Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in high-quality child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.
By Marie Huey (Video by Kristie Thorson)
Darcy Barry discovered her passion for teaching young children early on, and she’s still going strong. A child care provider in Moorhead, Minnesota, for 23 years, Darcy’s impact reaches throughout the community.
Darcy’s program, Teddy Bear House, is Four Star Parent Aware rated. She’s always been passionate about educating children, and earning the rating lets others know that. She teaches the children important skills such as reading, art, and music. And she combines that teaching with a large helping of nurturing and warmth.
“Every day is different. Every day is fun. It’s all about the kids and the families.”
The Four Star rating qualifies her to receive Early Learning Scholarships, which was one of the main motivations for her to earn it. Early Learning Scholarships help parents pay for high-quality care. More than half of her children receive scholarships.
“The main reason I wanted to do the scholarships was for the families so they could come to daycare and not have to worry about the financial part because it’s a burden,” said Darcy.
The parents of the children in her program go to school or work full time, so access to consistent, quality care is essential.
Inside our Report to the Community, you will find highlights from the past fiscal year, along with photos that capture all of the ways we are working hard to help create those brighter futures, by preparing early childhood providers, strengthening Minnesota families, and by catalyzing change with our policy and advocacy efforts.
Our annual report also shares our financial position as of June 30, 2017, and recognizes the generous contributions made by our volunteers and donors to make our work possible.
In the past year, Think Small has provided 1,100 trainings and over 3,200 hours of one-on-one coaching services to 15,500 child care providers in Minnesota. We have strengthened over 9,800 families by connecting them to quality early care and education through financial support, resources and referrals. And we have provided essential early learning resources to countless more through our Early Childhood library and through the distribution of more than 200,000 early childhood products around the world via our award-winning Redleaf Press.
By Marie Huey, Public Policy and Advocacy Coordinator
Staff from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) presented at November Policy Hour about the changes to child care in Minnesota. During the 2017 legislative session, many changes passed to help Minnesota come into compliance with federal updates to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) Changes Nicole Frethem gave an overview of changes to CCAP. Families receiving CCAP will now have 12 months of continuous eligibility, providing more stability than the previous system of redetermining eligibility every 6 months. During those 12 months, copayments will not go up with changes in family income, although they can go down if necessary. Most families will have to report less information during this time about changes in work schedule or child care needs.
Licensing Michelle McGregor gave an overview of changes to child care licensing. License-exempt programs that serve children receiving CCAP will now need to go through a certification process. This includes many after school programs and requires them to meet additional health and safety standards, along with some other new requirements.
In 2017, Think Small undertook new efforts to increase the number of child care providers who devote their care to ensuring children’s health, safety, and best practices for early learning through participation in Parent Aware. Parent Aware is the statewide Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for Minnesota. Parent Aware participation and quality ratings are focused on getting children ready to succeed in school and bring significant benefits to licensed care providers, both family and center-based. Parent Aware is the opportunity for providers to go beyond basic care certification and strengthen their commitment to excellence.
Think Small was responding specifically to a steady decline in the number of family child care programs in Minneapolis and St. Paul (15% from 2014 to 2017) and the smallest number of providers entering Parent Aware in the history of the program. This was a concerning trend as the metro area has a significant number of family child care providers of color and new immigrant providers, who often serve populations with limited resources and opportunities. Parent Aware participation makes a valuable range of free and low-cost resources available to support providers, including coaching and trainings from early childhood professionals, professional development support, funding support for quality improvements, and access to higher child care assistance rates and early learning scholarships.
Watch this video Think Small produced highlighting the benefits of participating in Parent Aware.