A special thank you to our 2022 Grantee Partner, Oakridge Neighborhood, for writing this guest blog and sharing more about their work.

The five-year-old in Sama’s care at her home in Oakridge Neighborhood is from a household that cannot speak English. Not only can he now speak English—along with his native language, Kunama—he can also write his numbers. This is all thanks to his caregiver, Sama, who is actively teaching him these skills while also providing child care services while his parents work.

This is the kind of positive outcome we hope to nurture in the child care providers at Oakridge Neighborhood with our new pilot program, Prepared 2 Care (P2C). P2C is designed to increase the quality, safety, and financial viability of home-based child care operations which support women who provide and those who use these critical child care services.

Oakridge Neighborhood is Iowa’s largest project-based Section 8 housing complex, providing homes for nearly 1,000 residents. In addition to secure, stable housing, residents and other community members have access to supportive programs and essential services to help them on their quest to become economically self-sufficient. With a resident population that is 72 percent refugees or immigrants and 52 percent children with an average household income of $17,389—the need is great.

P2C supports in-home child care businesses being operated out of Oakridge Neighborhood apartments. The focus is on creating the conditions needed to maintain quality and safe home-based childcare and viable, profitable businesses for the provider. P2C supports caregivers with individualized services, including:

  • In-home, on-site early childhood coaching and consultation
  • Access to learning resources and materials
  • Support for creating safe environments which comply with local and state regulations and general safety protocols
  • Assistance with risk mitigation and access to insurance resources
  • Business management and financial reporting support

P2C has two long-time educators to serve as dedicated early childhood coaches for the program. The team has created a robust curriculum based on best practices in the field and uses the Family Child Care Environment Rating (FCCER) to guide their work.

Participants were recruited by door-to-door outreach and through phone calls in order to establish relationships with the caregivers. There are currently 10 caregivers enrolled in the program.

Monthly group meetings began in January and convene on-site at Oakridge with program participants. Topics include curriculum ideas, safety training, business basics, and insurance coverage. In April, one-on-one in-home observations of caregivers began, providing coordinators a more in-depth picture of a caregiver’s expertise, while also providing the caregiver tailored, personalized instruction. This has allowed coordinators to provide critical instruction regarding best practices for safely enjoying the outdoors with children in their care. Timing is key as the summer months are approaching.

The lack of English proficiency among child care providers has posed an early challenge. Translators are enlisted as needed and program coordinators focus on developing caregiver comprehension. This is done by working with visuals and small manipulatives which require less verbal explanation.

Program coordinators are now working with participants to establish benchmarks for future assessments to ensure providers are offering a safe, quality experience for the families that utilize their services.

Oakridge Neighborhood is so appreciative of the Iowa Women’s Foundation for supporting P2C!