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By Allory Bors, Research Coordinator at Child Care Services Association

The devastation caused by a flood, a tornado or a contagious disease is called a natural disaster. We often believe that a certain amount of suffering, death or loss is natural as well, pre-determined by intangible forces. We can forget about the behind-the-scenes decisions made over years by our legislators, our institutions and our communities. Those decisions can either spiral isolated events into a crisis or provide enough support to deescalate disaster if, and when, it strikes. For decades, the early childhood field has called for fair compensation, comprehensive benefits, tuition assistance for families and more support for the early childhood field. For years, early educators have been “teetering on the brink,” and without support, a significant percentage of the state’s private centers could close their doors permanently even with just a few more weeks of closures.

The COVID-19 crisis is a moment unlike any other, in which the invisible, undervalued labor that breathes life into our country’s economy and infrastructure is exposed. As professionals, advocates, providers, parents and community members, we have a unique opportunity to understand the work of early childhood providers and the work of other essential functions, historically considered “unskilled,” as part of the same struggle. We also must stay vigilant to ensure that, as other essential workers receive the recognition, hazard pay, sick leave and increased compensation they so deserve, child care providers are not left by the wayside.

The history of our nation’s under-valued and under-resourced early childhood system is already set in stone, but our future is not. When this crisis reaches an end, whenever that may be, North Carolina has a responsibility to build a strong early childhood system that is prepared for any crisis. We don’t yet know what the future will hold for North Carolina’s early childhood field. But we do know this. Our state’s early childhood providers, whether they be in a child care center, a family child care home or on a Zoom call reading to their children in pre-K, are resilient and creative. They have helped families through homelessness, health crises and natural disasters like hurricanes Matthew and Florence. Early childhood providers have always been on the frontlines in our state.

We also know that our state’s vast network of early childhood non-profits, CCR&R agencies and advocates will work tirelessly to support providers and families. Here at Child Care Services Association (CCSA), we are deeply grateful to be able to continue working mostly remotely. So far, we have set up a COVID-19 Relief Fund for programs, turned a National Symposium into a Virtual Forum, made payments to our T.E.A.C.H., WAGE$, and AWARD$ recipients, staffed the statewide CCR&R hotline as a resource for essential workers to be connected with child care, continued our payments to Durham PreK sites, delivered technical assistance to programs, prepared meals for child care programs operating and just pledged to use our kitchen to work with Durham County to prepare meals for children and families. We will continue to do everything within our power to support our communities and our state as the situation unfolds.

Voices of Strength and Resilience in Early Childhood will be a regularly updated blog series throughout the length of the international COVID-19 crisis. CCSA recognizes that we are all receiving information at hyper-speed. Each day is a new frontier, with new developments about the virus, new policies and emergency supports rolling out, and new strategies being used in both in-person and virtual classrooms. This information overdrive doesn’t always give us the time to slow down, connect with one another and consider how to move forward from a place of wisdom.

This series will be a place to do just that, to share what we’ve learned, chronicle impacts on the field and share our visions for the future. When the immediate COVID-19 crisis comes to an end, it will serve as an archive of how North Carolina’s early childhood field was impacted, and how advocates and providers stepped up to respond.

If you are an early childhood provider, we are especially interested in your comments about how COVID-19 has affected you. You can submit stories of hopeful moments or have the chance to vent challenges by emailing us here.

See the next post in this blog series.

By Kay Ducharme, Regional CCR&R Senior Manager at Child Care Services Association

Part III: Why is data important?

For Child Care Services Association (CCSA), collecting data about the impact and effects of high quality child care is one of the most important things we can do for early childhood educators, young children and families. To that end, we talk to educators and families daily, collecting an enormous amount of data to analyze the needs of families and early childhood educators. In fact, we are the only organization in North Carolina that collects data on child care supply and demand. This information helps us strengthen and innovate the child care system for families, child care providers, programs and communities.

Yet, I am often asked why we have to collect all of this data. In short, data is absolutely vital to ensuring that all children have access to high quality child care led by educated and motivated teachers.

For example, recent data indicates decreases in the number of classrooms, family child care homes and the total number in the child care workforce. Since child care resource and referral (CCR&R) is the only system that collects data on both supply and demand, we continue to help families locate child care as the supply decreases and the need increases. We also work to help start-up new programs to fill gaps where the supply of child care is limited. Our data can be used to help us advocate for change in public policy. And we need data to accurately tell the story of what families and providers across North Carolina need to strengthen services for families and the early childhood education field.

Federal funds to support CCR&R are a part of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The state’s Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) defines goals each year for the Council to help North Carolina meet federal block grant requirements. Regional CCR&R Lead Agencies receive funding from the Council to provide services in the 14 CCR&R regions based on population, community and child care demographics, workforce numbers and number of classrooms in the region, etc. The Council reports outcomes, outputs and demographics to DCDEE each year. These reports enable us to analyze customer needs and identify gaps in services and trends in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Statewide in FY19, the NC CCR&R system data indicated that the 14 regions trained 24,180 early educators; 3,077 of those training participants received CEUs. In addition to training, CCR&R agencies provided technical assistance to 6,171 classrooms/homes and consumer education and/or consultation to 21,738 households across the state. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of families surveyed said they used quality indicators when choosing child care and 97% of the families surveyed indicated that they chose a 3-5 star rated child care program after using CCR&R services. By collecting data in a consistent manner using defined data sets, data is monitored to ensure reliability.

To access a membership to the website for CCR&R staff, please contact Mary Erwin, NC CCR&R Council Coordinator at Child Care Services Association, here.

For more in-depth knowledge of the CCR&R system, training sessions are available each year throughout the state for new staff. The final one for this fiscal year will be held in Greenville, N.C., at the Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children, April 23 at 9:30 a.m. You can register for the training session here.

To read the first part of this series on what the statewide CCR&R is, click here.

To read the second part of this series on what the NC CCR&R Council is, click here.

By Kay Ducharme, Regional CCR&R Senior Manager at Child Care Services Association

Part II: What is the NC CCR&R Council?

The NC CCR&R Council was designed by the state’s Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) to standardize the delivery of child care resource and referral (CCR&R) services and provide equitable funding across the state. Before the Council was created, North Carolina had a fragmented, under-resourced CCR&R system that delivered services to children from birth to 5 or birth through 12, depending on where they lived. Some CCR&Rs provided non-English services while others did not. Databases and reporting mechanisms were different and data on programs, children and families served was not collected in a consistent manner. This made it impossible to provide accurate statewide data when advocating for changes in public policy or reporting to federal or state governments on the successes and/or gaps in services across North Carolina.

The Council allowed DCDEE to ensure that CCR&R services were equitably funded and available in communities across the state for providers and families of children from birth through age 12 in the two most commonly used languages, no matter where they lived or worked. In addition, they wanted to ensure that the system was data driven and that data was collected consistently. This allows DCDEE to paint an accurate picture of what is happening in North Carolina for policymakers using consistent statistical data. It was also created with a flexible structure to accommodate emerging needs as priorities and funding sources change.

Today, the Council manages and delivers CCR&R core services and special initiatives which include providing technical assistance and training to early care and education professionals, helping families locate child care services, collecting and analyzing data to help shape public policy and provide community awareness, helping young children build strong social-emotional behaviors, helping support babies, helping improve school-age services and others as requested by DCDEE. The Council collaborates with other early childhood entities in North Carolina to strengthen early childhood and also leads many projects that increase the quality and availability of child care, provides research and advocates for child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families.

The three agencies chosen to partner as the Council—Child Care Services Association, Child Care Resources Inc. and Southwestern Child Development Commission—are referred to as Council Management Agencies (CMAs) and each one is responsible for the management of 4 to 5 regions (inclusive of their own region). Below is a map showing how regions are structured today.

A wealth of information is provided by the Council to support CCR&Rs, children, families, providers and communities. In addition to training and technical assistance, other resources provided to CCR&Rs include:

  • train the trainer classes;
  • an annual conference;
  • email and advocacy alerts;
  • regulatory changes and notices;
  • collaborative meetings;
  • definitions/instructions and data collection forms;
  • regional directories;
  • a monthly news blast with early childhood news and links to regional training calendars;
  • a website;
  • Art and Science of TA and Emergency Preparedness training calendars;
  • manuals;
  • workgroups; and
  • contract management.

Read more about why the data collected is important in the final part of this series here.

To read the first part of this series on what the statewide CCR&R is, click here.

By Kay Ducharme, Regional CCR&R Senior Manager at Child Care Services Association

Part I: What is the Statewide CCR&R?

CCR&R stands for child care resource and referral. It is carried out by organizations that focus on building the supply of child care and supporting child care programs through training and technical assistance for early childhood educators. CCR&R agencies emerged in the early 1970s to help families locate child care as more women began entering the workforce. As young families became more mobile and moved away from home to take jobs in other places, leaving their support systems behind, the demand for child care increased dramatically. North Carolina’s first CCR&R agency was the Durham Day Care Council, established in 1974. Day Care Services Association in Orange County and Durham Day Care Council merged in 1999 to become Child Care Services Association (CCSA).

Today, CCR&R core services include helping parents locate child care, advocating for the needs of families and young children, building the supply of quality child care through training and other resources for programs, bridging child care and education and gathering important data on child care needs/trends. In North Carolina, CCR&R is done by organizations in 14 regions and overseen by three agencies: Child Care Services Association (CCSA) in the Triangle area, Child Care Resources Inc. (CCRI) in the Charlotte area and Southwestern Child Development Commission (SWCDC) in western North Carolina. These agencies are referred to as the Council Management Agencies (CMAs) and each one is responsible for the management of four or five regions, including their own.

Learn more about the NC CCR&R Council that is comprised of the three CMAs including a map breaking down the 14 regions in the next part here.

To read the final part of this series about why the data collected is important, click here.

By Marsha Basloe, President, Child Care Services Association

Working Parents Need Access to Quality Child Care – More Support Needed for Child Care Workforce

Currently, throughout North Carolina, nearly half a million (457,706) children under age six live in a family where all parents in the household are working.[1] Many of these children are in some type of child care setting every week so that their parents can obtain and retain jobs that sustain and grow our state’s economy. 

A study by the Committee for Economic Development (CED) shows that child care as an industry has an economic impact in North Carolina of $3.15 billion annually ($1.47 billion in direct revenue and $1.67 billion in spillover in other industries throughout our counties and cities).[2] Child care programs have an overall job impact throughout the state of 64,852, which includes 47,282 individuals who are employed within child care centers or who operate a home-based business plus another 17,570 in spillover jobs – created through the activity of those operating child care programs.[3] The economic impact of child care matters because it helps drive local economies. When parents can access child care, they are more likely to enter the workforce and stay employed. 

The Child Care Workforce: Early Brain Builders

Source: Committee for Economic Development, 2019

What we know is that child care is not only a work support for parents but also an early learning setting for young children. Research shows that a child’s earliest years are when the brain is developing the fastest – forming a foundation for all future social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. During this time, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second.[4] This is important to understand because both parents and child care providers play an important role in supporting healthy child development – helping to shape the brain’s foundation for all future learning (e.g., school readiness and school success).

Because both genes and experiences impact a child’s brain development,[5] the child care workforce plays a critical role in supporting early learning. In essence, they are brain builders – working with children to support a strong foundation on which later learning depends – just like the foundation for a house, all floors above the basement depend on the construction or sturdiness of the basement.

The Workforce that Supports All Other Workforces

Despite the important role that child care educators play in supporting our next generation (as well as supporting the ability of parents to work), the current economic model for child care programs falls short of supporting child care workers in a way that recognizes their role in child development. How so? The operating budget for child care programs is based on parent fees and state subsidies paid for low-income children.

Because the current cost of child care in North Carolina is so high (e.g., $9,254 annually for center-based infant care),[6] program directors try to keep costs down because they know parents can’t pay more. However, what this translates to is low wages for the child care field. In today’s economy, where the fast-food industry and retail sales pay higher hourly wages and often offer benefits, the competition for the workforce to enter the early childhood field is steep. In fact, the early childhood field is experiencing a workforce crisis.

In North Carolina, the median wage earned for child care teachers is about $10.97 per hour ($22,818 per year if full time) and assistant teachers earn $9.97 per hour.[7] These wages represent a modest 0.7% increase in buying power despite much larger gains in education. The study also found that statewide, 39% of teachers and teacher assistants had needed at least one type of public assistance (e.g., TANF, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, etc.) in the past three years.

Child Care Services Association (CCSA) is conducting a county-level early childhood workforce study for the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) that will be completed in August 2020. Once completed, North Carolina will have additional information.

Source: Committee for Economic Development, 2019

For context, many child care educators are supporting their own families. With these wages, they fall well short of the level that qualifies them for public food assistance benefits (e.g., a family of three with income under $27,000 per year qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP).[8] It’s not hard to understand that workers in low wage jobs face stresses in making ends meet, in supporting their own families and in parking their stress outside the classroom door when working with young children. 

In North Carolina, the state funds two programs administered by CCSA to support the early childhood workforce:

  • Child Care WAGE$® Program, which provides education-based salary supplements to low paid teachers, directors and family child care educators working with children ages birth to five. The program is designed to increase retention, education and compensation. The Child Care WAGE$® Program is a funding collaboration between local Smart Start partnerships (55 partnerships) and the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE).[9] Salary supplements are earned – tied to the recipient’s level of education, with teachers and family child care providers awarded on a different scale than directors.

These strategies are invaluable to better support the child care workforce for the important work that they do.  It raises salaries sometimes almost a dollar an hour. You can see the impact of these programs on our website. This is an investment in the workforce that supports all other workforces, AND also an investment that results in better outcomes for our children (e.g., brain-building that leads to school readiness). We hope these programs will grow in the years ahead to support our early childhood educators who care for our young children and families.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the work of our early educators. It is time for our communities to think about compensation for the early childhood workforce in a manner that reflects their contribution to our state’s prosperity.


[1] U.S. Census Bureau, Table B23008, Age of Own Children Under 18 Years in Families and Subfamilies by Living Arrangements by Employment Status of Parents, 2018 American Community Survey, 1 Year Estimates. https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=b23008&hidePreview=true&table=B23008&tid=ACSDT1Y2018.B23008&lastDisplayedRow=15&g=0400000US37

[2] Child Care in State Economies: 2019 Update, Committee for Economic Development, 2019. https://www.ced.org/childcareimpact

[3] Ibid.

[4] Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, Brain Architecture. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/brain-architecture/

[5] Ibid.

[6] The U.S. and the High Price of Child Care: An Examination of a Broken System, Child Care Aware of America, 2019. https://usa.childcareaware.org/advocacy-public-policy/resources/priceofcare/

[7] Child Care Services Association, Working in Early Care and Education in North Carolina, 2015,  https://www.childcareservices.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2015-Workforce-Report-FNL.pdf        

[8] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, eligibility 2019. https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/recipient/eligibility

[9] WAGE$ North Carolina, Child Care Services Association.  https://www.childcareservices.org/wages-nc/

[10] AWARD$ North Carolina, Child Care Services Association. https://www.childcareservices.org/awards/