Retaining Child Care Partners

Find out how one grantee works to keep their child care partners in the partnership. Explore examples of the innovative practices used to maintain the collaboration.

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The Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships

two women looking over papersIn March 2015, the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded 275 Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnership and EHS expansion grants. In the years since 2015, Congress has approved additional funding which has resulted in additional partnerships and expansion grants. As of December 2017, the EHS-CC Partnership and Expansion Grants had preliminarily reported partnerships with 1,600+ child care centers and 1,070+ family child care homes. In 2018, Congress approved additional funding ($115 million) for new partnership and expansion grants.

The EHS-CC Partnership grants support partnerships between EHS programs and local child care centers and family child care providers serving infants and toddlers from families with low incomes. The partnerships support working families by providing expanded access to full-day, full-year child care and comprehensive services to children and families.

The Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships aim to improve the capacity of communities to offer high-quality care and increase access to full-day, full-year services. Early on in the grant process, grantee staff must recruit child care partners to participate in the EHS-CC Partnerships and then deploy strategies to retain them.

One grantee that used various strategies to retain family child care partners is the Alabama Department of Human Resources Child Care Services Division. The state received its partnership grant in 2014 to expand the availability of high-quality early learning services to infants and toddlers across the state. The grant funded 566 child care slots, 198 of which were located in more than 60 family child care providers. The state chose Auburn University to be the statewide hub1 for family child care partners. Auburn University worked directly with the providers to raise quality, implement comprehensive services, and facilitate national accreditation. The division director of the Child Care Services Division with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and the director of family child care programs at Auburn University, shared some of their experiences and reflections on strategies they used to retain family child care partners.

1. Establish a supportive mentoring program

Each family child care provider was assigned an education mentor who provided one-on-one training, consultation, and support on the curriculum, child assessments, compliance with Head Start Program Performance Standards, and other issues the providers might be having. Grantee staff noted that the supports Auburn University provided to the family child care partners, including the mentoring program, were key contributors to the low turnover of partners. These supports go beyond what is traditionally available to family child care providers in the state.

The director of family child care programs at Auburn University explained, "Each of the child care partners in our program has a dedicated mentor who uses practice-based coaching2 techniques to work with the providers on specific EHS-type requirements. We really looked to take the barriers away. One of the ways we broke down barriers was to create a relationship with the person that they knew they could count on any time they have a question about any of the requirements. They have a trusted person from their local community who is a professional in the field and who can come to them and sit down and hold their hand and say, 'It's going to be okay. We can do this. We will do it together.' That's critical to having a successful program like this."

2. Provide child care partners with necessary resources and materials

"I'm excited about the community connections they are making. That's something that we haven't always seen, especially with family child care providers. But now…we're seeing that they're connecting to other community resources, connecting to some state resources, and being a voice for family child care in the state."
Alabama Department of Human Resources, Child Care Division, Division Director

The division director of the Child Care Services Division with the Alabama Department of Human Resources suggested that the tangible supports provided to those participating in the partnership program also contributed to the low turnover of family child care partners. Every family child care partner received an electronic tablet

to assist with required EHS-CC Partnership paperwork and documentation. The director at Auburn University explained, "All of our family child care partners have tablets that we provided for them. They get hands-on training and technical assistance about how to use the device. We also pay for half of their high-speed Internet cost in their homes. This is quite expensive and challenging in some of our partners. In some rural communities in West Alabama, there is not high-speed Internet. We have to provide some additional kinds of support for them." She noted these supports are attractive to the family child care partners and encourage continued participation.

3. Connect child care partners to one another and to a broader network of provider supports

Technology has also helped decrease providers' feelings of isolation and make them feel supported. Community connections are particularly important for family child care providers in Alabama who are dispersed across the state. The division director of the Child Care Services Division with the Alabama Department of Human Resources said, "They don't feel like they're out there by themselves…and that's a motivation to stay involved in the partnership program."

1Hub organizations provide services such as professional development or family and community engagement to child care partners. In most cases, hub organizations do not directly provide child care to families through the EHS-CC Partnership, although in some cases they may hold a separate contract for this. Grantees determine whether to use hubs and the services these organizations should provide.

2Practice-Based Coaching (PBC) is a professional development strategy that uses a cyclical process. This process supports teachers’ use of effective teaching practices. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/professional-development/article/practice-based-coaching-pbc.

Last Updated: November 27, 2018