On August 17th, the Early Childhood Policy Council (ECPC) Workforce Committee hosted its second meeting of 2021. The focus of the meeting was shared services networks, which provide child care centers, Family Child Care (FCC) Homes, and others providing care and learning support with access to business supports to operate efficiently and provide quality. The Master Plan for Early Learning and Care (MPELC) includes adopting shared services networks as one of the key goals for improving California’s Early Learning and Care System. To provide a thorough overview of shared services networks and highlight some examples of places where this work is taking place, the Workforce Committee Chair, Tonia McMillian, introduced a panel to speak on the topic. The panelists included Richard Gonzalez of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Administration for Children & Families, Office of Child Care, Louise Stoney of Opportunities Exchange, Erin Dubey of First 5 California, and Joyce Robinson of L.A. County Shared Services, who each presented their work to uplift and implement shared services networks.
Richard Gonzalez kicked off the panel by providing an overview of the Preschool Development Grant Birth to 5 (PDG B-5), which serves to increase coordination and collaboration, boost efficient use of resources, and encourage strategic partnerships to improve data sharing and program quality. He explained how shared services networks work to implement the underlying goals of the PDG B-5. Gonzalez also underscored how these funds from the federal government work to align both state and local programs.
Louis Stoney of Opportunities Exchange discussed how shared services networks can help child care providers weather the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and how these networks hubs can help providers achieve administrative scale by providing marketing and enrollment support, tuition collection, business metrics, and automation and technology. Stoney spotlighted an example of a child care provider based in Atlanta, Georgia that was able to increase its overall revenue and enrollment with the support of a shared services network.
Erin Dubey of First 5 California provided an overview of the Shared Services Alliance Pilot which aims to build Early Learning and Care shared services networks to leverage regional partnerships to streamline local operations, such as billing, enrollment, fund management, and reporting that will allow for increased service capacity within the network. Dubey explained that this funding opportunity is available to Local Public Entities to support private licensed providers and license-exempt tribal settings, with priority given to FCCs and other small and underserved settings. The applications were due July 30 are currently being reviewed. Grantees will be announced in September and receive funding through 2023.
Joyce Robinson then presented on Shared Services in Los Angeles County and how their shared services network is evolving in the region. Robinson shared factors that promote successful networks, such as having a strong convenor and social entrepreneurship to bring people together and starting by focusing on small wins to build cohesion and a shared purpose. She also shared factors that can derail the development of a strong network, such as lack of trust, weak partners in key roles, high membership fees, and beginning with the most challenging issue.
Many who spoke during public comment at the end of the Committee meeting asked questions about what the state has planned next for shared services network implementation. Kim Johnson of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) conveyed that the state is in the process of listening to learn more about what is working, but does not have plans for immediate action at this time. Individuals also raised the challenges that come with being a child care provider in lacking adequate wages and compensation, but also not wanting to raise rates on families who are struggling as well. Some stressed that rather than have low-income families contribute more to child care, they would like to see the state and First 5 invest in FCCs directly and not indirectly.
Get more information on shared services networks here.