For many parents of young children, finding a childcare provider can be overwhelming. It often feels like there is some kind of secret code you need to crack in order to find a provider so you can return to work.
This is where Child Care Resources can step in. Child Care Resources is a nonprofit organization that has been supporting Washington families since 1990. They help families in their search for childcare, assist families experiencing homelessness with childcare costs, coach and provide resources for childcare professionals, and train and empower low-income and refugee women pursuing careers in early learning.
Their call center offers a one-stop shop for all childcare-related questions. They maintain comprehensive childcare referral lists and help parents and guardians understand the Early Achievers system and what to look for in a childcare program. For anyone who is interested in opening their own childcare program, they also provide information about licensing and becoming a licensed provider. They can also talk families through eligibility screening for financial assistance and in Burien, they assist with childcare costs for families experiencing homelessness.
All of their programs are free to use.
Supporting family, friend, and neighbor caregivers
According to Lisa Conley, manager of the Family Friend and Neighbor Program, 75 percent of Washington children are not in licensed childcare. Instead they are at home with a parent or in the care of extended family, friends, or neighbors while their parents are at work or school, and those caregivers are often not connected to early learning programs or supported by the statewide early learning system. Some parents prefer to have their children stay with extended family who share their language or culture. Parents who work untraditional or unpredictable hours often must rely on family, a friend, or a neighbor because licensed care doesn’t accommodate people who have shifting schedules.
The Family Friend and Neighbor program provides a range of support for this type of childcare arrangement. To meet the needs of these families, Child Care Resources works in partnership with local community-based organizations.
Supportive Network for Child Care Providers
Child Care Resources also provides comprehensive services for childcare providers. They help these small business owners secure the right licensing, meet regulations, and facilitate access to support and resources.
“We want providers to succeed,” said Stacy Morrison, Department Manager, Coaching King and Pierce Counties.
They also support the Kaleidoscope Play and Grow program, which offers parents and extended family, friend, and neighbor caregivers the opportunity to support their children’s early learning through everyday activities and build relationships with other participants. There are two groups currently meeting in Burien, in partnership with Southwest Youth and Family Services and Children’s Therapy Center.
“I got to know a mom who had been coming with three of her sons in sequence. She speaks Somali, but she joined the Spanish-speaking groups because she found it’s very community-oriented,” said Conley.
Pandemic Highlights Essential Nature of Childcare Work
It’s this long track record of success and relationships that made Child Care Resources the logical choice to support families through the pandemic. Both King County and City of Burien contracted with Child Care Resources to disburse $311,000 for childcare subsidies, helping 48 Burien households pay for three months of childcare.
They also stepped in to help childcare businesses survive the pandemic, and they are now busy helping these businesses reopen. Even before the pandemic, there were not enough providers to meet demand. It’s estimated that five childcare businesses in Burien closed last year.
“When the pandemic first started, a lot of businesses had to close,” said Morrison. “Right now, we are supporting a lot of marketing strategies, but we have also supported the childcare providers by helping them fill out grant applications, getting PPE supplies, and getting them back into compliance.”
Morrison expressed admiration for the providers who kept their doors open throughout the pandemic, while also respecting those who made the hard choice to temporarily close because of their own personal safety concerns.
“They are essential workers,” said Morrison. “They didn’t get what they deserved, working so hard, putting their lives in danger.”
Adapting to new ways of delivering service during the pandemic, Child Care Resources helped families with undocumented immigration status by distributing Visa gift cards, supported through private funding.
Other needs emerged as the pandemic wore on.
“We’re fielding a lot of questions about child development and the impact of isolation,” said Conley. Social-emotional growth, mental health, and getting along with peers are top concerns.
Conley also witnessed a large shift to family, friend, or neighbor caregiving.
“Childcare options were closed and they didn’t feel comfortable sending kids into a group setting,” Conley said.
They also saw a rise in middle school and high school students being asked to take care of younger siblings, or elderly or disabled family members, sometimes to the detriment of their own schoolwork.
“I don’t know if schools are prepared for students returning to in-person learning and being behind because of caregiving responsibilities,” said Conley.
Help is a phone call away
“Child Care Resources loves children and childcare providers. We want children to have better opportunities. This is an organization of fierce advocates for the early learning field and children.” said Norma Lobo, Family Resource Program Manager.
You can access their services by calling or texting their free Child Care Aware of Washington Family Resource Center at 1-800-446-1114, Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., or email email@example.com.