Working Together to Improve Local Childcare
By Maura TeynorApril 24, 2023
Anticipating its 25th Anniversary, the Women’s Fund of the Richland County Foundation put into motion an extensive research plan to find a way to make a larger impact.
We began our research in 2018 with a community survey to determine the impact of our past grants and awareness of the Women’s Fund. The survey led to a Women’s Fund Advisory Committee retreat in the spring of 2019.
The retreat utilized the Design Thinking process and focused on unique empathy exercises backed by national data to illuminate insights about the women we are trying to better understand and serve. For example, in order for women to achieve economic security they need an education and a good-paying job.
Quality childcare, a strong support system, and reliable transportation were identified as the primary barriers to economic security. The retreat gave us critical insight into these barriers but also highlighted a need for additional information from social service professionals who are deeply entrenched in working with women facing these issues.
The Women’s Fund convened two focus groups comprised of local leaders from the mental health and education fields. Many things were discussed but a major recurring theme was improving access to affordable, quality childcare. As a result, The Women's Fund made a commitment to focus a major portion of its grant dollars on this issue for a minimum of three to five years.
The Women’s Fund then convened childcare providers and users for their valuable input. That led to the creation of a Childcare Committee which included representatives from childcare providers and community organizations.
It merits mention that before this effort by the Women’s Fund these leaders never convened to discuss childcare needs in Richland County. We are proud this group continues to meet.
In November 2019, the Women’s Fund awarded its largest grant ever to this group, $25,000, for its Childcare Step Up to Quality project. The Richland County Youth and Family Council provided a $25,000 match for this initiative. The Women’s Fund and RCYFC have made the same investment each subsequent year.
Initially, the Childcare Committee awarded grants to local providers to meet Ohio’s new Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) standards. The goal was to retain and grow available high‐quality childcare in the community. SUTQ was a comprehensive system to rate and monitor early learning and development programs including those offered in childcare facilities and in-home providers.
In December 2022, an amendment to House Bill 45 removed the requirement for some early education providers to participate in SUTQ.
Over the past four-and-a-half years, the Childcare Committee has awarded grants to provide a variety of resources to childcare providers in Richland County. During the pandemic, it became important to support and recruit additional in-home providers to fill the gap left by childcare centers with limited capacity.
The initiative has increased childcare staff’s knowledge of childhood development, curriculum, and conscious discipline. It also provided resiliency boxes and trauma training with stipends for staff.
This year the coaching/mentoring of in-home providers continues, and the Childcare Committee will host a continuing education conference in May. The goal is to have 100-150 people attend from Richland and surrounding counties.
With great momentum behind our mission, we felt the timing was right for an endowment campaign.
We know a healthy endowment allows us to continue to support important smaller targeted programs for women and girls and large initiatives such as childcare. These large initiatives provide an opportunity for the continued development of public-private partnerships.
In 2019, the goal was to increase the endowment from $1.5 million to $2 million. By May 2021, the Women’s Fund exceeded its goal.
About the Women’s Fund of Richland County Foundation
Established in 1996, the Women’s Fund is a permanent endowment, with a mission to promote philanthropy among women, and support innovative programs geared to empower the physical, intellectual, emotional, social, economic, and cultural growth of women and girls in Richland County.
In the fund’s 27 years, $523,970 has been granted to 318 programs to empower women and girls.