Work Families & Children

Work, Families & Children at the Wellesley Centers for Women  

For more than 25 years, the Work, Families and Children research group (WFC) has studied the lives of children and adults, and the workplaces, early care and education programs and families in which they live, work and grow. Based on this research, WFC has developed innovative programs, including evaluation research and professional development.

The Work, Families and Children team receives funding from a variety of sources for this work, including federal grants, state grants and contracts, contracts with local communities or school systems, and grants from private foundations. The publications of the Work, Families and Children research group are available through WCW publications, article journals and books available online or in libraries, and through conference presentations and public speaking.

The mission of WFC is to provide rigorous research and program evaluation to develop model early care and education programs and materials for practitioners, and to inform early care and education policy and practice. We believe that evidence-based policy and practice is needed to ensure that all families have access to high quality, affordable early care and education for their children, from birth through the start of formal schooling.

WFC began in 1987, with a study of the affordability of early care and education in Massachusetts, funded by the state government. In 1989, we began 15 years of funding from the federal government (NICHD) to study the role of early care and education (ECE) in children’s lives. The NICHD Study of Early Child Care provided definitive evidence that non-maternal ECE does not damage a child’s attachment to their mother, and that even ordinary ECE programs (not just exemplary programs such as High Scope) have a positive effect on children’s cognitive development and school readiness, if they are of high quality. In 2000, with federal and state funding, we began a 5-year study of the costs of high quality ECE programs, including centers, family child care and public school prekindergarten classrooms.
These core projects have leveraged other opportunities to pursue our mission. Recent projects include the Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot (REQIP), funded by Thrive in 5 from 2013-2016. For this project, we developed, piloted and evaluated a professional development and technical assistance program for ECE centers and family child care providers in Boston. 

Research on early child care and education policy issues, with a particular focus on access to quality ECE for low-income families and children.
MA Early Care and Education and School Readiness Study – completed in 2007.  Researchers focused on aspects of school readiness, including social and language development, along with other data such as hours in care, so as to better understand the ways in which a child’s growth is influenced by situational factors.

Facilities for Early Childhood and Out-of-School Time Programs: Standards and Research – completed in 2011.  An evaluation of buildings, indoor and outdoor environments in Massachusetts child care settings.

Needs assessments and evaluations for programs, local and state organizations, schools and government agencies.
Boston Quality Inventory – ongoing since 2006.  This project provides a bi-annual needs assessment of Boston’s Early Care and Education programs for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, in both centers and family child care homes.  

Empowering Families – ongoing since 2014. This project is evaluating a federally-funded program in the Providence public schools.

Consultation to programs, organizations, schools and government bodies on ECE policy, practice and research.
Consultation to Nurtury, a multi-site provider of early care and education, on child assessments and curriculum.

Consultation to Mathematica, a policy research firm, on their project, Assessing the Implementation and Cost of High Quality Early Care and Education (ECE-ICHQ).

Trainings, presentations, workshops and seminars for programs, local and state organizations, schools and government agencies.
Advancing Early Childhood Education Policy in the U.S. WCW Seminar by Marshall & Robeson, 2016. Listen at

Massachusetts Early Childhood Education Workforce. October 10, 2007. Presentation to the Governor’s Readiness Project Early Education and Care Subcommittee.

Publications and materials from these and other projects are available on our website

Audience/s served
The audiences we serve are diverse.  Our clients include programs, local and state organizations, schools, and government agencies. Our products are also of interest to teachers, administrators, ECE providers, and families.

Successful Impact
Our projects impact individual programs and the families they serve, as well as local and state policy and national conversations about early care and education and working families.

    • With REQIP, we worked directly with ECE programs, and found that because of our work, classrooms were able to better meet the needs of the children and staff.  We have affected the lives of children through our trainings of ECE educators and administrators. 
    • We have made an impact on state policy (for example, vouchers for child care were extended to families based on our work; the Massachusetts Quality Rating and Improvement System have been revised based on our research).  
    • We have shown that high quality child care is good for children (the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development), providing guidance for families, policy makers and ECE programs.  
    • We have provided research on community and public school early childhood programs to support community and city planning in Boston, MA and Providence, RI. 
    • We have provided research to support the Mayor of Boston’s plan to increase universal pre-K for 4 year old children in the City of Boston.
    • And we have influenced countless numbers of Wellesley students and other research assistants to go into education, social policy and other areas where they can make a difference.

Recommendations for replication and/or adaptation
For more information about our work, and opportunities for replication or adaptation, please contact us, or review our materials on our website

Some free materials, available on the website, include:
      Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot Toolkit for practitioners
      Recommendations for families on finding quality early care and education programs
      Recommendations for families on managing work and family responsibilities

In addition, many of our reports provide specific recommendations in various areas of ECE practice and policy. We would be happy to talk with others about our consulting or about collaborating on new projects.

 Contact info
Work, Families and Children Research Group
Drs. Nancy L Marshall, Joanne Roberts, and Wendy Wagner Robeson
Facebook page
Web site:

Contact person: Wendy Wagner Robeson,781-283-3499,