Reaching unconnected caregivers: Using a text-message education program to better understand how to support informal caregivers role in child development

Sherri C Widen, Marlene Orozco, Eileen Lai Horng, Susanna Loeb - Journal of Early Childhood Research


Informal caregivers (family, friends, and neighbors) spend many hours each week with the children in their care and can have a significant impact on the children’s social-emotional and academic development. Unfortunately, many informal caregivers lack the knowledge of how to do so. We conducted a qualitative 2-year study to investigate informal caregivers’ motivations, assets, and needs. The caregivers received text messages to help them support child development. In Year 1, we used interviews to better understand the needs of informal caregivers and potential opportunities to scaffold their interactions with the children. In Year 2, we expanded the program and invited informal caregivers to complete a survey to extend what we learned in Year 1. Both kin and non-kin informal caregivers are highly motivated to support children’s social and academic development and have adequate material resources to provide enriching educational environments for the children. However, we find that informal caregivers often lack information on useful practices to support child development. The text messages helped informal caregivers to overcome both informational and behavioral barriers to caregiving and supporting child development.