Focus Child Care Networks: Focusing Our Work

Focus Child Care Networks might be familiar to you or they might be completely unknown. Either way, some things are known for sure: · Family Child Care(FCC) is a preferred choice of many parents of children under the age of 3.

  • · The quality of Family Child Care(FCC) can vary wildly.
  • · Most FCC providers work in almost total isolation, with little opportunity to share ideas, learn new skills, or receive quality improvement supports
  • · Excellent FCC have a huge impact on the form and function of care for infants and toddlers.
  • · Achieving quality in FCC is especially difficult for providers in times when funding is scarce. (Zero to Three Public Policy Center; May: 201)

Home-based child care providers are crucial to early learning, so the Oregon Department of Education and the Early Learning Division have directed the Early Learning Hubs to develop staffed, Focus Child Care Networks to support family child care. Each of the 16 Early Learning Hubs have enlisted CCR&R to form these Networks.  A Full Network is 15 to 20 providers with things in common; like language.  Once created, Networks receive direct support for professional development.  The final goal is achieving a certificate, degree or higher step on the Oregon Registry or a Star Rating.  Each cohort spends about two years in the Network. 

Northwest Early Learning Hub has identified as possible cohort groups ;  licensed-exempt and licensed providers in poverty hot spots and other rural area across Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook Counties, especially Spanish-speaking providers.Financial support is critical so grant-funding from ODE/DHS makes financial incentives part of the work.  Administration by the Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University, Oregon’s QRIS/Spark system guides staff and participants through the process. Enhanced financial supports make help those working towards quality and make it sustainable.  For example, once  involved in a Network, providers can receive support funds to help offset costs of quality improvements needed to finish the portfolio.  Incentive funds are also awarded to programs after they submit a portfolio and achieve a star rating. Support funds must be used for quality improvements, like equipment or curriculum materials. Incentive funds serve as a reward for the achievement and help pay for any ongoing costs of increased quality.Support funds may be dispersed in increments as small as $500 and up to the full amount allocated ($1000 for small programs to $5000 for large programs).

 More and better information about the critical impact of early learning experiences on very young children has turned the attention of child care towards quality as never before. The involvement of public money-one third of infants and one fourth of toddlers in family child care receive state subsidies-has underscored this conversation. The Child Care and Development Block Grant of 2014 aimed at linking these financial supports with quality improvements in the form of increased trainings and support services for providers.  Studies have shown that FCC providers affiliated with some sort of support group offer higher quality care to infants and toddlers (Kontos, NY: 1995).

Those wishing to participate in Focus Child Care Networks must be eligible for the program and for enhanced support funds by the Focus Network (FN) QIS  Specialist.  Currently, Debby and Virginia do this work for the three counties, but there are plans to hire a third specialist to focus on QIS and be stationed in Columbia County. Focus Child Care Networks begin with you; the all-important family child care professionals that do the daily job of nurturing and developing healthy children.  In the coming months, NW Regional CCR&R will begin building two Focus Child Care Networks across our three counties.  We want to make sure we are dedicating the bulk of this work to those traditionally underserved. We also want to make sure that we include providers that may have been participating in a FCCN before and hadn’t finished their process.  Whether our Networks shape up to have language, culture or economic need as their main identifier, we know that supporting the work of our Family Child Care providers is best practice.