A Report from the Field - Caring for Our Children

An Early Care and Education Lunch & Learn Convening

Advocates for early child care and education gathered at the Santa Barbara Foundation for a lunch seminar with an expert panel to address the needs in Santa Barbara County for early care for children ages zero to five. Rubayi Estes, Community Investment Officer at the Santa Barbara Foundation moderated the panel that included, Terri Allison from the Santa Barbara County Child Care Planning Council, Samuel Duarte from THRIVE Guadalupe, Michelle Graham, Children’s Resource and Referral of Santa Barbara County, and Sharol Viker, from First 5 Santa Barbara County.

These experts explored the four common themes that the community of practitioners strive to accommodate – quality, affordability, access, and compensation. The room was packed with knowledgeable, interested individuals and agency representatives which made for a lively dialogue on community needs and best practices for the youngest and most vulnerable members of our county.

In discussing the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Early Care and Education grant program (which was concluded in April and resulted in the funding of $150,000 to 12 agencies), Estes explained, “the grant program was designed to address the priorities identified by provider networks, which in turn attracted proposals from outstanding programs and well-coordinated partnerships. The rigorous review process led to the understanding that we needed to do more,” she concluded. This seminar was the start of that process to share learnings as well as a recently published needs assessment from the Child Care Planning Council and its many partners in the early care sector.

Panel from left to right: Michelle Graham, Children’s Resource and Referral of Santa Barbara County; Sharol Viker, from First 5 Santa Barbara County; Terri Allison from the Santa Barbara County Child Care Planning Council; Samuel Duarte from THRIVE Guadalupe; Moderator, Rubayi Estes, Community Investment Officer at the Santa Barbara Foundation; Opening/Closing remarks by Jan Campbell, Chief Philantrhopic Officer and SVP at the Santa Barbara Foundation

Graham and Viker jointly addressed the quality of both child care centers and family child care homes. Within Santa Barbara County there are now 48 child care centers that have reached accreditation and 31 centers working towards accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. For family child care homes, 9 have been accredited within the county and 18 family child care homes are working towards accreditation by the National Association for Family Child Care.

Quality assurance is critical and it is important to understand the many ways children receive care during their early years, from center-based, to family child care and lastly and most broadly from family, friend and neighbors. Viker directed the participants to a little hand out provided by QualityChildCareSB.org which encourages parents to understand quality child care and demand it! In reviewing care facilities, parents should SEE fun, safe, challenging learning environments, they should HEAR playful sounds and rich conversations and they should FEEL that everyone is welcomed, loved and valued. The panel shared examples of programs that reach and help increase quality in all settings.

The conversation took an honest, self-reflective turn when talking about affordability and compensation. Though child care providers serving our county’s neediest families, have access to federal and state funds, they are still vulnerable to funding fluctuations which can limit available spaces. Most programs blend different funding sources to make it more affordable for families, as they are aware that the cost of child care can consume up to 35% of family’s budget. Costs for infant and toddler care is higher still and the need is great with available spaces for only one in five children. The panel shared examples of programs that reach and help increase quality in all of those settings.

Scholarships from funders such as the Santa Barbara Foundation’s William and Lottie Daniel Child Care Scholarship Fund are available, but still the resources are limited.

Adding to the complexity of this issue, is the reality that while the cost of child care is high, compensation for child care providers in Santa Barbara County remains lower than other areas. Most individuals that go into early care as a profession have a level of passion for this work which does not match the compensation.

Barbara Finch, Children and Adult Network Director, Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services

While women make up the majority of providers in this field, Duarte noted that he has witnessed the key role men can play in this work. Regardless of gender, attracting, retaining and training providers is challenging – but critical for consistency and quality of care.

All of the panelists acknowledged the importance of seeing the parent as the child’s first teacher. Duarte’s work on the Parent Academy at THRIVE Guadalupe puts the parents at the forefront of THRIVE’s child development, family, and community service projects. The parents advocate for themselves and others and are involved at various levels in the Academy including leadership.

“They (child care providers) are doing more today to make change while at the same time resources are being taken away.” Said Allison, “We all must be advocates.”

At the conclusion of the seminar, the attendees appeared eager to come together again for additional information sharing and support – be it financial or as a participant voice to do more for the future of early care and education. Issuing a call to action for resources and support for this work, Jan Campbell, Chief Philanthropic Officer, closed with the words of Leslie Voss, Director of Early Childhood Care and Education Services at UC Santa Barbara, we must “stand together, lean together.”

Learn more about the difference investment in early years can make by viewing this video.

Please stand with us in support by reaching out to Jan Campbell at jcampbell@sbfoundation.org or Rubayi Estes at restes@sbfoundation.org

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