Staying with the theme: is it working? I tackle this one… Is the Early Head Start- Child Care Partnership model working?

Having worked directly with many including Tribal, small, medium and large rural, larger urban, new grantees and experienced grantees I can say without hesitation that yes, it is working… for some programs and with the same lack of hesitation I can say it is not working for other programs…

This is not as much of a non-answer as it may first seem… what it means is that we need to examine why there are two different answers… is there a grantee profile that predicts success? Is there a Child Care profile that predicts failure? Are there tweaks at the policy level that can push us to a higher number of successes? I think the answer to all three of these questions is yes.

What have I seen that doesn’t work?

  • At the top of this list is grantees that tried to roll out the project using a grantee/delegate model with a focus on partners responding to grantee needs, requirements and unrealistic expectations. In this model there was minimal mentoring, coaching and respect and there were predictably unsatisfying outcomes for the grantee, the partners and the communities including:
    • Poorly planned and executed purchases (classroom equipment, playgrounds, investments in facilities and in staff credentials)
    • High staff turn-over rates
    • High Partnership turn-over rates
    • Minimal understanding or investment in branding and marketing the partners and the program
    • Top down structure with minimal sense of a true partnership creating animosity, misunderstanding and unsuccessful roll out
    • Failure of the grantee to learn about, understand and embrace Child Care Subsidy regulations leading to churning, under-enrollment of eligible children and strained budgets
    • An inability to enhance the quality of the neediest of the needy partners and a race to create relationships with well established, high quality partners who benefit only minimally from the project

What have I seen that does work?

  • At the top of this list is grantees that anticipated the costs of the project and have per child costs that are reflective of the challenges, had at least some experience in shared services (as opposed to simply renting slots from child care providers), created an authentic partnership that included Child Care providers as thought leaders in the creation and execution of the project, had an entrepreneurial workplace culture that included staff with a passion for coaching and mentoring and rolling up their sleeves and working from the trenches leading to successful outcomes including:
    • Early Head Start Staff becoming much ‘smarter’ about the Child Care subsidy system leading them to becoming champions and advocates for supportive language in State and Tribal CCDF Plans
    • Increases in quality of child care classrooms including age appropriate environments, intentional planning and individualizing
    • Systemic implementation of curricula, record keeping, data collection/analysis and monitoring
    • Highly respectful, highly engaged collaborations
    • Highly functioning and diverse classrooms and boardrooms
    • Partners growing rapidly toward becoming grantees in a future round of funding
    • Families advocating for greater quality and consistency throughout their communities
    • Child Care programs rapidly advancing along whatever QRIS tiered system is present in their area
    • Somewhat better staff retention
    • A growing understanding of child and family outcomes: what they mean and how to analyze/report them

What I see that needs to be done at the policy level:

  • A much longer ‘grace’ period… extend the 18 months to at least the first five years of the funding cycle with markers along the way to help funders know their investment is secure to include:
    • Staff qualification
    • Background checks
    • Special ‘Partnership only’ monitoring process and tool
    • Enrollment
  • A HIGHLY trained federal workforce with a CONSISTENT and COMMON understanding of the project’s regulations, policies and intents
  • A community of learners that includes programs, policy makers and consultants that includes on-site gatherings, monthly calls from top federal leadership
  • A federal initiative to include language that children in the Partnership retain their Eligibility throughout the five year funding cycle