In a huge collaborative effort, three ESU 13 school districts (Chadron, Gering, and Sidney) were awarded funds through a regional application for the Sixpence Child Care Partnership grants. In total, the amount will be $675,000 for the first year and an additional $600,000 per year for a minimum of 3 years.
These opportunities were made available through legislative funds given to Sixpence who matched those funds with endowment dollars, and then put forward and RFP to school districts willing to start programs to improve child care experiences for at-risk Infants and Toddlers.
The Panhandle has been working with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute to create a system for children in the early childhood years of Birth to age 9. The Panhandle team made up of ESU 13 Superintendents and the EC partners from the Panhandle Partnership Systems of Care: 0-8 felt that an application for these child care partnership grants could be a first step in our attempt at creating that system. But to create a systems approach it didn’t make sense to have one school district apply, we decided to apply for 3 grants where each would serve as a consortium for the sub-regions of the Panhandle (North, Central, South). We also sent the applications in with the understanding that it would be 3 grants awarded to the Panhandle or we didn’t want any of the money as it was that important to us have an impact on the Panhandle as a whole. Apparently they liked that proposal!
The grant has multi-level goals: Increased quality in Child Care Programs (CCP), Workforce Development for CC staff, improved experiences for Infants and Toddlers with greater access to quality programs at a reduced rate for those qualifying, and improved family connections and protective factors.
In the end 9 school districts are involved with 16 partnering child care programs. ESU 13 as the contracted provider will hire a Program Coordinator with 3 Coach Mentors and a part-time Services Coordinator. These staff will help child care programs work through the Step Up to Quality improvement process in order to have all 16 programs at a minimum of Step 3 by the end of the 3 year cycle.
It is the hope of the grant committee that as programs reach their goal of a Step 3 or higher, new CCP will chose to participate in the work along with more school districts joining the consortiums.