Grants facilitated by CITC allow local child care providers to purchase wish-list items and more
It’s not often that Alana Humphrey gets to dream big when it comes to replacing the gently loved toys and furniture at Boys and Girls Club of Alaska (BGCA).
“There’s not much opportunity to fundraise, so we look for sponsorships to pay for the items we need,” Alana said. “We’re used to having $2000 or $3000 to spend, so we’re usually buying what we have to have and replacing whatever’s broken. To have $20,000 all at once is amazing.”
Thanks to the Child Care Quality Improvement Grant program, administered by CITC’s Employment Training & Services Department, both large child care facilities and independent, home-based child care providers can qualify for significant funding to cover the cost of educational toys, learning materials, furniture, and a variety of other items.
Made available through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Care and Development Fund, the Quality Improvement Grant is aimed at supporting health and safety, staff development, and education programs at child care providers. Small providers can qualify for up to $8000 in funding through the program, while larger facilities can receive up to $25,000.
For BGCA, the size of the grant meant Alana, who serves as the organization’s CEO, could finally cross some items off her wish list.
“We needed to replace our evacuation cribs, but we were also able to buy things for our older kids, like STEM kits,” she said. “We bought bicycle helmets that kids will use throughout the summer. And we’ve got a new training center, so we purchased teacher resources.
“Another challenge when we get federal funding is that there are always strict rules about how you can spend that money,” she added. “But with this one, there’s so much flexibility, I could tell my staff, write down your list, and we’ll see what we can do.”
“A lot of these providers hadn’t had many changes to their facilities in five or ten years,” said Antoinette Horn, the supervisor of CITC’s Child Care, Heating, and ICDBG programs. “So they were excited to qualify for this funding.”
Safety, and Organization, First
This year, as COVID-related restrictions were eased, many child care providers were faced with unexpected needs, like protective equipment for teachers. Quality Improvement funding also covered items like hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves.
“A lot of our participants use these daycare centers, especially when their children age out of the Clare Swan Early Learning Center, so supporting these centers is another way to support our participants.”
CITC partnered with Janco Commercial Cleaning to provide a deep clean for about 15 facilities before they reopened their doors.
“I think that gave staff a really good sense of security, to know that their workplace had received a thorough cleaning,” said Antoinette.
Some providers, like the Tanaina Child Care Development Center, took advantage of the funding opportunity to update old items and make classrooms safer and more organized.
“We’d had our cubbies since about 1973; they had moved from location to location, and they were so beat up,” said Haylee Howard, Tanaina Child Care’s assistant director. “We were spray painting them every summer to make them look a little nicer.
“Now,” she continued, “we have brand new cubbies, and the staff are able to keep the kids organized in their classrooms. In our younger rooms, our two-year-olds were using furniture passed down from the five-year-old classroom — that’s hard for them. We were able to get that whole classroom furnished for their size.”
Antoinette observed that COVID changed the priorities for many providers. “We found we were helping purchase a lot of playground equipment. COVID redirected many of our providers to take their kids outside even more.”
Large facilities haven’t been the only ones to benefit from the funding. Several independent, home-based child care providers also received money to upgrade toys and furniture.
CITC Child Care Specialist Donna Thurman also helped give out 70 laptops to independent providers through the grant. “Especially for the home providers, they didn’t have upgraded technology. Some kids were going to school at daycare, so having an extra iPad or laptop available allowed the children to access their school.”
The application period for the Quality Improvement funding ended August 1 — but providers will still have an opportunity to apply for funding again later this year, starting October 1. Even providers who were awarded funds this year are eligible for a second round.
“The grant application is a very simple, one-page application,” Donna said. “To think that providers can reapply for that assistance each year is just amazing.”
“The process was so easy,” said Haylee. “When we applied this year, I kept thinking, ‘Are we asking for too much?’ But it’s been four years of us trying to build up reserves to afford new furniture — so this is really great.”
Tanaina Child Care serves a mixture of children whose parents work at Alaska Regional Hospital and children whose families live in the surrounding neighborhood. Meanwhile, BGCA currently serves 120 infants and children. Through helping 64 providers secure funds to improve their facilities, CITC’s Quality Improvement team is able to extend CITC’s impact beyond the Alaska Native community.
“A lot of our participants use these daycare centers, especially when their children age out of the Clare Swan Early Learning Center,” Donna pointed out, “so supporting these centers is another way to support our participants, and to extend our reach to help all kids.”