March 19, 2012
On Feb. 23, New America's Early Education Initiative and Workforce and Family Program hosted Local Innovations in Early Learning and Child Care, an event that brought together child care and early learning leaders from Oklahoma, Florida, Massachusetts and Minnesota. They shared insights about the challenges and opportunities of providing quality, dual-generation child care -- programs that serve both children (by providing opportunities for early learning that will prepare them for school) and parents (by providing services that enable parents to go to work, stabilize their income and receive advanced training for furthering their careers).
One program in particular -- the CareerAdvance program created by the Community Action Project of Tulsa -- is aimed at helping parents receive an associates degree in nursing or information technology. The attendees, whose children are already enrolled in CAP's child care and pre-K programs, go through CareerAdvance in cohorts, enabling them to connect with other parents and help each other. "We found that the support that these participants build in these cohorts is really amazing," said Monica Barczak, director of CAP's innovation lab. "As parents of young children, they are all going through similar issues." The program is partially funded by a federal grant from the Department for Health and Human Services aimed at expanding jobs in the health sector.
Even the nation's most innovative childcare providers face the headwinds of a challenging economy. But in addition to budget constraints, panelists noted that program coordination and non-aligned eligibility regulations can also be a big problem. Katie Britton, a manager with Thrive in 5 Boston, said that Boston is known for being "resource rich and coordination poor," and organizations need to coordinate programs and services for low-income families across different sectors, such as health care, social work, and early education.
You can watch a video of the event here.