4C steps up efforts to improve childcare quality

Think Ohio day care providers have to have a degree to care for children?

Think that cozy, home-based, daycare center just down the street, has to be licensed by the state of Ohio in order to operate?

If you answered no to both of those questions, you are right. And that’s just wrong, according to 4C for Children.

The mission of the Cincinnati-based nonprofit, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, is to improve the quality and accessibility of childcare in a 33-county area spanning Southwest Ohio, the Miami Valley and Northern Kentucky. 
And if you’ve searched for childcare in the area, you likely have touched their services.

The organization was initially created by five agencies as a means to ensure there was enough high-quality childcare in Greater Cincinnati. The group, first called Comprehensive Community Child Care – hence the shortened 4C – quickly blossomed into much more and impacts hundreds of thousands of people each year, says Communications Vice President Karen Hurley. 

The group provides free referrals to parents looking for childcare, works to educate current childcare providers and others working in the area of early childhood education, advocates for issues impacting childcare in Ohio and Kentucky and works to increase childcare options.

The agency maintains a database of more than 2,600 childcare options for parents that include licensed centers, preschools and family child-care homes registered with 4C. The group helps more than 8,000 families annually find childcare and provides a series of checklists and tips to help in their quests.

Last year alone, the group held 1,400 workshops and classes which 24,000 providers have attended. The number of children impacted is well over 169,000 kids, Hurley says. 

“Our mission is to professionalize these providers so they no longer think of themselves as merely a babysitter,’’ Hurley says, noting that 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed before they set a foot into kindergarten.

“One of our biggest victories is when a childcare provider gets it,’’ she says. “When they think of themselves as having a real impact on the early learning of a child.”

Hurley says the group spent more than a decade advocating for the licensing of home-based day care. Ohio was one of five states in the United States that did not regulate home-based child care businesses. In Ohio, one person can care for up to six children in his or her home with no license, no training and no safety measures. 

But by 2014, the state of Ohio will mandate that as part of the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. Ohio received a four-year, $400 million grant to enact a series of changes in Ohio schools and that President Barack Obama believed would improve education.  Ohio was one of 12 states to receive funding. 

But the work for the agency, with 80 staff member and an annual budget of $5 million, is far from done, Hurley says.

The group is working to provide more resources to parents who may feel isolated to get them needed support and continuing to build higher levels of quality into childcare programs. In Ohio, the group is working with providers to help them meet standards outlined by the Step Up to Quality rating program. They are also doing the same for providers in Kentucky that fall under the Stars for Kids Now award system.

Do Good: 
By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is the assistant vice president for digital and social media at the Powers Agency and is the mother of two teens.
 
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