Family Star, Inc. of Denver, CO participated in the Early Head Start for Family Child Care demonstration project (EHS FCC) because it believed the program had something special to offer low‐income children in family child care. With a 20-year history as a high quality Head Start Montessori, the program wanted to learn about family child care. The program also wanted to decide whether implementing a family child care option in Early Head Start could fill unmet community needs for more infant and toddler care, while at the same time increase the quality of care by offering comprehensive services in the family child care environment.
The Denver Early Childhood Council was an ideal partner for Family Star. The council is the hub for family child care in the community, connecting more than 600 family child care providers to resources. The council could bring expertise in licensing and family child care to the project. Council staff was enthusiastic about more coordinated support for family child care and saw the partnership as an opportunity to leverage resources in order to more effectively serve families in need.
The project was eye-opening for everyone involved. For the first time, many of the EHS staff visited child care homes, gaining new understanding that FCC homes are small business and providers work long hours, may not have resources such as computers, and may be unavailable for telephone conversations or for professional development during the weekdays.
As major EHS FCC successes, team members reported recent accomplishments: two well-attended stakeholder meetings, professional development for providers, and outreach to the family child care community. The state’s Expanding Quality professional development initiative is reaching providers who hadn’t previously attended the 48-hour training course, and has a waiting list of 50 for a class limited to 25 participants.
As further evidence of the strength of the partnership, Family Star has decided to include family child care in their continuation application for EHS. The program is proposing to partner with two to three family child care providers, serving up to 10 children and using EHS funds to provide financial compensation and support to providers. Providers will also care for non‐EHS children, some of whom will be eligible for child care subsidy funds.
As a result of this project, parents and the entire early care community in Denver know more about family child care options, and lessons from the project will influence state‐level quality improvement efforts.
According to Child Care Partnership Coordinator Diane Medina, the EHS FCC project was just the beginning. “What I came to understand during these nine months is that we are more the same than different in striving towards a consistent and manageable system that adds value to the work of FCC providers,” Medina said. “This project gave us an opportunity to think outside of the box. Now the real works begins.”