An Opportunity to Reimagine the Kentucky Child Care Landscape. . . Or Rewind the Clock?
Twenty to thirty years ago, Family Child Care (FCC) Providers (regulated home-based childcare businesses) were a part of the childcare landscape in Kentucky and, along with childcare centers, provided parents with a choice to best meet their childcare needs.
In 2021, few FCC Providers still exist in Kentucky. Providers have retired and potential new Providers can face challenges that become roadblocks to pursuing a home-based childcare business. But there are still families who need child care everyday. In some parts of the state, there are up to eight children for every one childcare slot.
The Prichard Committee and Kentucky’s Division of Child Care began a partnership in 2019 that, through statewide childcare organizations, stakeholders and advocates, is creating opportunities for new regulated home-based childcare businesses by expanding high quality family child care.
However, amidst this work and efforts to bring new FCC providers on board, the work has led to the discovery that “challenges can become roadblocks” for someone interested in starting this business. In 2020, Prichard engaged nationally recognized early childhood education consultants Opportunities Exchange (OE) to better understand the barriers and recommended solutions and to help understand how childcare challenges have been addressed in other parts of the country.
Louise Stoney, OE Co-Founder, shared her thoughts about what it will take to eliminate barriers to establishing new Family Child Care businesses in Kentucky. She also addresses the need for Staffed Family Child Care Networks (SFCCN), funded programs that provide supports and services to meet the unique needs of FCC providers through staffed network personnel who have specialized education and expertise specific to FCC providers.
What is the biggest barrier to a successful home-based childcare business?
The biggest barrier is money. The market price in most Kentucky communities is too low to generate enough income for an FCC provider—even if they are managing all aspects of business effectively. Thus, expanding childcare will require either higher reimbursement rates or another form of state subsidy to augment parent fees.
Child Care Assistance is critical for the ability of many families to secure childcare. Is there a need to increase and/or change the way Kentucky invests public monies in childcare assistance?
In addition to increasing subsidy rate (as noted above), awarding slot contracts to SFCCN to administer on behalf of a network of provider would not only guarantee a steady revenue stream but it would simplify the application process for families and create an incentive for providers to join networks.
Are there ways of structuring FCC that could better support the provider as a small business?
SCCFN’s that focus on deep business supports and leverage additional third party funding (such as CACFP dollars and other public-private grants) CAN succeed.
What about technology? Are there innovations and best practices that could improve the operations of FCC?
Automation is key. All providers that participate in a SFCCN, and receive a higher rate, should be required to use an automated system (like Wonderschool) that makes it possible to deliver business supports at scale. The state should embrace technology, and encourage electronic submission of accountability documentation and other required records.
Are there other recommendations about how regulations could better support more home-based care?
Additionally, Kentucky should consider creating a ‘large FCC’ category that enables a caregiver + an assistant to serve up to 12 full-time + 4 part-time after-school kids — modeled after nearby TN, which includes micro-centers.
Zoning is a barrier in some urban/suburban areas. Consistent/standard zoning regulations for FCC would remove a huge barrier for potential new providers.
For more details and information supporting all recommendations, the full Opportunities Exchange report – Staffed Family Child Care Networks: An Opportunity to Reimagine the Kentucky Child Care Landscape – can be found here.