Archive for Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kaw Valley providers discuss infant care grant program

August 14, 2008

Rich Minder of Success by 6 Coalition of Douglas County met Aug. 6 with the Kaw Valley Family Child Care Providers to discuss a proposal to increase the quality, affordability and availability of infant childcare among family childcare home providers.

Minder is the collaborative projects coordinator for the Douglas County nonprofit organization that is a coalition that includes the United Way and the Douglas County Health Department, among others. Minder said the lack of suitable care for children from birth to 30 months was one of the longest standing problems in the childcare industry.

After the Kansas Legislature made $11.1 million in block grants available for childcare, Success by 6 began to design a program that would increase the affordability, ensure the quality and increase the availability of infant childcare.

"If you're a working family or parent and you're not trying to neglect your child, but you've got to work - it's a simple matter of economics," Minder said. "The fact is, you pay people for childcare and if you don't need that, fine. But a lot of us do and all we're trying to do is make that as reliable and healthy and stable as we can."

In order to be a part of the program, providers would have to enroll in the Kansas Quality Rating System.

Once enrolled, providers would undergo an evaluation and then be visited by a coach, who would develop an improvement plan.

"We want providers to become part of a system of continuous improvement and evaluation because then we can say something about quality and how were investing in improvement," Minder said.

The program also would require a 1-to-5 ratio of adults to children because a suitable ratio is the biggest determinant in whether the interaction between a provider and a child is attentive and sensitive to a child's needs.

As much as $1,000 to $3,500 in grants would be available to parents depending on a provider's KQRS rating.

Minder wants to drive the program through parents, likening the proposed program to how financial aid is used in colleges. Although, in this case, the aid would not have to be paid back.

"If you go to a college that is not certified to receive financial aid, then you can't go there," Minder said. "It's the same with this. If you want to use this scholarship money, then you've got find a provider who is part of KQRS."

Minder said he hoped that demand from parents will cause providers to want to join the program.

Economics are at the center of the issue for providers as well.

For every infant they take on, they lose two preschooler slots. Although providers typically charge less for preschool-aged children than infants, the difference isn't enough to compensate for the loss of a second child.

Sherri Proffit, who has been a member of the Kaw Valley Family Child Care Providers for six years, said there was a good turnout at the meeting and there definitely was interest on the part of providers. But that just as the economy is hard for parents looking for childcare, it also is hard for the 42 or so childcare providers in the Eudora area.

"For all providers, it is a difficult time continuing to provide for families in an efficient way," Proffit said. "Hikes in grocery bills for feeding the children, gas money to go get the groceries and the price in general on most things is greater these days. It would be great if providers had the income that would match what they (the children) are worth, and for parents to be proud paying those fees to the person who is caring for their children."

Proffit also said the program likely would work better for new providers because they wouldn't notice the change in money to the degree that established programs might.

Minder has spoken with center directors in Lawrence but has not yet spoken with Lawrence home care providers.

The grant proposal is due Sept. 22. If Success by 6 gets the grant, funding would begin Nov. 1 with implementation to begin in late December or early January.

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