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Home-Based Child Care Voices from the Field: Quality Supports

December 2, 2021

Home-based education leaders Ruth Kimble, DeCarla Burton, Martina Rocha, and Erma Jackson contributed to this second blog in the HBCC Voices from the Field Series.

Home-Based Child Care Leaders Insist on Quality Early Care and Education:
Here’s How They Produce It

Other than parental care, home-based child care (HBCC) is the type of infant/toddler care used most often in the United States. In fact, almost 30 percent of infants and toddlers attend home-based care. Yet, supports for home-based educators are scarce. Leaders in the field — home-based educators themselves who understand the desperate need to provide high-quality care and education for our youngest children — have stepped in to fill the void. Following are just some of the effective methods they have used to improve quality.

The Cohort Model

The cohort model has been useful in helping providers get ready for and participate in quality rating systems. The cohorts began with us getting out into the field to see what the needs were. We hired a network coordinator and an administrative coordinator who are tasked with getting the word out about trainings to providers by email or phone, submitting a monthly report to the executive director of our network, and following up on the director’s suggested implementation strategies. We have an average of 22 providers participating in information sessions such as Build Back Better federal grant guidelines, best business practices, and the Environmental Rating Scale, and math and English tutoring in preparation for the Infant/Toddler Credential placement test, college enrollment coaching, and computer technology training. The cohorts of educators who come into a home and provide training and guidance have resulted in an interest on the part of many providers to grow as professionals.

Degree/Credential Completion and Movement into Leadership Roles

We encourage our providers to go back to school and get whatever they need to be successful. Prior to COVID, we always supported them in going back to school to further their credentials. After COVID, we saw the need to increase that support. We hired someone to work individually with providers to create a quality improvement plan to that leads them to the completion of those credentials or degree. We incorporate the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Professional Development Record in an effort to monitor course completion. Practitioners are performing self-assessments to determine areas of instructional improvement, which is aligned with the Environmental Rating Scale (ERS) training. We encourage them to utilize community resources, such as consultation with community librarians, to promote literacy skills for their young clients as well the families they serve. In addition, we are in the planning phase of providing our practitioners with fiscal and business plan development training.

In the long run, we want our providers to get engaged in leadership roles. We need the leadership to work with providers to understand how to move the needle in their community. We encourage our providers to get their degrees, but to not stop there because there is so much work to do to raise up the industry.

Living Up to our Title

It’s important to help providers realize that they’re not babysitters, but educators. Particularly in our cultures, when we take care of children, that’s what we’re called. But we are not “niñeras.” When the children arrive every morning, we are ready with lesson plans. We have curricula and the children learn something new every single day. We do realize that we have some educators who are satisfied with being babysitters. But those of us who are serious about this field must try to empower those that don’t yet see themselves there. We want to change the industry and ensure others see us as the professionals we are. We want to continue to lift the bar.

Providing Worthwhile Professional Development Opportunities

Very often, trainings provide little more than an opportunity to fulfill professional development requirements. Trainers don’t always have the same level of commitment and passion that many home-based providers do. When we offer presentations and workshops to our network, we look for the best presenters–not because it’s mandatory or because we want to provide an opportunity to gain two credits. We do it because we want to learn. We want to become better educators every day. And we want something new. Hearing the same workshops over and over causes providers to lose the motivation to come to the workshops.

Some of the other networks have to go looking for attendees. But in every training we provide, there’s a full house. This happens because the people in our network know that when we do something, we do it from our hearts. We make sure they will walk away with something they to perform their job more effectively.

The Importance of Our Work

We think it’s vital that we look for opportunities not only to get providers involved in supports that will sharpen their skills but to improve the care and education offered to our youngest children. The benefits of these efforts are clear: educators and leaders become empowered by the actions they take and the difference they make, children in home-based settings benefit from high-quality early care and education, and the HBCC industry is lifted up. We are closing the gap in both the availability of supports for home-based educators as compared to center based, and the quality of opportunities available to children in home-based care

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