Child Care Resources for Refugee Service Providers: Ensuring Working Families Thrive

Refugee and newcomer families are often confronted with the daunting challenge of integrating into a new society while seeking gainful employment. This can be especially challenging for newcomers who are caregivers to young children. Service providers should familiarize themselves with high-quality child care resources to help caregivers integrate into their new communities and, crucially, enter the workforce. Child care not only allows newcomer parents to strike an important balance between work and family life, but it also provides their children with opportunities to socialize, practice their English skills, and acculturate into their new environments. In this post, we discuss several child care resources and strategies tailored for service providers who support newcomers with young children. The external resources contained in this blog post represent the views and opinions of their original creators and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Switchboard.

Rotating Child Care Duties Among Family Members and Neighbors

For many newcomer families, rotating child care duties among neighbors and community members is a common and culturally rooted practice. This is often the first strategy that newcomers will utilize to address child care needs, as it allows them to save money and foster a sense of community with other newcomer families. In most instances, service providers may want to consider enhancing or improving the coordination of this child care system rather than supplementing it with outside resources, which can be expensive or difficult to access. Additionally, neighborhood child care solutions are often more flexible than other forms of local child care. Adults can rely on this added flexibility to attend language or skill-building classes, or to work at night while many traditional child care centers are closed.  

Service providers should consider the topics and strategies below as they seek to facilitate or bolster a neighborhood-, community-, or family-based child care network or provide secondary child care solutions for clients who have dedicated family members providing child care in most situations:  

  • Create Community Workshops: Consider conducting workshops that focus on the legal considerations, safety protocols, and best practices for rotating child care within families, neighborhoods, or communities. Educate the participants on important topics like first aid, CPR, child development, children’s nutritional needs, and emotional support. To enhance the quality of these workshops, reach out to a local provider of the American Red Cross Babysitting and Child Care Training. Red Cross can offer clients technical expertise, while newcomer-facing staff can provide interpretation and ensure that the material is culturally relevant. Service providers should also consider providing free food and child care at these events to make them accessible to all caregivers and their families. 
  • Provide Schedule Coordination: Offer to help families set up a rotating schedule that works for all involved parties. Use tools like shared calendars to set reminders and keep everyone on the same page. 
  • Engage in Resource Sharing: Compile and distribute a list of community resources, like local parks, libraries, and child-friendly spaces, where families can take children during their allocated child care time. This list will also help newcomers familiarize themselves with their new surroundings. 
  • Offer Crisis Support: Educate clients on emergency communication channels like 911 and Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) that caregivers can use in case of emergencies.  
  • Provide Follow-Up: Regularly check in with families to see how the arrangement is working, and offer support to resolve any issues or challenges that may arise. This helps make the rotating system more sustainable and adapted to the families’ changing needs. 

Transition to Other Child Care Options for Newcomers

In some cases, family- or community-based child care is not the best solution. Families may live in relatively isolated areas or may wish to provide their children with added English language support. Be aware of local subsidies, scholarships, and community outreach programs so you can further guide newcomers to the most appropriate child care solutions. Below, we identify the most common categories of child care opportunities and briefly discuss the benefits and drawbacks newcomer families may experience in each case: 

  • Daycare Centers: Places like Kiddie Academy, Goddard School, YMCA, and Head Start offer structured routines and set curriculum. These institutions typically offer high-quality education, but they may be expensive. Alternatively, religious organizations often offer faith-based child care at a sliding scale. Before connecting newcomers to a day care, service providers should work with clients to ensure that their values and traditions are represented by the institution or place of worship. 
  • Preschool Programs: Service providers can assist clients with searching for public pre-K programs. Many of these free or sliding-scale opportunities are listed on their state’s , and additional public pre-K options are sometimes available on municipal or county websites. Additionally, some states and cities offer opportunities for universal pre-K or for child care in which the child’s age is the only criterion for entry. A list of states and cities that offer this programming can be found here and here  
  • In-Home Child Care Providers: Through platforms like and Sittercity, families can connect with caregivers willing to provide services in the family’s home. This familiarity can be comforting for children adjusting to new surroundings. However, ensuring the caregiver understands specific cultural nuances or languages is crucial. In most cases, in-home child care is more expensive than out-of-home child care options. 
  • After-School Programs: Many schools offer free after-school programming for school-aged children. Additionally, organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America offer these programs in many cases where the school system has limited existing programming. Some potential hurdles for newcomers might be transportation or even a lack of awareness about such programs. These programs are typically cost-effective, with several community-focused programs being either free or available for a minimal fee. 
  • Family Child Care Homes: These licensed child care centers are small businesses located within single family homes. They are set up to provide child care to smaller groups (often fewer than 10 children) and offer intimate settings managed by licensed caregivers. Family child care homes can strike a balance between cultural familiarity and integration, offering comfort to newcomers. Generally, they are less expensive than formal daycare centers, but availability may be limited. The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) can be a useful guide for families searching for such homes. Additionally, service providers should consider connecting with recipients of Refugee Family Child Care Microenterprise Development Program funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. This funding enables eligible entrants to achieve self-sufficiency by establishing small family child care businesses. A list of current grantees can be found here.
  • Summer Camps: Camps can be an avenue for children to immerse themselves in the local culture and can provide adults with additional time for skill building or work during the summer months. The cost spectrum for these camps is broad, with community-oriented ones being more affordable than specialized camps. 
  • On-Campus Child Care: Newcomers enrolled in post-secondary education may have access to subsidized or free child care on their college campus. As of 2019, 45% of public institutions offered child care solutions for students. However, following the pandemic, the presence of on-campus child care has declined, so service providers should assist clients with researching and confirming the status of each institution’s child care program. Notably, child care that helps a student participate in post-secondary education can be included in the budget calculation for federal financial aid through FAFSA and is typically an allowable expense for Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) provided to foster children/former foster children, including unaccompanied refugee minors. 

Essential Resources for Service Providers

To ensure that service providers have up-to-date information about their state’s child care subsidy programs, opportunities, and policies, a robust toolkit of resources is pivotal. Below is a curated list of platforms and organizations designed to enhance service offerings and provide actionable solutions tailored to the unique needs of newcomer families. In each instance, service providers can support clients by learning the details of each option—such as deadlines for applications, application processes, length of waitlists, preferences for admission (school zone, sibling preference, etc.), and bus availability—and by helping clients organize their application materials for the best chance at access to these programs: 


The challenges newcomer families often encounter, such as cultural differences, language barriers, and economic constraints, necessitate services that go beyond conventional solutions. When supporting families with young children, service providers should understand that the goal is not merely finding child care, but finding the right child care that respects the newcomers’ traditions, values, and unique family dynamics. By leveraging the resources discussed above and using a culturally sensitive approach, service providers can help reduce the financial burden of child careallowing newcomer children to thrive in a supportive environment and their families to transition smoothly into their new communities. 

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