviews were coded, the codes were transferred into individual participant codebooks and were alphabetized to eliminate any bias that may be attributed to order and equalizing the importance of all themes. After the codes were transferred to the codebooks, they were reviewed to eliminate any redundancy (see Appendix E for example). After the codes were reduced to a list of non-overlapping terms they were clustered together according to their relationship to each other (see Appendix F for example). The clustered together codes and themes were used to construct individual textural descriptions of the experience. Individual textural descriptions are individual integration of all invariant themes identified by individual participants. When constructing these descriptions I returned to the text of the interview transcripts to ensure that the descriptions were accurate, also to include all relevant quotations to add to the richness of the descriptions. After the individual textural descriptions were complete I then reviewed all of the textural descriptions to integrate all of the individual texts into a composite textural description.


60 Imaginative variation During this stage of the analysis I returned to the interview transcripts, using the individual textural descriptions, to explore the variety of possible meanings of the experience of quality childcare. Throughout this stage of the analysis I identified the range of possible structural qualities of the experience that evoked the textural qualities. Specifically I reviewed the textural characteristics of the experience and examined the various ways in which these characteristics might be interpreted. By imagining the possible variations of textural characteristics I was able to expand the textural descriptions which led to structural descriptions. For example, when analyzing Geri’s interview transcripts and textural description, safety seemed to be a major theme in her description of quality childcare. When imagining possible variations in meaning I identified security as another possible interpretation. After applying the term security in place of safety to the thematic outline and returning to the interview data to check for accuracy, I was confident that Geri was describing safety concerns rather than security issues. This was made most clear as Geri described the importance that she placed on ensuring that her children were not injured, physically or emotionally, while in a childcare setting. Once structural qualities were identified, individual structural descriptions were constructed, then validated by returning to the transcripts, then combined to create a composite structural description which included all 10 participants.


61 Synthesis of composite textural and structural descriptions At this stage I examined and synthesized the composed descriptions to identify the essential qualities of the experience common across all participants to arrive at the essence of the experience of quality childcare as perceived by the participants. While creating this description of the experience I focused attention on describing the aspects of the experience that are common among all participants and identifying why those aspects were the object of their focus. In order to identify common aspects I read through the composed textural and structural descriptions, compared those descriptions to the individual textural and structural descriptions, making note of all commonalities. These commonalities were then used as the framework to describe the essential aspects of childcare quality. Validity of Findings When evaluating the validity of qualitative research, the accuracy of the findings, or truthfulness, is what is being evaluated (Merriam, 1995; Wolcott, 1990). Readers of the research report can be assured of both internal and external validity through several activities on the part of the researcher, namely thick description, member checking (Merriam, 1995), triangulation (W. Denzin, 1970), peer review (Frankel, 1999), and disclosure of subjectivity (Merriam, 1995) or potential areas of bias. The internal validity of phenomenological research rests on the researcher’s ability to dutifully complete the stages of analysis, the researcher’s ability to remain in epoche, and the truthfulness of the data collected from the participants (Merriam, 1995; Moustakas, 1994). Internal validity is judged based on the researcher’s ability to select research methods that will enable him/her to answer the questions proposed at the onset of the study (Merriam, 1995).


62 Internal validity is achieved when the researcher dutifully completes all research methods, including data collection and data analysis in order to answer the proposed questions. External validity is different in qualitative research than in quantitative studies. The purpose of qualitative research typically is to gain in-depth understandings of phenomena rather than universal truths that can be applied to a larger population (Merriam, 1995). One way to view external validity is something referred to as “user generalizability” (Merriam, 1995, p. 58). In this form of external validity the generalizability of findings is left up to the individual user to determine based on the applicability of the findings in their situation. One can achieve external validity through several means as described by Merriam (1995) which include providing a thick description of the phenomenon and gathering participants from multiple sites. A thick description of the participants’ definition of quality is presented to give as much detail to the reader so that he/she can determine the applicability of the research findings. Member checking is simply presenting the data collected and analyzed to participants to ensure accuracy of representation and understanding from their perspective. Triangulation is achieved by collecting the data from multiple vantage points to ensure the accuracy of the data that is collected from the participants (N. K. Denzin, 1978). Peer review is used so that an unbiased individual can check for validity prior to final presentation. By providing the reader with the subjectivity statement, the researcher gives the reader the information necessary to check for bias that may have influenced the research findings. This also increased the credibility of the findings, as the researcher is transparent regarding any potential barriers to validity.


63 I assessed the truthfulness of the data collected from the participants by using member checks (Merriam, 1995) throughout the data collection process. Member checking (Merriam, 1995) is used in many methods of qualitative research, but is specifically important when describing phenomenon from another’s perspective. At the beginning of each of the interviews I shared my understanding of the content presented during the previous interview. During this time, the participants were given the opportunity to correct any misconceptions or misunderstandings. In a few instances, the time-line of childcare use reported by the participants was misunderstood. These were noted and revised when necessary. Also during the focus group, initial findings were presented to the participants to check for accuracy and understanding. The feedback received from the participants during the focus group discussion was affirmative, indicating that the initial findings were on track. I triangulated (W. Denzin, 1970) the data by interviewing numerous participants, each on several different occasions. This form of triangulation is called data triangulation by Denzin (1970) since the data were collected using the same primary method, but were collected on different occasions. This increases the validity of the descriptions provided by the participants because their descriptions remained stable over time. By conducting several interviews per participant, I was able to check the level of consistency across interviews to determine that what the participants were describing was the same phenomenon and that they were describing the phenomenon similarly in each of the different meetings. In addition to increasing the validity through triangulation, multiple interviews with the participants increased rapport. This increased the comfort level of the participants thus stimulating conversations that elicited true descriptions from the participants. The comfort level of the participants was


64 evidenced through the ease with which the participants shared personal stories related to the experience. By interviewing several participants, the essence of quality childcare was triangulated as each of the participants described their experience with the phenomenon. This was methodological triangulation, because data were collected from multiple participants as a way to compare their descriptions (W. Denzin, 1970).


65 Table 3-1 Background Information Informant Age Marital Status Annual Household Income Number of Children Children's Ages Amy 24 Single 21,000.00 2 3,5 Ellen 27 Single 12,000.00 2 1,4 Francis 31 Married 60,000.00 3 13,3,2 Geri 36 Single 15,000.00 6 16-3 Inez 47 Married 20,000.00 3(2)* 26,20,18 (3,2) Julie 24 Married 26,000.00 3 5,3,1 Karen 28 Single 23,000.00 2 9,4 Louise 30 Single 19,000.00 2 3,8 Olivia 22 Single Not Reported 2 2,4 Pamela 42 Married 70,000.00 2 5,6 * Participant has 3 children and has custody of 2 grandchildren


66 Table 3-2 Type of Care Used Informant Parent Family Babysitter FDCH** CC*** HS**** Amy Y Y Y Y N Y Ellen N Y Y N Y Y Francis Y Y Y Y Y Y Geri N Y Y Y Y Y Inez N N N N N Y Julie Y Y N N Y N Karen Y Y N Y Y Y Louise Y Y N Y Y N Olivia N Y N N Y N Pamela Y Y N N Y N ** FDCH Family Day Care Home *** Private Childcare Center **** Head Start Type of care used during data collection in bold


67 Table 3-3 Reason for Enrollment Informant Reason for Enrollment Amy School readiness Ellen Have to work Francis Educational enrichment & social skills Geri Have to work Inez To learn Julie Socialization, learning & work Karen Location, longer hours Louise Have to work Olivia Proper exposure that they need Pamela Son was ready for school like his big brother


CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS Introduction When describing quality childcare the mothers focused on four essential components of the experience. When identifying childcare center quality the mothers focused on structural characteristics of care including hours of availability, cost of care and, convenience of location. Also when determining the level of quality the parents attended to the ability of the center to ensure the safety of their child as well as the ability of the center to advance their child’s learning and academic preparation for school. Finally, the parents attended to the feelings that enrollment in the center evoked in their children as well as themselves. When describing quality childcare, although all of the parents attended to these four essential characteristics, they did so at varying levels of intensity. The differences in intensity are attributed to parental values and past experiences. The format for this chapter highlights the process of analysis while at the same time presenting the descriptions of two key participants. These participants were chosen to be key informants based on two criteria, the richness with which they described quality childcare, and the different needs that they had for enrolling their children into childcare. Amy, a single mother, used two forms of childcare for her children. She enrolled her 3 year old son in Head Start during the day and her mother cared for the children in the evenings when Amy worked. She enrolled her son in Head Start because she wanted to 68


69 make sure that he is ready for school. Geri on the other hand, although she also enrolled her youngest son in Head Start, did so for the main purpose of receiving care while she was at work. The passages that follow are the textural and structural descriptions (described in chapter 3) from the perspective of the two key informants. After these descriptions are presented, composite textural and structural descriptions are shown, which include the voices of all the participants. The chapter concludes with a description of the essence of quality childcare from the perspective of African American mothers, which serves as the answer to the primary research question. Geri Textural Description When describing a high quality childcare center Geri attended to the teachers that worked with the children, her children’s safety, the availability and affordability of the childcare, their ability to meet basic needs, her and her child’s feelings associated with the childcare, and what her children did while they are in childcare. Geri enrolled her children in childcare because she worked, and could not have the children at home by themselves. If given the opportunity Geri would “stay at home with them, because I just want to be with my kids as much as I can.” Geri believed that the teachers and staff who are working with the children were one of the most important things when evaluating quality. Staff that work with young children needed to have the personality to care for kids and they needed to be qualified to work with the children. When describing the ideal personality of teachers that were in high quality childcare, Geri described warm and friendly people that care about the kids, “I think that the teachers, you know, they should and they should be concerned about


70 their kids, you know just as if they were their own children.” This individual has a genuine interest in getting to know the children, has patience with the children, and takes the time to give each of the children the attention that they need to feel comfortable in the class as well as identify any special needs that her children may have. She articulated a distinction between baby sitters and childcare providers, “anybody can be a, um, daycare or a babysitterbut being a childcare provider, I mean, honestly, they care about the kids.” Geri expects to see teachers talking with the children in a calm, friendly tone of voice. Any time that Geri has seen or heard teachers speaking to her children in a harsh tone of voice, she immediately removed the children from the class and ultimately removed them from the childcare center. When describing the necessary qualifications for working with children Geri identified several certificates that she expected high quality teachers to have which include CPR, the 40 hour child development class, and a clear background check, “because I don’t want no convict in the classroom with my kids.” In addition to having proof of these certificates, Geri expected high quality programs to employ teachers that had experience. They would have, like I said experience, because, I have come through like a situation where the person had the qualifications for the job, but to actually sit down to work with the kids, and if you sit back and you actually watch her, she didn’t have that, you know experience and patience with the kidsthe calmness and the way to handle situations with the kids.


71 In addition to having good teachers Geri focused a lot of her attention on the safety aspect of care. She needed to know if “there are, you know, the right number of staff watchin’ over them, tendin’ to them” to make sure that the children don’t get hurt while they are in care. And if the children are injured while in care Geri needs to know that the childcare provider is able to react appropriately. Like (if) my child a, got hit by a car, or my child fell and got a deep cut and they are bleeding like crazy, you don’t got time to pick up the phone and call me, I understand that, you know, pick up, call the ambulance, do what you got to do, when you get set, call me and tell me that I got to do this now. Also aligned with the safety of the children Geri wanted to make sure that the teachers in the center were really focused on the children’s interactions to avoid instances of bullying. As she described the importance of this aspect she identified several instances where her children were being bullied at school and the teachers seemed to be unaware of it. Here is an example of bullying described by Geri. I was over here writing (signing him in), and I noticed that this teacher right here, she got a group of kids, and she is you know reading a story, but she does not got her eyes on the kids, when she reads the story and also watch the kids too. And she had her head straight in the book and the other (teacher) was over here doing the food. And this boy running around doing like this, to my child, trying to hit him, and I say, I know that I gotta go to work, but I say, if this causes me to be late I guess I’ll just have to be late, you know, because I don’t appreciate him hitting.


72 Availability of childcare, convenience and the cost associated with child care were the logistical concerns that need to be met for her to view a center as high quality. At the time of data collection Geri was using two different childcare arrangements for her three youngest children. Her 11 year old son, John, and 8 year old son, Greg, attended a home daycare and her youngest child, George, attended Head Start and the before and after care program offered at the Head Start Center. When describing why she chose these different arrangements, she stated that she chose those arrangements because they made her life easier. They made it easier for me being because to drop him (George) off over there in the morning time, you know, and like the 11 year old it made it easier for me to drop him off because I would go back to work out there in the evening time, that way I wouldn’t have to be concerned about having to pick him up from this place, I can just let him stay right there, and then you know when I get off from work, he just leave with me. The 8 year old, it made it easier on me putting him in a home setting because having him in the like a regular daycare I mean childcare center, because he is ADHD, and he is very hyper and he is on medication and you know I mean because he is aggressive, you know it is like even though it is not his fault, a lot of things, they would blame on him. Of significant importance was the physical location of these childcare situations. The childcare home was located near her home, and the provider provided transportation from school to the home and the Head Start program that she has enrolled her youngest child in was open just before she needed to get to work and provided after-care for a short


73 while so that she could travel from the center that she worked to her child’s center to retrieve him. The other factor that was important to her was that the cost of care was something that she could afford. “The parent fees for like the two oldest ones is just $2 a week, so that is like just $8 a month. For him (George) it is only $4 a week, for the before and after care, so it is like $16 a month, so it is like $32 a month that I am paying, you know cause they like base it on my income.” She attended to the hours of operation not because of her work schedule per se, but because two of her children, Greg and George, received special services which required them to go to appointments after she left work. On these days she left her other children in care until the appointments were complete. When discussing the basic needs of her children Geri focused on the childcare teachers’ ability to provide adequate food for her children, a clean environment for her children, and their ability to accommodate her children’s special needs. In describing the importance of feeding Geri specifically addressed the childcare center’s adherence to the USDA food program. She wanted to make sure that her child was receiving healthy meals and that he was receiving enough meals including, “breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack.” With regard to the center’s cleanliness, Geri wanted to see that the teachers were washing their hands prior to feeding the children, and that the teachers were cleaning the tables before placing any food on them. Two of Geri’s children were identified as having special needs, George was receiving speech services, and Greg was diagnosed with ADHD. Specific to George, Geri wanted the teachers to talk with him to help him “use his words.” Due to the fact that when in a larger


74 environment Geri felt that her son was being wrongly accused of inappropriate behavior, she chose to enroll him a smaller “home like” atmosphere. When describing her feelings associated with childcare Geri needed to feel comfortable with the teachers in the childcare, and she didn’t want to feel scared during the day. “When I first had to put them in a day care it ate me up. Like I say I only trusted my mamma. And they are in day care now, and it still bothers me.” Geri described herself as over-protective, and because of this she found it hard to trust the people with whom she left her children. In order to feel comfortable Geri called her children’s classrooms frequently, at least once a day, and did pop-in visits stopping by unexpectedly. “I love the pop up visits, because that way you can really see what go on here.” By having this continual contact with her children’s teachers Geri was able to get a sense of how the teachers generally interact with the children, and she made sure that her children were safe. When Geri described the feelings that her child should have as a result of childcare, she really wanted him to feel safe while at the same time enjoy going to childcare. He feels safe, you know, it is not like he is scared...and then he is excited about going to school, that way I know that he is happy, because he gets up, even on Saturday, and says, ‘Mommy, I am not going with Ms. Tracy, I got to go to school.’ Although the educational aspect of care was not as important to Geri, she did want her child to learn while he was in care at the Head Start center. When describing the things that George should learn she did so within the context of what he was doing while in the classroom. “They actually learning the ABCs they are learning little rhymes, they are learning little songs, they get the you know the different holidays, they make different


75 thingsAnd then they are learning the rules you know.” Other skills that she identified as important for George to learn were reading, writing, sharing, respect, and how to protect himself when other children were bothering him. Structural Description Geri identified aspects of childcare that were important when describing quality childcare based on her values, experiences with childcare, and personal needs. The aspects of care that Geri focused on (teachers, child safety, logistic considerations, feelings, and child learning) were all related to how she perceived her role as a mother and how, in her absence, this role should be fulfilled. Geri enrolled her children in childcare because she had to work and needed someone to care for her children. This reason for enrollment is the foundation from which she focused on availability, affordability, and location. If the center did not coordinate with a funding agency, then she could not afford it, and didn’t consider it a possibility for her children. If the center did not open early enough in the morning or did not provide care late enough in the evening, then she did not consider it a possibility, and if the center was not situated in a convenient location for her, it was not considered. This was most clearly illustrated as Geri described how she began her childcare selection process. She first went to the funding agency because “CDS has a referral book and a childcare list like that I can actually go through it, check out the names it has, the hours and address, and stuff.” These aspects of care were imperative for Geri because she didn’t have any other support network available since her mother “passed” and her brother moved away, “ ’cause I don’t trust anybody with my kids but my mamma and my brother.”


76 Also aligned with her need to work, which stimulated the need for someone other than her to care for her children, Geri wanted her children to remain safe, uninjured, while in care. This aspect of care was one in which Geri focused most of her attention when describing the necessities of quality childcare. This was, in large part, due to her past personal experiences with childcare and recent reports on the local news. All of the childcare experiences that Geri had in the past ended poorly, usually due to her perception that her children were not going to be safe at the childcare center. Specifically she mentioned an experience where she walked into the classroom and a teacher was yelling at her child because he was ill and crying. Another instance was when she observed that her child was always sitting on the lap of one of the male childcare providers, which led her to believe that her child was being sexually abused while in care. These situations caused Geri to distrust most of the teachers that were working with her children, a feeling that was hard for her to overcome. In addition to her past experiences Geri indicated that her concern for child safety continued to be stimulated by reports from the news media. You see it on the news, you do see where this person was out at a childcare and then all of a sudden the child gets molested, or somebody get kidnapped or killed, and come to find out that this person had a criminal record you know from another state, this and that place. By focusing her attention on the teachers in the classroom and how they interact with the children, Geri gained confidence in their ability to ensure her child’s safety. Geri focused her attention on the teachers in the classroom because they were the people that she had to trust when leaving her children. She wanted the teacher to be educated and


77 experienced because these teachers were considered by Geri to be less likely to mistreat the children. The background checks for the employees were important for Geri because she needed some official assurance that the individual caring for her child was not convicted of a crime. “I want to be cautious, because if anything, you know, happened I want to be the one to know that I did everything that I can to prevent this.” Geri also focused on the teachers and their interactions with children when describing quality childcare, because she wanted her children to be treated right. She wanted the “teachers to care about my kids like they was they own.” Geri wanted the teachers to care for her children and treat her children in the same way that she would. I want somebody to treat my child like I would treat them, I know every place, ain’t going to treat them like I do, but I want them to treat them like that [using time out and conversation to address misbehavior] and I know that you may not love them but I need you to care. The feelings that Geri associated with quality childcare were similarly related to her need for the children to be safe and feel safe while in care. They should like enjoy coming here because they know, ‘hey look I’m coming to a play place, I am comfortable, nothing is going to happen to me, and mommy is coming back to get me as soon as she gets off of work’, you know, because they should be pretty comfortable and, you know, relax a little bit. And when her children felt safe in the childcare and all of her other needs were met, she felt comfortable with the childcare that her children were enrolled. When Geri first enrolled her children in childcare she expressed feelings of remorse, as if she were


78 neglecting her responsibilities as a mother. These feelings diminished as she developed a sense of trust, which was her goal, she did not want to feel uneasy for having her children enrolled. All of the aspects that Geri addressed when describing quality childcare lead her to trust that her children would be well cared for while in childcare. When Geri described the learning that she expected to occur while her child was enrolled in childcare, she addressed it as an add-on feature that was not as necessary to achieve quality as her safety concerns. When discussing the learning that her son was engaged in she simply indicated that she liked it better than what her children were doing while at the “home daycare, sitting down before the TV then going to sleep or playing or whatever.” She wanted her child to learn toward the goal of him being “excited, about going to school”. Amy Textural Description Early on, Amy indicated that she used different forms of childcare to achieve different aims. According to Amy, childcare addressed her children’s basic needs while she was at work and at the time of data collection this care was provided by her mother. Amy states that as a result of the care her mother provided her kids were “clean, she gave my kids a bath, they ate, they played, she made sure that they, um, weren’t around, you know, profanity, and smoking, and this, that, and the other.” The center-based care that Amy had her youngest son enrolled was thought of as meeting a different need altogether. Amy sees Head Start as “school for little children,they are getting the child used to being away from parentsgetting them ready for school.”


79 When describing what constitutes quality childcare, Amy identified several different aspects that she focused on to determine quality. Amy focused on what her children would be learning from the program, that their basic needs (health and safety) were being met, the specific characteristics of the teachers, the affordability, availability, and accessibility of the center, the feelings generated by childcare, and relationships formed with the teachers. When considering the type of program or care in which she was going to enroll her children, Amy first identified if the program was available, accessible, and affordable. In order to meet her needs the program must be open and have an opening during the hours that she was at work and the care must be reasonably priced. Affordability was a major concern for Amy, not only as a single parent herself, because she was able to piece together an arrangement that she could afford, but rather for the other single mothers who “are living paycheck to paycheck, everybody is not going to be able to just shell out money for childcare.” Since Amy was not able to find a single program that met these needs she continued to use the combination of Head Start and her mother. As she described the aspects of the Head Start program that made it a quality program she focused on the program’s ability to meet her child’s educational needs as well as characteristics of her child’s teachers. When describing the skills that she hoped her child would develop as a result of enrollment in Head Start, Amy targeted social skills, language skills, and the ability of her child to “stay ahead” of his peers. They should be ready for kindergarten you know, just about reading, if not reading, then things like that. Um, tying shoes, dressing themselves um, at least write sentences, well maybe not whole sentences, but words,


80 different words, they name by themselves. They should know their address, their telephone number, and that way they won’t get lost, they can call home...[and] respect for other people, um, learn how to, you know, get along with or interact with different kids. These skills that Amy identified seemed to rely on what she observed either through direct supervision of classroom activities or through homework and other papers that her son brought home. She acknowledged that she really didn’t know what her son needed to know, but was confident that his teachers did. This was made most clear through the following statement. I guess (he needs to be able to) write his name, ‘cause he will get a piece of paper and write a whole bunch of letters on it, I just want him to be able to focus on the curriculum, so that he knows what he needs to know. When describing the important role that teachers played in ensuring the quality of childcare Amy focused mainly on the type of interactions that the teachers had with the children and their knowledge of what children need. Amy needed to see that the teachers “show concern for the kids.” She saw this when the teachers had friendly interactions with the children and through the interest in her child that the teachers showed when “they ask how things are going at home, or they talk to you about where your child is going, they tell you what they are doing at school.” In addition to the teachers showing concern for her child, she wanted the teachers to develop a relationship with her. It is through this relationship that Amy was able to develop the sense of trust she needed in order to feel confident leaving her child. By establishing a relationship with the teachers Amy indicated that she would be able to talk


81 to the teachers so that they could teach her things about being a parent, skills that she was able to acquire as a result of her son’s enrollment in Head Start. In addition to possessing the skills necessary to facilitate relationships and show concern for the kids, Amy believed that the teachers should be educated and experienced “so that they could educate the children.” Specific aspects of the quality childcare classroom included a clean and organized environment for the children. Cleanliness was related to the need to maintain the children’s health. When describing what she meant by an organized classroom, Amy was certainly referring to the toys and other learning materials that were present in the classroom, but she was also attending to the organization of the children. When she walked into the classroom she didn’t want to see “them running all around, I can’t deal with a lot of chaos.” Instead, Amy expected a quality childcare to have the children “following a little schedule” and “it is organized there is no chaos, there are several people working there, asking what you need or how can they help you and just things like that, um, it feels like safety.” When describing the feelings that should be associated with quality childcare Amy attended to her feelings as well as her children’s feelings. When she first enrolled her children in childcare outside of the home Amy reported feelings of apprehension, “I didn’t really want to do it at first, because you hear so many stories about, this, that, and the other. Like leaving kids in and drowning in the tub.” Because she was going to be leaving her children in the care of someone other than herself or an immediate family member, Amy had to establish trust, trust that the person she was going to leave her child with was not going to harm her child, but also that they were going to attend to all of her


82 child’s needs, scholastic, physical, and emotional. Amy admitted that, “I don’t trust a lot of people”, and because of this it was difficult for her to establish a sense of trust. When describing how she was able to establish the trust necessary to leave her children, Amy indicated that she enrolled her children in the same Head Start program that she attended as a child. This program had some of her former teachers, people she had learned to trust as a child. After she had established a trusting relationship with the teachers, she “feels safe leaving” and as a result she felt like a “good parent because I was working and I was able to get care for them on my own.” Other feelings associated with childcare were feelings of guilt. Amy felt guilty for leaving her children with someone other than family and also for having her kids stay with her mother, because her mother “wants to get back into school.” But since she could not find care that was both available when she needed it and affordable based on her income, her mother continued to care for them. Another way that Amy determined the quality of care was based on how her children felt about the program that they were enrolled. “They enjoyed it and they were mad if I had to take them home, or my older son was so, they enjoyed it, I think that it was a pretty good experience for them.” Specifically Amy wanted her children to be excited about going to school. This was seen most poignantly when she dropped her son off at school and through his reaction when he was not able to attend school. My son is always sick, he wants to go regardless, I know that he wants to go there, and that makes me feel good that he wants to go there, so that makes me know that they are doing a good job.


83 Her son’s ability to willingly stay in the classroom without a fuss told her that he was secure in that environment and this feeling enabled her to confidently leave her child in the care of another individual. Structural Description The underlying foundations from which Amy perceives and describes quality childcare are her past experiences with childcare and her perceived duties as a mother. All of the aspects of care that Amy attends to when determining quality are closely tied to these fundamental structures. Amy has had a variety of experiences with childcare going as far back as her own childhood. It is these experiences that have shaped how she views childcare including the needs that are met by childcare enrollment and her ability to fulfill her responsibilities as a mother. Most fundamentally Amy believed that she must provide her children with the things most necessary for survival. Aligned with Maslow’s (1954) hierarchy of needs, food, shelter, and protection from harm serve as the most basic requirements which must be met before one can focus on meeting the needs at higher levels. Since Amy was a single mother, she had to work in order to meet these needs. Also since she was a single mother, she had to find someone to care for her children when she was working, thus stimulating the search for care outside of the home. When searching for childcare Amy first identified how much money she could afford. Considering this limitation Amy searched for care that would meet her needs. Amy needed someone or somewhere that was available or open when she needed them to be, and someone who would truly care for the children in her absence.


84 They should have daycares that are open to parents that um, don’t work regular hours, you know, because everybody’s job hours aren’t the same, everybody can’t work in the daytime, so I feel (pause) you should have dependable daycares that are open from certain hours of the night where they, we, can take our kids so that at least somebody decent that is dependable to take care of them while we are working. When identifying someone to care for her children, Amy had to find someone that she believed, without a doubt, would provide the necessities that she would provide if she were with the children herself: food, appropriate shelter, and physical and emotional security. She assessed whether these needs were being met by interacting with the person or people that she had delegated the responsibilities of caring for her children, talking to her children about the care that they were receiving, and by directly observing to make sure that her children’s needs were being met. She also relied heavily on her mother’s advice when attempting to identify an appropriate means to ensure her children’s safety. As Amy described her rationale for first enrolling her young children in home daycare, she indicated that the “popular” childcare centers were too expensive for her, but she still needed for her children to be cared for when she was working. Since she knew that the more costly “popular” centers weren’t a possibility, she simply sought care through other arrangements. Also contributing to her decision was that her mother was not available to care for the children. Still young and insecure herself, Amy conferred with her mother to select an appropriate and affordable arrangement that would be available during the hours that she needed care. Since Amy needed to feel secure in her selection, and to know that her children would be safe, she chose to take her children to a


85 friend of the family, someone that Amy’s mother trusted and recommended. This arrangement however, was not thought by Amy to be ideal. She still felt guilty for leaving her children with a ‘stranger’, a feeling that waned as she got to know the caregiver. As soon as Amy’s mother became available to care for the children she withdrew the children from the home daycare setting and began leaving her children with her mother. This chain of events illustrates both Amy’s need to find someone to care for her children when she was working, but also the need to feel that the individual that she left her children with was trustworthy. In addition to making sure that her children were safe from harm while she was at work Amy believed that it was her responsibility to ensure that her children received educational experiences that would enable them to grow into successful adults. She monitored this by participating in classroom activities, working with her children at home, and by reading the newsletters sent home from the teachers. The importance of educational attainment was seen as Amy described her feelings of guilt for not being able to spend time with her children, while at the same time having her youngest child enrolled in an optional Head Start program during the hours that she was not at work. She believed that her child needed to learn and be ready for kindergarten when the time came and this need was more important than spending time with her child at home during the day. When Amy was a child her mother enrolled her in Head Start so that she would learn the necessary skills to be successful in school. Amy trusted her mother’s decision which was shown by her choice to enroll her own children in to Head Start. Amy’s prior experiences with Head Start as a child influenced her decision to ensure that her children received the education that they needed and the means by which they would receive it.


86 In the end Amy needed to feel confident that she did the best that she could for her children. When doing the best that she could for her children, Amy attended not only to ensuring that her children were in good hands while she was working to earn money to provide her children with the essentials to be healthy, but also to their educational needs, which she believed would be necessary for them in the future. It is this intersection of her personal needs, for comfort and security, and the needs of her children, to receive care and education that she stood to peer into childcare centers to identify what quality childcare was all about. Composite Textural Description All of the mothers in this study wanted their children to be safe regardless of the type of childcare that they used. When describing a safe environment, the mothers attended to the physical and emotional safety of their children. When describing the physical safety of the children the mothers focused on things that they did not want to see as a result of care. One of the things that parents wanted to avoid was personal injury to their child, “I don’t want to have scratches or marks, biting marks on them.” (Ellen) They wanted their children to be in an environment where they would be supervised and attended to avoid needless injury. This need is made most clear as Louise described an instance when she went to observe a childcare center and saw the following situation. Everybody (was) just sitting around talking, one girl was turned around dealing with one kid, and a little boy is swinging, and he almost kicked a little girlThe child swinging was a big child, he almost knocked over the two year old girl, so I asked the girls, so I said, she thought I was there for


87 an interview, I said um, “so the little boy hit, um, the little girl, so what are you going to tell her mother,’, she said ‘what do you mean?’ I said, ‘what do you tell her mother when she comes in to pick her up and she is kicked in the face, and you don’t even know how it happened because your back was turned?’ When describing emotional safety the mothers focused on how the teachers interacted with their children. They did not want the teachers to yell at their children or belittle their children. Instead they expected teachers in a high quality childcare to take a personal interest in their child to “be warm and welcoming every time my child walks in” (Julie), thus reducing the separation anxiety that many of the children feel. When describing emotional safety, the mothers attended to how their children felt while in care. Quality childcare “lets her know that, you know, it is important that she knows that she is loved, and um, that somebody cares about her, and so you know so I feel, you know, and I like that, so um, and it makes her happy and that makes me happy” (Karen). The mothers wanted their children to be happy about going to the center. If the child did not want to go to childcare, the mothers felt that was a symptom of something not being right. This typically stimulated the mothers to investigate further or simply withdraw their child from the center altogether. In addition to emotional safety, the mothers felt that their children would receive basic necessities such as food, a place to sleep, and minor medical attention while in a quality childcare that promoted their children’s health. For example, several of the mothers indicated that they were pleased that their child’s center had a nutritionist on staff who prepared hot, well balanced meals for the children, “to feed their bodies as well


88 as their minds” (Julie). They also expected minor medical needs to be addressed by the centers. For example Ellen described that “when I started working, and they started to get sick, are they going to get their medicine, are they going to get it properly?” They also need their children to be in an environment that was clean so that they would be less likely to contract illness. Included in promoting a healthy environment the mothers felt that it was imperative that “hand washing be drilled into them (the teachers)” (Louise) to cut down on the amount of germs that are spread throughout the center. During the interviews all of the mothers indicated that they wanted their children to receive an appropriate amount of time to rest, which for many of them, meant less sleeping time while at the center. I would like to see them cut nap time in half. I think because when they come home, they will, I mean, they lay down from like 11:30 until 3:00, by the time that they get home, I want to have them in bed by 8:30 or 9:00, cause they get up at 7:00 in the morning so, they sleep all day, then get home they can’t get to sleep at night, and it is stressful, because they are up so late and in the morning you can look in their eyes, and, you know, see that they are so tired. (Julie) When evaluating the physical characteristics of the facility the mothers look for a general sense that the center is in good repair, clean, and inviting to children. More specifically the mothers want to see a variety of toys and games that the children can play with and that these items are appropriately displayed for the children. “It (quality childcare classroom) is very organized, it is set up in different stations, the computer station, the reading station, the block station, the food play station, it is very organized.


89 Always clean.” (Francis) In contrast the mothers do not want to see a “junkyard classroom, filled with ol’ broken toys and used garbage.” (Louise) In addition to the basic needs of the children being met, the mothers also attended to the teachers in the classrooms and how they interacted with the children. All of the mothers felt that the teachers should be qualified and well screened before they began working with the children, “’cause you don’t want a serial killer or a murderer working with your child.” (Geri) When describing the qualifications of teachers all the mothers felt that the teachers needed formal education “their little childcare degrees” (Olivia), experience working with children “someone that has worked in childcare before” (Ellen), and a genuine desire to work with children “someone who is not just there for financial gain, they are actually interested in the well-being of your child.” (Francis) The mothers all expected their children to learn while they were in childcare. Their expectations for student learning varied from individual to individual, but, in general, the mothers expected both social and academic gains that would give the children the skills necessary to be “ready for school” (Inez). With regard to specific content that should be learned, the mothers tended to describe what their children were indeed learning based on communication they received from the teachers, since they believed that the teachers know what the kids should be learning. They all knew that their children were learning the alphabet, phonics, simple math skills, and fine motor skills associated with writing. Social skills learning that the parents emphasized was related to the children’s ability to function in a group of children. Primarily, the social skills that parents addressed were sharing, talking and playing with peers; the ability to form friendships; and to listen to and respect the teacher. In addition to specific skills, the


90 mothers needed for their children to gain exposure to a “variety of experiences” (Pamela) so that they “learn how the world works.” (Pamela) One of the mothers described the need for her child to be exposed to prejudice “while he is young, so that when he gets on up, he will know how to deal.” (Pamela) When evaluating the level of quality their childcare center had achieved, the mothers tended to rely on their personal interactions and communication with staff, their observations of the regular classroom activities, the overall physical condition of the center, and conversations with their children. Overall they need to trust that what they are being told is actually what is happening. The mothers want the teachers to tell them what was going on in the center, that their child’s needs were being met, and that their child was learning. This communication was provided to the mothers either informally during drop-off or pick-up times of the day “I mean you want to know what happens” (Julie) or through formal newsletters and homework that the children received “They send home calendars, telling you what the children are doing for the month, you know activities, and what they are learning” (Karen). Several of the mothers that participated in the study indicated that they regularly “popped-in” to view the regular classroom activities, specifically to monitor how the teacher interacted with the children. These pop-in visits are unannounced by design. The mothers believe that by just stopping by they were able to see what “really happens” when they are not there. You always make that drop in visit, to see exactly what is going on. Because it may be picture perfect the first couple of times that you go there, but you always have to do a drop in. I mean they should be


91 comfortable with that and if they are not comfortable with that, then that is the first sign that something is probably going wrong. (Francis) The final aspect of care that the mothers attended to was the effect that their child’s enrollment had on their ability to complete their other daily responsibilities, such as work, running errands, going shopping, and attending doctor appointments. When identifying the ideal childcare facility the mothers all identified that the center should be open and available during the times of the day that they had to work. For several of the mothers this required the centers to be open 24 hours a day. In addition the mothers needed the care to be available to them more than the hours that they were committed to “be to work ‘cause I got other kids with doctor’s appointments and speech classes” (Geri) or they simply “need a break from work and the kids so I can relax” (Olivia,). Composite Structural Description Their children’s safety is important to the mothers due to several different reasons. First, the mothers feel that their responsibility is to protect their children and care for them to ensure that they receive all that is necessary to sustain life. Since the mothers cannot provide this care for their children while working, they delegate this responsibility to childcare centers. Secondly, the media over the past several years has had an effect on heightening the mothers’ awareness of the dangers present when children are in childcare. Several of the mothers referenced televised episodes of Oprah, where hidden cameras caught caregivers in the act of mistreating children, and local news reports of childcare facilities that were not keeping children safe or were not providing a clean and healthy environment. These images viewed by the mothers have focused their attention on aspects of care that could potentially cause their child harm and have caused the

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92 mothers to focus on developing trusting relationships with their children’s caregivers. Finally each of the mothers had different experiences with childcare safety, some positive and others extremely negative. The mothers who experienced negative childcare situations, situations where the caregiver did not attend to their child’s needs, or the caregiver didn’t ensure their child’s safety, focused more intently on the safety of the environment that they placed their child, fearing that something bad might happen to their child again. Emotional security is an important provision of quality childcare because many of the mothers’ felt uneasy (two of which specifically identified feelings of guilt) about leaving their children in the care of a “stranger”. They felt less unease about leaving their children in childcare if their children enjoyed going. Francis expressed this experience through the following statement “if my child is happy then I am happy.” When the mothers drop their children off at a childcare center they expect that “anyone with common sense” knows to feed the children when they are hungry, let them rest when they are tired, and “kiss them and give them a band-aid when they get a scratch” (Olivia). These are expectations of the mothers because they are considered to be the most fundamental necessities for human life. These are services that the mothers have come to expect from childcare as a delegate of caregiving responsibilities. Since they have enrolled their children in childcare to meet these needs in their absence, they feel as though, “they are not doing their job” if these things are not taken care of. The mothers who are paying for childcare have expressed that they didn’t feel as if they were getting the services that they paid for when these needs weren’t met. The reason that child learning is important to the mothers is the value that they place on education. Several mothers expressed that “education is the key to moving up”.

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93 These parents are sure that through education their children will be able to achieve a higher level of economic security. One of the mothers stated, “I don’t want my kids to be satisfied with this, I want them to want more out of life.” (Julie) The nationwide interest in children’s learning and teacher accountability has also influenced the mothers’ desire for their children to be ready to school when the time comes. The need for children to successfully pass the FCAT, specifically in reading and math, to progress to the next grade caused many of the mothers to be concerned about their child’s ability to meet these requirements. “This guy I am working with now, his daughter is an honor roll student, third grade and she um, didn’t pass the reading part of the FCAT and they failed her” (Olivia). To ensure that their children are on a path to success many of the mothers are seeking special kindergarten programs that are geared toward more academic aims. These programs conduct entrance screenings and interviews to select the children who might be eligible to attend. These assessments have stimulated the mothers to really attend to their child’s learning, and to make sure that their child is enrolled in a program that will give them the requisite skills for entrance. The mothers expect learning to occur while their children are in childcare because they were told by the childcare that their children would learn. Believing that this is a service that they are supposed to receive they monitor their children and the classrooms to make sure that they get it. The mothers’ desire for good teachers is also stimulated by our nation’s focus on teacher accountability. The mothers know that if their child had a bad teacher they will not receive the skills and attention that they need. On the other hand a good teacher is likely to provide this. In this way the teacher is the vessel through which their children’s needs are met. They are the custodian charged with keeping the child safe and they are

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94 the knowledgeable professional who can deliver the skills that their child needs. The parents’ attention to teacher education and experience is a way for them to make sure that their child has a “good” teacher. By communicating with the teachers regarding “what my child did today” (Francis), and “what they are learning this month” (Karen), the parents are reassured that the teachers are “doing their job” by “getting the children ready for school”. The final component of care necessary for the quality label to be bestowed is whether or not parents are able to complete their responsibilities as a result of care. All but one of these mothers had to work. If the care is not available during the hours that the mothers need it those care possibilities are no longer considered for them. The realities of budgets and the logistics of getting the children to and from care in a reasonable amount of time have a significant impact on the type of care these mothers use. All of the mothers have a limited amount of money that they have available to spend on care, so the care that they choose as quality is only an option for them if they can actually afford it. As Louise said in our final interview “there may be better care out there for kids, but I’ll never know it, because I am getting everything that I need right here, and I can’t pay any more.” With regard to the physical location, or the convenience of the center, the mothers have to be able to drop their children off at the center on their way to work, or they have to pick the children up when they are finished with work. For most of the mothers this left a small window of time open between their work responsibilities and the operating hours of the center. If a center was not located within a few miles of their route to and from work, the mothers would not have the ability to drop-off or pick-up within this window.

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95 Essence This is the summary of the essence of quality childcare as it applies these African American mothers. Quality in this instance refers to the individual mother’s perception of receiving satisfactory levels of service from a childcare facility. Essential components of the experience of quality childcare include structural characteristics of care, child safety, child learning, and positive feelings of parents. The importance of each of these components varies from parent to parent which is influenced by parental values, perceived needs, and experiences. Structural Characteristics of Care Quality childcare is available when parents need it to be available. This need is influenced by work schedules and other parental obligations. The hours during the day that the center offers care influences the usefulness of the care provided. If a childcare offers limited hours of service, it is not as useful to parents that have time commitments outside of these operating hours. The importance of this component is influenced by the support network that the parent has as a reliable resource, and the parent’s individual flexibility. Parents that have a reliable support network deemphasize the hours of availability because if need be they can count on people other than childcare providers to meet the needs of their children when they are unavailable. Parents that do not have an extensive support network rely solely on childcare facilities to meet the needs of their children when they cannot provide care. This required them to elevate the importance of the hours of operation when considering whether or not a childcare center is providing quality services. The convenience of the childcare center’s location co-varies with the hours of availability. Parents that have demanding work schedules need the childcare

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96 center to be located near their home and work destinations. If they are unable to find a center that is conveniently located, then they must consider a center that has longer hours to enable them to drop-off and retrieve their children after the center opens and before it closes, while at the same time fulfilling their work requirements. Also when considering the quality of childcare parents attend to the cost of care. The cost of childcare informs different parents of different things. For some parents high costs associated with childcare inform them that the care is not an option for them because it does not fit into their budget. They simply cannot afford it. To other parents, however, high costs mean that the services being provided are of high quality, and these parents make the necessary adjustments to afford such care. What is consistent among all families is that they need to find services that they can afford. Some parents take on additional work, or change careers to afford care, while others look elsewhere for care, often relying on government subsidized programs. The reliance on government programs for affordable care varies among parents and is aligned with their value systems as well as their trust or belief that government agencies are able to provide quality programming. Some parents believe that since government services are highly regulated, they are able to provide quality programs for children. Other families feel that the government systems are not of high quality because of their perception that the government does not care, or is not able to provide the quality that is available in the private sector. Parents also utilize or decline other government assistance as a matter of pride or value structure. Rather than accepting government assistance some parents feel that it is their obligation to pay for the care of their children, and are willingly do so. Some parents on the other hand view the

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97 government provided childcare as a service that they are entitled to, and seek out as many forms of assistance as possible. Child Safety A safe environment is provided when parents are confident that when they leave their child he/she is not likely to be injured while in care. When looking for a safe environment parents are focused on the ability of the center to protect their children from harm including physical injury, illness, and emotional injury. When maintaining a safe environment teachers engage in several activities to ensure the physical safety of the children. Teachers make sure that the classroom stays clean, free from germs and communicable disease, they monitor the equipment in the classroom to ensure that everything is well maintained and in good working order, and the teachers monitor the children’s behavior to prevent and injury resulting from child aggression or other dangerous behavior. The manner in which the teachers interact with the children is important as it enables the children to achieve emotional security, the absence of which would lead to a child feeling neglected or unwanted. Also when providing a safe environment the center itself should ensure that the teachers employed at the center do not have a criminal background, to ensure that they are not likely to mistreat children in their charge. These aspects of safety are important to parents because they are thought to be important to their child’s healthy development into adulthood. Protection from harm is one of the core responsibilities that most parents accept when becoming parents. Acknowledging the importance of this value, when parents enroll their children into a childcare facility, they are transferring the responsibility to protect to the childcare center. All parents want their children to be safe; however, they place different emphasis on

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98 safety when describing quality childcare. Parents that focus more intently on the safety of their children when in care are more fearful and less trusting of the caregivers, or anyone other than themselves. This fear or concern has most certainly been influenced by local news reports of children being injured, fatally in some instances, while in childcare. Parents that don’t emphasize the importance of safety have established trust with the center that is caring for their child and are confident that their child will be protected from harm while in care. Child Learning A quality childcare center promoted child learning and development. There is no specific list of the content that children should learn, varying from individual to individual. But what is important is that the children are engaged in activities and that they are learning. The degree to which parents focus on their child’s learning while in childcare varies according to parent values regarding the importance of early education. Parents who focus on child learning while in childcare have enrolled their children because they feel that this early learning is important. They need for their child to begin academic preparation as early as possible so that they are likely to succeed in later schooling, thus preparing them to succeed in life. These parents rely on childcare programs to prepare their children because they believe that they do not possess the knowledge necessary to make sure that their children learn the right things. Parents that do not place as much importance on child education while in childcare are more concerned with their child’s safety. This is not to say that they do not expect their child to learn while in care. They do want their child to learn and to be ready for school, but they are not as focused on this achievement. Also parents that do not elevate the importance of

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99 their child’s academic preparation believe that they play an important role in their child’s education, thus don’t rely on the efforts of their children’s teachers to ensure academic achievement. Another influence on parents’ focus on the childcare center’s ability to facilitate children’s learning is that education is promised by childcare providers. As such, their child’s education is thought of as a product that should be delivered to be considered quality childcare. In this way the childcare center has set expectations for the parents, focusing the parents’ attention on child learning. Feelings Associated with Quality The most essential aspect of childcare that determines whether or not quality is achieved is the feeling of the parents and children enrolled. First, children must enjoy attending the childcare center. When parents drop their children off in a quality childcare they expect their children to gleefully enter the classroom and join their friends in whatever activity may be occurring. When in childcare, children should be actively engaged in activities, playing with friends, or conversing with teachers. All of these are signs that the child enjoys coming. When the children are retrieved from the center, they don’t want to leave. Parents in a quality childcare feel good about leaving their children. They want their children to enjoy attending childcare just as they want their children to enjoy the time that they spend with them at home. They are not concerned about their child’s well-being while at work, and they are confident that their children are getting what they need. When taking their children to a center, some mothers feel uneasy, at varying levels, about delegating their responsibilities of caring for their children to another individual. If their child does not want to be left in the care of another these feelings of unease are exacerbated.

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100 Parents in a high quality childcare center have developed a warm relationship with the teachers in the childcare center, a relationship that allows them to communicate openly about concerns, accomplishments, and anything important happening in their lives. When parents walk into the classroom of a high quality childcare their presence is immediately acknowledged and the teachers and children appear to be happy to be there, which together enable the parents to feel welcome in the classroom. When parents perceive that their childcare center is high quality they feel good about themselves because they are able to afford the care that they feel their children need, and they are able to complete all of their responsibilities job related or personal. These feelings are important to parents because they need to establish a trusting relationship with the center or caregiver that will be in the charge of their child. This trust is established as the parents get to know the teachers in the childcare center, and as the parents get the sense that these people truly care about their children, both of which are judged at an emotional level.

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CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION Introduction The current research project answered the main research question which was: What is the essence of quality childcare from the perspective of African American mothers? The participants in this study had their children enrolled in either a Head Start program, a private childcare facility housed on the campus of a community college, or a proprietary childcare facility. Although all of the mothers were African American they ranged in annual household income, marital status, and age. This chapter will discuss the findings from this study and their relation to prior childcare quality research. These findings will then be discussed in context with other definitions of quality. The limitations of this project will be presented so that the reader can determine the applicability of these findings to their situations. The chapter will conclude with a discussion of implications for research and practice. Key Findings With regard to the main research question, I found that the mothers all attended to basically the same aspects of care (child safety, child learning, cost, convenience, availability of care, and feelings associated with care). The emphases that the mothers placed on each specific aspect varied from parent to parent, and were influenced by values and prior life experiences. The variations on how quality was defined can be categorized into roughly two groups, those who focused more on child learning and those 101

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102 who attended to child safety. The use of phenomenological methods did, however, illuminate some deviations from previous research, namely the distinction that the mothers made when describing Head Start programs versus center-based childcare programs. Child Learning The mothers who attended more to child learning when describing quality childcare did so because they believed that their children needed to learn academic and social skills in order to be ready for kindergarten. They believed that this preparation would set their child on a learning trajectory that would lead to success in school as well as in life. Because these mothers valued education as the key to their child’s future success in life, they wanted to provide every opportunity for their children to reach a higher level of success than they did. When communicating with their children’s teachers these mothers focused on their child’s progress, on whether or not their child needed help, and sought advice from the teachers about what they should be working on with their child while at home to prepare for later schooling. When referring to their children’s childcare centers they called them schools, not childcares. When attending to child safety these mothers did feel that safety was a responsibility of the childcare centers, but they either had limited experiences with childcare prior to the current school year, or all of their prior experiences were positive. This made it easier for these mothers to gain trust in the center and teachers that their children would be safe, allowing them to attend more specifically to their child’s learning.

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103 Child Safety The mothers who focused more intently on their children’s safety while in care did so because they saw childcare centers as meeting the needs of custodial care in their absence. Although they wanted their children to learn while in care, the mothers felt that if they were able to stay at home full time, the children would also learn. These mothers believed that if at home, their children would learn just as much as when enrolled in childcare and would still be ready for kindergarten. In all of the instances when mothers identified their child’s safety as the most important thing to providing quality childcare, the mothers had negative prior experiences with childcare. Due to these past experiences the mothers did not immediately grant teachers high levels of trust. Teachers could only earn this trust over time as the children were consistently protected from harm and were happy to attend care. Parent Needs All of the mothers in the study expressed the need to feel a sense of satisfaction from enrolling their children in care in order to characterize a center as having high quality. Although this sense of satisfaction was described using several different terms such as “happy”, “confident”, “secure” all of the mothers had needs that they needed to feel were being met, the result of which made them feel good about having their children enrolled. The mothers were looking for different outcomes to make them feel good about having their children enrolled, some looking for child safety and others looking for child learning. All of the parents however, were looking to see that their needs were being met. Although what they were looking for was different, the way that the parents looked was remarkably similar. All of the mothers attended to teacher interactions with children,

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104 coworkers, and parents to develop a sense of whether parent needs were being met. This similarity of focus was caused by the mothers’ belief that the teachers are the core of the program in which their children were enrolled. The teachers are the actual people that either educate or protect the children. In this way the mothers were determining a childcare center’s ability to provide quality childcare based on their perception of good customer service. If they felt that the teachers were developing positive relationships with them and the needs that the mothers identified as important were being met, then a center was providing quality childcare. The needs that mothers identified as important to them were based on their view of services that they needed either for themselves or their children. Mothers that enrolled their children to receive educational services expected their children to learn and they expected their children’s teachers to communicate how these services were being provided. Mothers who enrolled their children to receive custodial care expected the teachers to communicate how these services were being provided. Individual needs were also influenced by prior experiences with care. This supports findings from Endsley & Bradford (1987) which indicated that prior dissatisfaction with childcare influenced subsequent parent selection practices. Mothers who had negative prior experiences with childcare were more focused on their child’s safety (physical and emotional) than mothers who had limited or positive past experiences. This effect is most likely due to the fact that mothers with negative childcare experiences felt that when they trusted prior caregivers, this trust was violated. This caused them to be less trusting of caregivers in later childcare arrangements.

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105 Connecting Mother and Expert Perceptions Prior research has shown that all of these aspects of childcare are attended to by parents when using childcare. For instance, when using a questionnaire derived from the ECERS Cryer and Burchinal (1997) found that mothers rated teacher interaction, health, and child safety as the most important indicators of quality. The mothers in this study also identified these as aspects of care that they focus on. The only difference is that in the current study parents attended to teacher interaction as a factor influencing their feelings associated with childcare in addition to the teachers’ ability to provide appropriate care for their children. This study also confirms the work of Mensing et al. (2001) which found that trust was the most important factor that mothers identified when describing quality childcare programs. When mothers described quality childcare they identified the need to know, without a doubt, that their children would get the needed services. If they were not confident that the needed services would be provided, then they would dis-enroll their children from care. This study expands the work of Mensing et al (2001) in that the mothers interviewed described how they established trust through the development of relationships with their children’s caregivers. A major difference between this study and prior research literature, is the way that the mothers described child learning. Although the importance of child learning varied from parent to parent, they were not confident when describing the type of learning activities that their children should be engaged in while in care. The majority of prior research has been relatively consistent in stating that African American mothers prefer didactic learning experiences believing that these methods are better suited to prepare

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106 their children for school (Early & Burchinal, 2001; Joffe, 1977; Wentzel, 1998). Holloway et al. (1995), the lone exception, reported that some mothers are not confident when describing ideal teaching strategies to be used with their children. This seemed to be true for the majority of the parents in the current study. In the current study the mothers never mentioned didactic learning experiences as preferred teaching practices. Instead they described more child-centered learning experiences, or simply stated that they were not sure how their children should be taught. Considering the fact that the mothers tended to describe the experiences that their children were receiving as ideal, it is likely that what was reported in earlier studies was more a reflection of what the mothers saw happening in the classroom rather than a description of the teaching practices that they preferred. Future research should be conducted to explore this further. When describing how their children should be taught, several of the mothers simply stated that they didn’t know, but since their child’s teacher was educated, the teacher knew best. This serves as some evidence that when trust is established between mothers and their children’s teachers the specifics of education are left to the professionals. Since this was not consistently expressed among all participants, further investigation is warranted. When comparing the mothers’ descriptions of quality to other established quality definitions, it seems that the mothers attended to both process and structural characteristics of quality. With regard to process quality the mothers focused on teacher interactions, the physical layout of the classroom (organization and cleanliness), personal hygiene practices, and the daily schedule that their child’s classroom followed. Structural characteristics that the mothers focused on consisted of teacher education, teacher experience, background checks, hours of operation, teacher/child ratio, and cost of care.

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107 The degree to which the parents focused on each of the aforementioned aspects of care varied from individual to individual, but all of the parents identified thresholds that must be met for quality to be attained. The variance among mothers’ perceptions of quality was more closely aligned with the stakeholder-relevant definition of quality stated by Moss & Pence (1994). This definition states that definitions of quality are influenced by individual values and perceived needs. Thus, perceptions of quality vary not only from stakeholder group to stakeholder group, within stakeholder groups, and most likely vary over time (Moss & Pence, 1994). Another interesting difference between this study and prior research was how many of the mothers characterized Head Start. When describing childcare, many of the parents considered Head Start as part of the public education system, distinct from center-based childcare. This finding has significant potential to reframe how mothers have defined quality in prior research as they may have been describing aspects of public schooling rather than what they believe childcare to be. The current research project has shown that phenomenological research methods are useful in achieving less biased descriptions of childcare quality from the perspective of a specific stakeholder group. Although the specific description elicited is similar to that presented previously by experts, subtle differences were seen, and a greater understanding of the phenomenon has been reached. The fact that substantial differences were not found between these African American mothers’ perceptions of quality and prior research can be partially explained by biological and environmental influences on parenting. Parents instinctually view protecting their offspring from serious injury as their primary responsibility. This is seen not only among humans but also most other animals.

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108 The mothers’ focus on educational attainment is influenced by the commonly held belief that education paves the road to success. Limitations Several limitations of this research project have the potential to influence the validity of the findings. These limitations include (1) limitations of the analysis method, (2) a lack of consistency among two of the participants in following the interview structure, (3) lack of sustained interest among the participants, (4) small attendance during the focus group discussion, (5) the timing of the focus group discussion, (6) a prior working relationship with one of the participants, (7) and the ability of the researcher to bracket all prior experiences with childcare during data collection. Limitations of Phenomenology One of the main assumptions of phenomenological epistemology is that essences exist among all similar phenomena that lead to true understanding of phenomena and experiences (Husserl, 1964; Moustakas, 1994). Although I believe this to be true to some extent, the goal of describing only the essential aspects of the experience that are common among all participants tends to diminish the variability present among all of the mothers interviewed. This has practical implications for the generalizability of the research findings. Although there are common aspects of care that the mothers attended to when describing quality childcare, individual differences in values and prior experiences led mothers enrolled in similar childcare settings to construct specific definitions of quality in different ways.

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109 Interview Structure As stated in Chapter 3 two of the participants did not follow the three interview structure. Neither of the participants that deviated from the three interview structure were selected as key informants. After the analysis was complete, it was clear that the subtle change to the structure of the data collection process had no significant impact on the information provided by the mothers. The descriptions provided by these mothers were fairly consistent in content to the descriptions provided by mothers who followed the three interview structure. Lack of Sustained Interest Among Participants Due to the lengthy data collection process mothers tended to lose interest in participation over time. It took almost three full months to complete the data collection process. This lack of interest should be attributed to the lack of consistent contact between the researcher and individual participants. This lack of interest had an impact on the validity of the findings because it limited the number of participants that participated in the focus group discussion, and consequently the ability of the researcher to conduct a final member check with all of the participants. Focus Group Although the focus group was not the primary method for collecting data, it was used as a member check. Focus groups are not a necessary part of phenomenological research, but it was employed in this study to increase the robustness of findings. Two limitations emerged from the focus group, the first due to the focus group meeting being conducted prior to the final analysis of data being complete and the second due to the lack of participation from all the participants. The timing of the focus group was chosen

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110 due to the participants’ lack of sustained interest in participating in the study. By the time all of the interviews were complete, many of the mothers who were interviewed earlier in the study began to lose interest as evidenced by the difficulty of the researcher to stay in contact with them. I believed that if I had waited until the analysis of the interview data were complete, the mothers would not have participated. The timing of the focus group affected its validity as a complete member check, since the participants were confirming initial findings rather than more concrete findings from a final analysis. The second limitation of the focus group was the limited and partial attendance of participants. Only four of the ten participants attended the focus group meeting for a variety of reason ranging from a lack of interest, to a death in the family. All participants who did not attend the focus group were contacted after the fact, and only one was willing to discuss the findings either over the phone of in person. The actual focus group discussion was fruitful. The attending parents contributed significant discussion regarding the accuracy of initial findings while at the same time illuminating the individual nature of defining quality. Even so, the focus group cannot be considered a full member check since more than half of the participants were absent, all of the participants did not contribute to the discussion. Relationship with Participant The final limitation is the fact that one of the participants was a former employee of mine. Despite my attempts to recruit participants who were unknown to me, I initially did not recall that she had worked at my childcare center. This relationship potentially influenced the data collected through the interviews. Due to potential threats to validity this participant was not selected as a key informant. During the course of the interview

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111 the participant explicitly stated “I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I am being honest.” This could be interpreted in two distinctly different ways, either the participant felt comfortable with the researcher, and was able to be truthful regardless of what she perceived me to believe, or she still felt that I was in a position of power and she was describing what she thought I wanted. There were instances during this interview with the participant where she referenced children and people that were common acquaintances. These instances were considered to be potentially biased discussions of shared experience bringing me out of epoche. Because this was a threat to the validity of the inquiry, these instances were disregarded during the analysis process. Due to the lack of researcher input during the interviews with all other participants, it is evident that the researcher did not influence the responses from the other participants. Implications for Research The description of childcare quality presented through this research has shed light on what quality childcare really is to African American mothers. Although this study has given voice to an historically unheard group of stakeholders, future research is warranted. This study reflects the perceptions of 10 mothers from a small town in central Florida. It is unlikely that one study of 10 mothers will have a significant impact on how we define quality childcare. Future research should be conducted that includes larger sample sizes, and African American mothers from different locations. Future research should also be conducted that describes the perception of quality childcare from African American fathers, as they may focus on entirely different criteria. In addition, African Americans are only one of the many different racial and ethnic groups that have not been consulted

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112 regarding definitions of childcare in the United States. Future research should be conducted to include the voices of other seldom heard stakeholders in childcare. Although I have suggested that communication between childcare providers and parents is likely to influence the level of quality that parents perceive they are receiving, systematic evaluation of this phenomenon should be conducted. In order to do this, research should be conducted in which parents evaluate the quality of care they are receiving. Then, communication between childcare staff and parents should be increased and sustained, and after an extended period the parents should re-evaluate the care that they are receiving. Since the analysis methods for the current research project may have influenced the understanding of how quality childcare is perceived, future research should be conducted that employs different analysis procedures to determine if different results might be found. Of specific interest is the ability to capture and describe the uniqueness of each of the parents’ descriptions of quality childcare. Future research should also be conducted to further explore the influence that annual household income may have on the constructed definition of quality childcare. In order to do this a larger sample size would be needed as well as controls for various levels of household income. Implications for Practice In light of these research findings, many of the measures used to assess quality in childcare centers remain viable means to quantify varying levels of quality. Many of the features that the mothers attended to are similar to aspects assessed through specific quality measurement tools. For example, the aspects of care measured by the expert

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113 designed ECERS are aligned with the aspects of care that mothers attend to when evaluating childcare quality. These measures of childcare quality can and should be used by childcare administrators and third-party evaluators to quickly identify whether or not a center is providing quality childcare. Also in light of these findings, it is important for childcare centers not to rely solely on these expert measures to determine whether or not their parents are likely to be satisfied with the provision of care and education. To truly measure the quality of childcare being provided, childcare centers should view parents as important stakeholders capable of defining quality childcare. Childcare providers should actually seek input from parents regularly to ensure that their needs are consistently being met. If the parents do not perceive that their needs are being met, then they are likely to become dissatisfied and dis-enroll their children from care. As a former childcare director, I can attest to the fact that although centers may strive to meet parent needs, if parents do not perceive their needs as being met, they are dissatisfied. By communicating with parents consistently, childcare teachers and administrators are able to communicate to parents that their needs are being met. When communicating with parents it is important for childcare staff to truly listen to parents. Contrasting the assumption of Zinzeleta and Little (1997) caregivers should view parents as informed consumers who know what they want or need. Rather than attempting to use every parent interaction as a means to educate parents regarding preferred teaching and learning strategies we should seek to understand what parents want from us as caregivers, and what they hope to gain as a result of enrolling their children. Once we understand what parents want it is our duty to communicate to the parents how we are specifically meeting the needs of their children as well as the parents

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114 themselves. This communication reassures parents and ultimately helps to establish trust. Also, to increase the likelihood that parents will perceive care as high quality, it is imperative for teachers and childcare administrators to cultivate relationships with the parents so that parents are more likely to develop a sense of trust. These relationships can be established through consistent positive communication between parents and childcare staff. We know that quality early childhood experiences have been linked to positive outcomes for children later in their academic lives. By including mothers’ voices in the description of quality childcare we broaden the stakeholder perspective used to define quality childcare. This increases our ability to arrive at a more inclusive definition of quality, thus increasing our ability to provide optimal care and learning opportunities for all young children.

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Background Information Questionnaire Mother’s age: _________ Annual Household Income: ____________________ Marital Status: _______________ Age of your child/children: ________________________________________________ What types of childcare arrangements have you used? Parent care: Yes No Child’s Age: _____ How long: ______ Family members: Yes No Child’s Age: _____ How long: ______ Full Time Baby Sitter: Yes No Child’s Age: _____ How long: ______ Family Day Care Home: Yes No Child’s Age: _____ How long: ______ Childcare Center: Yes No Child’s Age: _____ How long: ______ Why did you choose to enroll your child in a childcare center? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 119

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Interview Guide Interview 1: Past childcare experiences I am interested in learning what you believe high quality childcare to be. For this interview session I would like to focus on your past experiences with childcare, excluding your experiences from the current school year beginning in September 2003. 1. What does quality childcare mean to you? What do you want to see in quality childcare? What don’t you want to see in quality childcare? 2. Describe your experiences with childcare? What kind of care have you used in the past? Were these experiences good or bad? 3. How has childcare affected you? What changes do you associate with childcare? 4. How has childcare affected your child? What changes do you associate with his/her enrollment? 5. What feelings were generated by the experience of childcare? 6. What thoughts stood out for you? 7. Have you shared all that is significant with reference to childcare quality? 121

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122 Interview 2: Present childcare experience. During our previous meeting we discussed your past experiences with childcare. For this session I would like to focus on your present experiences with childcare. Before we begin, I would like to review what we talked about at our previous meeting. Now lets discuss your current experiences with childcare. 1. What does quality childcare means to you? 2. Describe your current experiences with childcare? a. Are these experiences good or bad? 3. How has childcare affected you? What changes do you associate with childcare? 4. How has childcare affected your child? What changes do you associate with his/her enrollment? 5. What feelings are generated by the experience of childcare? 6. What thoughts stand you? 7. Have you shared all that is significant with reference to childcare quality?

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123 Interview 3: Meaning making session In the first two interviews we have discussed your past experiences with childcare and the childcare that your child is currently enrolled. Today I would like to focus in what quality means to you in light of our previous discussions. 1. If you had unlimited financial resources what would your child do during the day? a. If you still had to work where would your child go during the day? 2. How should childcare affect you as a parent? What changes do you expect from childcare? 3. How should childcare affect your child? What changes do you expect from his/her enrollment? 4. What feelings should be generated by the experience of childcare? 5. Let’s review what the components of a high quality center would look like to be sure I clearly understand that. 6. Have you been able to find a high quality program for your child? 7. If all the components of quality haven’t been met, which ones would be the most important to you? 8. Have you ever been involved in a discussion of childcare quality before these interviews? 9. Have you shared all that is significant with reference to childcare quality?

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Focus Group Guide The focus group discussion will be guided by the findings from the previously conducted interviews with each of the participants. To begin the focus group session the Principal Investigator will have the participants brainstorm a list of attributes they identify when thinking of quality childcare. Each individual group member then generated a top ten list of the most important characteristics when identifying high quality childcare guided by the following question. Of the characteristics listed on the chart, what are the ten most important qualities to you? The group members were then paired together to discuss similarities and differences between their two lists. They were guided by the following questions: How are the lists that you generated similar to each other? How are they different from each other? Why have you identified these aspects as most important? After these activities were completed I presented a diagram of what I understood the mothers thought to be essential when describing quality childcare. The whole group then discussed the following questions: Is this an accurate portrayal of how you think of quality childcare? Could anything be added to make this more accurate? Could anything be taken a way to make this more accurate? 125

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Amy Able to attend college (adult) Access* Address Apprehensive Background checks Basic needs (custodial care) Care about kids Chaos Children can’t identify problems Child’s Response Clean Curriculum Communication w/ Parents Convenience Corporal punishment (bad) Cost Creativity Daycare= basic needs Dependable Educated staff Enjoy parenting Excited about school Familiarity Family Daycare Homes Family member care Fear Feel safe leaving Get along with others Good parent (adequate) Happy Kids Hard to find Head Start = School Head Start as a child Head Start is not daycare Hours of operation Independence Interest in school Interview a lot Kids enjoy Kids Secure Language skills Letters Mixed age bad Memory More than play Motor Skills Need care to work Need work to get care Not a good parent (inadequacy) Nursery Rhymes Observe= Trust Open door Open my own One on One Organized Parent involvement Parenting Skills Parents (as caregivers) Patience Popular centers Positive experience Reading Ready for school Relationships with kids Relationship-Teacher/Parent Respect for others Safe Scheduling (hours of operation) Scheduled Activities School like Sense of accomplishment Several Staff Share Show Concern Sleeping area Stay ahead of peers Study habits Social Skills Teacher-Friend Teaching Trust Telephone # Trust is established Trustworthy Tying shoes Volunteer Want to be heard Willing to leave parent Write Name Writing * Researcher-imposed codes in italics 127

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Amy Outcomes for Kids: Safety: Learning: Ready for School Background Checks Curriculum Chaos Stay ahead of peers Clean Independence Corporal Punishment o Telephone # Organized o Address Several Staff o Motor Skills Teacher Characteristics: Interest in school Care about kids Language skills Dependable o Letters Educated o Nursery Rhymes Parents Patience o Reading Show Concern o Write Name Friend o Writing Trustworthy Social Skills Trust: o Get along with others Is established through Familiarity o Respect for others Communication w/ Parents o Share Happy Kids o Tying Shoes Interview a lot Memory Observe Creativity Open Door policy Trust of others Open my own childcare Feelings About Childcare (School): Relationships with kids (Teachers) Excited about school Relationships with Parents (teachers) Enjoy school Kids secure Is necessary because Willing to leave parent Children can’t identify problems Parent Feelings: Trust is established over time Beginning o Fear o Not a good parent Later o Feel safe leaving o Good Parent Want to be heard 129

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Amy 130 Childcare vs. Head Start Hours of operation Access Need care to work Need work to get care Childcare o Basic Needs o Convenience o Cost o Family Childcare homes o Family member care o Popular centers o Hard to find o Sleeping Area Head Start o School o Head start as a child o Not daycare o One on one o Parent involvement o Parenting skills Patience Creativity I can teach my children Enjoy parenting (confidence) o Volunteer

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135 Peisner-Feinberg, E. S., Burchinal, M. R., Clifford, R. M., Yazejian, N., Culkin, M. L., Zelazo, J., et al. (1999a). The children of the cost, quality, and outcomes study go to school: Executive summary. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center. Peisner-Feinberg, E. S., Burchinal, M. R., Clifford, R. M., Yazejian, N., Culkin, M. L., Zelazo, J., et al. (1999b). The children of the cost, quality, and outcomes study go to school: Technical Report. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center. Phillips, D., Lande, J., & Goldberg, M. (1990). The state of child care regulation: A comparative analysis. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 5, 151-179. Phillips, D., Mekos, D., Scarr, S., McCartney, K., & Abbott-Shim, M. (2000). Within and beyond the classroom door: Assessing quality in child care centers. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15, 475-496. Pianta, R. C. (1992). The student teacher relationship scale. Unpublished manuscript, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Schwandt, T. (2001). Dictionary of qualitative research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Seidman, I. (1991). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and in social services. New York: Teachers College Press. Sheridan, S., & Schuster, K.-M. (2001). Evaluation of pedagogical quality in early childhood education: A cross-national perspective. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 16(1), 109-124. Steinfels, M. O. B. (1973). Who's minding the children? The history and politics of day care in America. New York: Simon and Schuster. Stipek, D., Daniels, D., Galuzzo, D., & Milburn, S. (1992). Characterizing early childhood education programs for poor and middle-class children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 7, 1-19. Tietze, W., Bairrao, J., Leal, T., & Rossbach, H.-G. (1998). Assessing quality characteristics of center-based early childhood environments in Germany and Portugal: a cross-national study. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XIII(2), 283-298. Tietze, W., Bairrao, J., & Rossbach, H. G. (1998). Assessing quality characteristics of center-based early childhood environments in Germany and Portugal: a cross-national study. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XIII(2), 283-298.

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136 Tietze, W., Cryer, D., Bairrao, J., Palacios, J., & Wetzel, G. (1996). Comparisons of observed process quality in early child care and education programs in five countries. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 11(4), 447-494. van Kaam, A. (1966). Existential foundations of psychology. New York: University press of America. Wentzel, K. R. (1998). Parents' aspirations for children's educational attainments: relations to parental beliefs and social address variables. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 44(1), 20-37. White, S. H., & Buka, S. L. (1987). Early education: Programs, traditions, and policies. Review of research in education, 14, 43-91. Wolcott, H. F. (1990). On seeking -and rejecting -validity in qualitative research. In A. Peshkin (Ed.), Qualitative inquiry in education: continuing the debate. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. Worthen, V., & McNeill, B. W. (1996). A phenomenological investigation of "Good" supervision events. Journaling of Counseling Psychology, 43(1), 25-34. Zimiles, H. (2000). On reassessing the relevance of the child development knowledge base to education. Human Development, 43, 235-245. Zinzeleta, E., & Little, N. K. (1997). How do parents really choose early childhood programs? Young Children, 52(7), 8-11.

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137 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Herman Theodore Knopf was born in Ci ncinnati, Ohio, on January 31, 1975. At the age of five he moved to Gainesville, Fl orida. He is a gradua te of Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Florida. Herman received his Bachelor of Arts in Education and Master of Education degrees from the Univer sity of Florida. He currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina, where he serves as an Assistant Pr ofessor at the University of South Carolina.