Child Care Associates (CCA) has been tapped to lead Tarrant County’s efforts to ensure childcare for children of essential workers, as well as to support childcare providers during the COVID-19 response period. Just before the emergency declaration was made by Tarrant County, CCA’s CEO Kara Waddell was asked to help coordinate a response.
A fundamental building block in disaster response is to understand the supply.
“In working to determine the supply of available childcare, CCA turned to our data and technology partners to build an online platform that allowed remote users to update childcare status,” Waddell said in a statement. “Critical information such as if a childcare program is open and how many slots are available for children by age, is now available through this platform.”
Within days, former classroom coaches now turned “caseworkers” had called every licensed facility in Tarrant County. In partnership with The Best Place for Kids!™, CampFire and Educational First Steps, CCA helped to stand up the new, free childcare search function FIND! (https://find.bestplace4kids.com/families) to help essential workers see where the quality, available child care slots are for children zero-12 years of age across Tarrant County.
“Our community is now able to support working parents, specifically essential service workers during this emergency, with easy-to-use search tools. FIND! grants working parents the real-time information they need to make the incredibly personal decision of finding quality care for their children,” said Cheraya Pena, program director, The Best Place for Kids!™.
Post-COVID, this platform will serve every family who needs childcare by allowing a quick search for available quality childcare including openings for immediate service. http://find.bestplace4kids.com
Financial Support for Child Care for Essential Workers
CCA also launched new financial support services for essential workers. Now essential workers can apply to offset 100 percent of childcare costs via CCA’s Child Care Management Services (CCMS) program. CCA-CCMS works with Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County to pay for the cost of childcare for more than 7,300 lower-income working families across the county. Using this same system, CCA has now launched an emergency three-month assistance program for essential service workers to cover 100 percent of childcare costs. (https://bestplace4kids.com/child-care-financial-assistance-for-covid-19-essential-workers)
CCA said is was well positioned to direct the county’s response because of its scale and close working connections with the hundreds of childcare programs across the county. Waddell also brings experience in disaster relief from 10 years of international relief and development efforts in China.
“What’s important in disaster relief is to remember that disaster response requires local action. CCA already had close ties to our county and city leaders as well as close connections with childcare programs. We were just really well-positioned to respond when our leaders called upon us,” said Waddell.
Child Care is Critical
In addition to launching the new FIND! search tool and the financial assistance weblink, CCA has been helping the 412 childcare programs open for childcare during this response period. CCA and community volunteers delivered health and safety supplies to the front doorstep of childcare programs.
“I’m not sure everyone considered childcare ‘essential’ until COVID really hit. Our county’s childcare programs really are frontline workers, too, helping to ensure children are healthy and safe and essential workers can serve our community,” Waddell said.
With COVID-19, CCA changed how early education is delivered but is still serving children and families daily. CCA provides early education and care services to 2,300 infants, toddlers and preschoolers from disadvantaged families daily.
CCA Family Service Advocates have been reaching out to families to connect them to meal services, food pick up points and even doing door-to-door delivery of critically need infant formula and diapers. CCA teachers are in live remote contact with young children through an app that connects children to home learning.
“At CCA, we’re supporting our youngest Texans in our communities to feel connected during what can be a frightening time for young children,” added Dr. Travis Davis, CCA’s Chief of Early Education. “CCA is also working with the Tarrant Area Food Bank and other partners to ensure families with young children are accessing formula, diapers and others supplies needed by young children.”
CCA’s Waddell was also asked to serve on Gov. Greg Abbott’s Texas Frontline Child Care Task Force to guide statewide efforts. The Tarrant County FIND! platform proved the concept and served as a model for the statewide platform just launched to help guide essential workers across Texas to the 86,000 available childcare slots in the state. Waddell was also asked to join a National Emergency Child Care Working Group convened by Save the Children along with select federal and nonprofit leaders.
– FWBP Staff