Researching Public Law and Public Policy in the Public Interest

Equipping Grandmas With Childcare Credentials

Amir Cohen / Reuters

From The Atlantic:

On a recent morning, 15 women gathered in a mint-green classroom at First Lutheran Church in Longmont, Colorado, to learn more about the fundamentals of childcare. They talked about mapping out daily schedules with time for reading activities, group play, meals, and naps. They traded tips about the inexpensive educational materials available at Dollar Tree stores.

But this was no Saturday-morning babysitting boot camp. It was part of a 120-hour training course that will eventually earn participants a national childcare credential.

What made the class unique was the women enrolled. Ranging in age from 20-something to 60-something, they were Spanish-speaking mothers, aunts, and grandmas who care for the young children of friends and relatives in their homes. Some do it for free. Others earn a small wage.

Most are undocumented immigrants and, as a result, they are not eligible to become licensed childcare providers in Colorado. Still, they are a critical part of Colorado’s early-childhood workforce—one that is often overlooked in the policy realm.

In Colorado and nationally, so-called “family, friend, and neighbor care” is legal and ubiquitous. It cuts across racial and socioeconomic lines, with many parents choosing it because they know and trust the caregiver. While more than half of young Colorado children with working parents receive such care, the providers are often isolated and invisible.

“There’s not a database. They’re not connected to any system,” said Liz Houston, the executive director of the Early Childhood Colorado Leadership Alliance.

This under-the-radar existence has meant little public awareness or support for such providers—and by extension the thousands of children in their care. But with the growing push to make sure children are ready for school no matter what kind of childcare they get, that’s changing.

The training session in Longmont is one example. It’s part of a program called Providers Advancing Student Outcomes, or PASO, run by the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition. Funded mostly by grant money in four communities within Colorado’s Front Range, it’s received national notice and represents one of the few initiatives targeted to Spanish-speaking providers. “There’s not another program that’s as intensive as PASO out there,” said Valerie Gonzales, the director of operations for the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition.

Read this article in its entirety at The Atlantic here.