Start Young Bridges the Gaps in Our Broken Child Care System
Kansas City, Kansas — The Family Conservancy (TFC) was approved for $1.6 million in funding from the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund Early Childhood Block Grant. These funds will impact at least 1,245 children, teachers, and families by supporting 30 child care partners (15 center-based and 15 in-home child care businesses).
With the receipt of this funding, TFC will merge its community child care provider involvement with the longtime program in Wyandotte County, known as Successful Partnerships to assure Readiness for Kindergarten (SPARK), with Start Young. TFC has been providing coaching and social emotional support via Project SPARK since 2013. They launched their Start Young program in 2018.
TFC’s Start Young program manager, Crystal Henry, commented on the merger, “Merging Start Young and the community child care center element of Project SPARK is a natural progression. Much of early education is focused on developing the social-emotional and relationship skills children need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Combining these programs helps TFC better utilize existing resources and expand coaching services to more classrooms in Wyandotte County. This will allow us to focus on improving our collaboration between coaching and training so that the approaches teachers are implementing are complementary and cohesive.”
According to Child Care Aware of Kansas’ most recent Child Care Supply Demand Report, Wyandotte County only has capacity to meet 26 percent of the demand for care, and the pandemic has made things much worse. From March 2020 through March 2021,15 child care businesses permanently closed in Wyandotte County, resulting in a loss of capacity to care for 447 children.
With this funding, TFC will continue to address some of the most difficult child care-related challenges facing families in Wyandotte County — the affordability and availability of care, the retention of teachers and the quality of programming. Since 2018, Start Young has created 346 new child care spaces and helped fill them through scholarships and material/furnishing grants, provided salary supplements and education scholarships to teachers, and improved the quality of existing programs by providing professional development and coaching to teachers and administrators.
The project also helps families afford care by helping them access the state child care subsidy. “Finding a program that accepts subsidy payments is a significant challenge for low-income families, but finding a high-quality program that accepts subsidies is a struggle that hits low-income families especially hard,” added Henry.
In the wake of the pandemic, there has been much debate around the future of child care. In Wyandotte County, TFC’s system-building approach to improving the accessibility and quality of early childhood education is a rare real-world example of how we can create a child care system that works for everyone.
About the Family Conservancy:
The Family Conservancy helps children take advantage of the most important period of human development by improving early learning environments, building resilience and empowering families. TFC is focused on the first five years, because that’s when the foundations of healthy brains and bodies are built.
About the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund:
The 1999 Legislative session created the Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund to oversee the expenditures from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Ninety-five percent of the state’s portion of the Master Settlement Agreement was dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children and youth in the state.