What We Learned from “Bridging the Gap”

Last summer, BANANAS was asked by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation to create a virtual conference for the Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) caregiver community. It was important to BANANAS to create an event for the FFNs we serve, and for the organizations supporting these caregivers. With the concept of accessibility in mind we named this conference “Bridging the Gap”. Our main goals were to truly “bridge the gap” between FFN caregivers and FFN advocates, and create a space where resources could be exchanged and a support network for these caregivers, through self-empowerment and self-advocacy, could evolve. We invited workshop hosts and honorarium speakers to discuss relevant topics such as “A World Without FFNs” which referred to the essential nature of FFN caregivers and their importance in our community. This workshop detailed the ways community-based organizations (CBOs) can genuinely support these caregivers by building confidence through professional development and connection to other FFN caregivers. Another workshop was called “Covid-19 and its Effects on Young Children and Caregivers” which discussed the ways the pandemic has affected the child care community socially, economically, and developmentally.

It was important to BANANAS to ensure that our message was heard loud and clear. FFNs build stable foundations for young children, and are an irreplaceable and essential part of the mixed delivery child care system.

Unfamiliar with the term FFN caregivers? Let’s learn what this term means. FFN stands for Family, Friend, and Neighbor. FFN caregivers consist of grandparents, aunts, uncles, extended family, neighbors, and friends who provide care for young children in informal settings, typically in their own home. In California, 80% of young children ages birth to 2, and approximately 40% of children ages birth to 5, are cared for by unlicensed or license-exempt caregivers.” (Alarcon 1). FFN caregivers exist everywhere, and are a popular form of child care for many families with young children.

This type of child care is popular amongst families for many reasons. FFN caregivers often have flexible schedules that can be attuned to a parent’s non-traditional working hours, often speak languages other than English, and can provide culturally relevant settings for the children in their care. FFN caregivers are usually a more affordable and accessible child care option for parents who are working more than the traditional 40 hours a week and/or working multiple jobs to be able to support their families. They tend to reflect the demographics of the families they serve and have a deeper understanding of the cultural and linguistic needs of families. FFN care is so popular that it is estimated that 60% of children in the United States, or approximately 5.2 million children, are in FFN care. (Park and Flore Pena, 4).

Why does BANANAS make it a priority to serve this community? FFNs are predominantly women of color. Many of California’s FFNs belong to the same communities they serve. For example, the FFNs caring for the children of immigrant families are also immigrants themselves. Caregivers and the families they work for often have overlapping identities and cultural backgrounds. Despite FFN caregivers being the most common type of nonparental child care in the country, they are often left out of the discussion around child care due to their informal and license exempt setting. In addition, FFNs are often not afforded as many opportunities for professional development, financial support and fair compensation, and are reluctant to seek outside support from government agencies due to immigration status. BANANAS and similar organizations are working to help others recognize and support this vital form of early care by identifying and connecting with FFN caregivers, and making them aware of the programs and services available to them. BANANAS FFN program aims to support and uplift these essential members of our child care community.

Our conference, “Bridging the Gap” allowed us to discuss these pertinent issues and share perspectives from different members of the FFN community. After the conference we asked for participants to share their feedback with us. Below are some direct quotes from the participants themselves:

“I was impacted by the panel and the way they shared their experiences and stories. I related to the things they shared. I was so grateful to hear about the ways we as FFN caregivers can take care of ourselves and learn about the family and cultural connections that FFNs provide.This will help me in my work as an FFN because it gives me energy. I know that I’m not alone and that I have others to look to for information and support.” -M, FFN Caregiver

“This year there is a lack of daycare availability, so folks started recruiting neighbors and friends to be able to learn with and take care of their children. I also learned that it is very important to continue training more providers. I loved the passion that I saw during the conference and I will take that with me.” -J, Community Resource Organizer

Overall, BANANAS wanted to create an accessible and engaging event that reached the entire FFN community. We had a great turn out of 164 participants, and 94 of these participants were FFN caregivers. The non-FFN participants were members of the nonprofit community, in-home family child care providers, teachers, and community members invested in learning more about the FFN community.

BANANAS FFN program has a lot to look forward to over the two years as we become the official FFN Learning Community Manager for California. The FFN Community Manager creates space for like minded CBOs to come together and discuss their FFN programming, current events in the FFN world, and problem solve together. BANANAS will be the hub for these conversations and help guide the learning community meetings so that we may all learn from each other and grow our programs. BANANAS FFN program will continue to highlight these amazing caregivers and provide direct support in the forms of workshops, one on one consultations, stipends, and resource sharing.

If you are interested in learning more about the FFN community and the work that BANANAS is doing, please visit: https://bananasbunch.org/ffn/ and https://ffncaregivers.org/ for more information.

Works Cited

Alarcon, India, and David and Lucile Packard Foundation. “Informal Child Care in California:
Current Arrangements and Future Needs.” Packard Foundation, 2015,
Accessed 3 June 2022.

Miller, Kyra, and Karen Schulman. “Sustaining Family, Friend, and Neighbor Child Care During and After Covid-19: Survey Findings.” 2021,
Accessed 3 June 2022.

Park, Maki, and Jazmin Flore Pena. “The Invisible Work of Family, Friend, and Neighbor Caregivers and Its Importance for Immigrant and Dual Language Learner Familie.”
Migration Policy Institute, December 2021,

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