SAC Focus Topic: Building Capacity for Early Care & Learning

The State Advisory Council (SAC) decided on two focus topic areas for the 2017-2018 fiscal year: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)/social emotional development and child care capacity building.

At the March 2018 meeting, the BBF Early Learning and Development Committee (ELD), one of the BBF committees charged with monitoring the progress of Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan, gave a presentation on strategies that have been identified to build child care capacity in Vermont. ELD Co-Chairs Janet McLaughlin, Executive Director of Vermont Birth to Five, and Christel Michaud, Director of Child Care Licensing at the Child Development Division made the presentation.

Christel shared that this conversation began with the meeting of an ad hoc child care capacity coalition. There was representation from many statewide partners and the goals of the meeting were to establish a shared vision and develop strategies to identify leadership moving forward. The strategies identified during this meeting included the following:

  1. Demand study
  2. Recruitment campaign
  3. Business supports
  4. Addressing barriers to recruitment or expansion
  5. Resources for start-up or expansion
  6. Building capacity in the workforce

Janet then shared that, at the end of their meeting, it was determined that BBF’s Early Learning and Development Committee was the best place to take on this work and oversee it. They’ve since developed implementation teams for five of the six strategies recognized thus far:

  1. Demand study – Work group developed from the ELDC
  2. Addressing barriers – ELDC
  3. Recruitment campaign – Agency of Commerce & Community Development
  4. Building capacity of workforce – Professional Development Committee
  5. Resources for startups and expansion – Vermont Birth to Five
  6. Business Supports – To be determined

Janet then went into more detail regarding the Demand study and the resources for expansion.

The goal of the demand study is to better understand family needs and desires when it comes to child care. Funding sources and a research partner have been identified and a scope of work for the study is underway. The proposed timeline is to start in late August and September when parents are more settled in their child care situation and to have the study finished around Thanksgiving. Draft research questions include:

  • What are households’ current early care and education arrangements for children not yet in kindergarten?
  • What are parents’ perception and preferences for early care and education?
  • What factors can constrain parental choice?

Regarding resources for expansion, Janet shared that Vermont Birth to Five has created a community based capacity building grant called “Make Way for Kids” that focuses on increasing the number of four and five star child care spaces. The goal is to get 500 new slots available for children in the next year. VB5 decided to move quickly on this—people had six weeks to get proposals in. However, the response was larger than expected with inquiries across the state in both centers, home-based programs, and schools.

After the presentation, the SAC was asked to reflect and discuss their thoughts regarding this work and topic area. Ideas that emerged:

  • This conversation isn’t just about how many slots are available, but also the cost associated with expansion. The system as a whole is flawed and major barriers to expansion include finding qualified staff.
  • There currently isn’t enough money in the system to make things work, but we recognize the need to pursue longer term systems strategies at the same time we pursue more low-hanging fruit to help move the needle on capacity.
  • The need to reach out to child care providers about what their constraints to expansion are. This would help us to get a read on the existing system so that we can learn how to build from there.
  • It’s already clear why there are no slots available. What is not clear, and needs to be determined, is how to pay for the slots.
  • The demand study is an essential public health approach and this committee has been talking about doing one for a long time. The study will provide a strong and defensible conversation around what families are using for child care in Vermont and what they wish was available to them.

The Early Learning and Development Committee will be holding its next meeting on this topic on Thursday, April 12th and would welcome involvement from SAC members, BBF regional council members, and others.

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