Publication Date

Summer 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)




Emily Slusser


early childhood education, parents' choice, parent survey

Subject Areas

Educational leadership; Early childhood education


Early childhood education (ECE) programs play a critical role in the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children and help to prepare them for kindergarten. Recognizing the benefits of ECE programs, state and federal governments have made notable efforts to make these programs more accessible. However, with various federal, state, and local governments involved in administering and funding ECE programs, a complex, fragmented, and oftentimes confusing system ensued, making the ECE landscape very difficult for parents to navigate. Parents are often the primary decision-makers when selecting educational programs for their children. Studies often focus on practitioners’ or researchers’ perspectives on quality care rather than parental choice. Through a 3-phase approach, the purpose of this study is to better understand the factors that influence parental decision-making when selecting ECE programs for their 3- and 4-year- old children in a well-populated urban and suburban area of the United States. Data collection included a community scan and mapping of ECE programs in California’s Santa Clara County, an analysis of publically available information of ECE programs, and stakeholder surveys. Findings revealed that there is a disparity in ECE programs in the southern region of the studied area, family/home-based care had the least publically available information, and parents’ cultural background, education level, and household income influences the value they place on family engagement and cultural competency.