Supporting family child care providers through and beyond the pandemic

Supporting family child care providers through and beyond the pandemic

Last year, Springboard partnered with All Our Kin to develop a toolkit to help family child care providers and their allies to share the important role of family child care in a comprehensive child care system. During the course of that work, the COVID-19 pandemic started, which posed particular challenges for family child care providers.

We connected with Natalie Vieira, policy advisor at All Our Kin, to talk more about the impact of the ongoing pandemic, how it's impacted family child care providers, and how resources like the toolkit have been useful during that time.

Can you tell us more about All Our Kin, and your work supporting family child care providers?

For 20 years, All Our Kin has offered resources, training, and support to family child care providers – primarily women who run small, regulated child care businesses in their homes. We know that home-based child care is one of the most common child care arrangements nationwide, especially for families that face the greatest barriers to accessing high-quality, affordable care. And yet, family child care providers are often overlooked in policy and practice.

All Our Kin invests in the power of family child care. And the result is what we call a triple win: child care providers succeed as educators and business owners; parents go to work knowing that their children are in safe, nurturing settings; and children receive the foundation for success in school and in life. We currently support more than 1,000 family child care professionals in Connecticut. And, through our technical assistance work, our reach is even greater as we partner with organizations across the country who are dedicated to supporting family child care in their own communities.

How has the pandemic affected family child care providers? How is All Our Kin supporting these providers to manage, and where possible overcome, these impacts?

Family child care businesses have never been more at risk. The cost of providing care has increased (because of increased health and safety measures) while enrollment has, in many cases, decreased. At the same time, family child care is in the spotlight in a way it has never been before. At the height of the pandemic when many child care centers were closed, it was family child care programs that were offering care to support our frontline workers. Our goal at All Our Kin has been to ensure that these incredible programs are still around when the pandemic is over.

Our pandemic response has focused on three main priorities:

  1.  First, ensuring the physical health and safety of providers, children, and families by distributing PPE, disseminating the latest public health information, and connecting family child care programs directly to health experts.
  2.  Second, striving for economic stability for family child care businesses by advocating for public investments in child care at the local, state, and federal level; establishing an emergency relief fund; and supporting providers in accessing federal financial relief options like PPP loans.
  3.  And finally, centering the social-emotional well-being of children, families, and educators by offering resources and training on topics including mindfulness and trauma-informed care.

Last year, we worked with you to develop a messaging toolkit for family child care providers and other stakeholders including associations, parents, policymakers, and other advocates. Why was this a priority for All Our Kin? How does this toolkit amplify the work you're doing as a partner in ZERO TO THREE's Think Babies effort?

Think Babies is all about ensuring that babies, their families, and their caregivers have what they need to thrive. Since most babies spend their critical early years in home-based child care settings (including family child care and family, friend, and neighbor care), it was important to us, and to ZERO TO THREE, that family child care is included in Think Babies messaging and advocacy, and that family child care providers see themselves as an important part of this work.

In developing the toolkit, we asked ourselves several key questions, including:

  • What do policymakers need to know about family child care?
  • How can early childhood advocates more effectively engage and include family child care in their work?
  • How can family child care providers get involved in the Think Babies movement?

In answering these questions, we created a resource that has something to offer many different audiences.

What feedback have you heard about the toolkit from those who have used it? How are they finding it useful in their work?

Folks are saying things like, “Finally! We’ve needed something like this!” There are a lot of negative assumptions out there about family child care and the people who provide that care. To have a resource that focuses on the many strengths of family child care, and honors the many reasons why families might choose this care, has been a valuable tool for partners in their work.

More important than developing resources like this toolkit is making sure they reach the people that need them and can use the information. What steps are you taking to make sure this toolkit makes it into the hands of the audiences who can use it?

We leveraged our extensive network of family child care providers, partners, and advocates at the local, state, and national levels to disseminate the toolkit far and wide. And we know it’s gained traction. Partners from Colorado to Texas to North Carolina to New York have used different components of the toolkit, from social media content to key messages about family child care. We’ve found that the toolkit is particularly useful to those who are newer to the family child care field and to those who are looking for a resource to educate others on the importance of family child care as part of an inclusive child care system.

As we were developing the toolkit, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In developing the toolkit, we also created a COVID supplement to pair with it. How has this been useful for the care providers you work with?

Advocacy has proved to be a critical lifeline for family child care during the pandemic. Without public investment at the local, state, and federal levels, many programs would not have survived. The COVID supplement of the toolkit offered a roadmap for that advocacy, highlighting the critical role that family child care has played during the pandemic and making the case for the role of family child care in states’ economic recovery plans.

What are your next steps to support family child care providers as we continue through this pandemic?

All Our Kin will continue to advocate for the resources that family child care providers need and deserve to survive the pandemic, while simultaneously pushing for big systems-level changes and investments, because we know that the child care crisis didn’t start with the pandemic, and it won’t end with it. We want to leverage the current momentum to secure long-term benefits, ultimately creating a system that provides equitable and affordable access to high-quality care of all types for children and families and fair compensation for educators.

What advice would you give to other organizations as they navigate how to support those impacted by the pandemic?

We know that the pandemic exacerbated many existing challenges. Echoing what I shared about All Our Kin’s next steps, I think it’s important for organizations to have a dual strategy: be nimble and responsive, acting quickly to get resources into the hands of those who need them, while also working towards longer-term solutions to issues of inequity and injustice through partnership and advocacy.