- Report Published -
|Rural Child Care Project|
|Department for Children|
|Chapter 198 (Regular Session, 1988)|
|Two years ago Caroline County, a rural locality, had no regulated child care services. When the Division of Licensing Programs, Department of Social Services, responded to concerns about the number of children in unregulated care in Caroline County, community leaders were alerted to the magnitude of existing child care problems in rural areas.|
Critical barriers to overcoming the lack of child care were:
* Lack of community-wide support for the development and implementation of child care strategies,
* Lack of financial resources, and
* Lack of regulated and/or qualified, trained child care providers.
Caroline County has worked to overcome these barriers through the Rural Child Care Project. A Caroline County Task Force on Child Care rallied citizens to alert the 1988 General Assembly to their child care dilemma. There was no licensed or regulated child care in the county. The legislature responded quickly, mandating the Department for Children to collaborate with the Department of Social Services and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service to develop pilot rural child care programs (Senate Bill 325, Chapter 198, 1988 Acts of the General Assembly).
The Caroline County Task Force on Child Care, appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 1987 and responsible for informing legislators and the community about child care problems, became prime movers in implementing the Rural Child Care Project in 1988 and 1989, with the technical assistance of several state agencies. The local leadership of the County Planner and the Unit Director/Home Economist of the Caroline Cooperative Extension Service, was essential to the success of the project.
* Developed a state-level technical assistance model designed to be utilized in replicating the project in other rural areas.
* Developed and implemented a media campaign designed to gain grass-roots community support for child care strategies and to recruit child care providers.
* Established a child care resource and referral service within the local Cooperative Extension Service Unit to assist the community in recruiting and giving technical assistance to providers, coordinating training opportunities, and assisting parents to make decisions about child care.
*Enlisted a USDA Child Care Food Program sponsoring agency to assist providers with subsidies for good nutrition for children.
*Sponsored a ten-week child care training course through the Caroline County Adult Vocational Education Program.
*Collaborated with Rappahannock Community College to offer a one-time, tuition-free introductory child care course.
*Offered learn-at-home training materials for child care providers.
*Obtained and utilized child care subsidy funds for low-income working parents.
*Informed employers about child care benefits.
*Initiated community planning efforts for school-age child care programs.
*Created a viable working model for interagency cooperation.
* State-level technical assistance is invaluable for rural areas which lack resources to develop strategies for the expansion of child care services.
* The high level of community commitment to eliminating barriers to the expansion of child care services is directly related to the success of the project.
* A multi-media effort, that includes personal contact with members of the community, is essential to gain support for local strategies and for recruiting providers.
* A community agency (child care resource and referral) that serves families from all income levels, as well as providers and employers, is needed to coordinate local recruitment efforts, training programs, public information campaigns, and outreach to various community groups.
* Providers need a variety of training opportunities which include in-service training, college level courses, and learn-at-home materials.
* Funding sources for child care are extremely limited, including local, state, federal, and private sources.
* Employers in rural areas are not aware of the impact of lack of child care services on their businesses.
* School-age child care programs require long range planning, and legislative change is needed to permit school sponsorship of child care in areas that have no other resources.
* Replication of the Rural Child Care Project will be possible with the proper allocation of resources in the future.
There are now fifty-five family day care homes listed with the Child Care Resource and Referral Service. Four of these homes are licensed, and two are locally approved by the Department of Social Services. A child care center has been licensed, and a church has established a program that is exempt from licensure. Parents and employers now have resources to deal with personal and community child care needs.
Much remains to be accomplished, however. Additional funding is needed to initiate and expand child care programs and services. Financial barriers to the development of a school-age child care program have not been overcome. A needs assessment survey conducted by the Task Force found a large number of young Caroline County children at home alone during out-of-school hours. A survey of employers in Caroline revealed that more information about child care strategies is needed. Low-cost, accessible provider training programs will continue to be needed since less than half of the providers listed with the child care resource and referral service attended training sessions during the project. Local health and fire departments have indicated the need for additional resources to provide 'inspection and technical assistance services to unregulated and regulated providers in isolated rural areas.
The challenge to provide high quality and affordable child care in rural areas is considerable; however, the Rural Child Care Project has demonstrated that the challenge can be met by
* Committed leadership by local public officials,
* State-, regional-, and community-level collaboration,
* Enthusiastic commitment to project goals by all participants, and
* An established infrastructure for the expansion and support of child care services.