• June 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 5

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Site Visit: North Florida Child Welfare—Early Education Partnership

In 2010, a group of human services agencies in Duval County, FL, evaluated the services offered to children in the community who were between birth and the age of 3, and were also involved with child welfare. Although there were services available for school-age children and youth in transition (18 to 23 years of age), there were very few coordinated services available for preschool children. With Family Support Services of North Florida (FSSNF) as the lead agency, the group focused on providing services for young children in foster care through a 17-month grant within the Children's Bureau's Child Welfare-Early Education Partnerships to Expand Protective Factors for Children With Child Welfare Involvement grant cluster. The Child Welfare-Early Education Partnership (CW-EEP) was formed, and its primary objective was to improve child care and early education services for young children in foster care, thereby improving educational outcomes for these children, and to increase the number of children in foster care enrolled in high-quality early education programs.

It was determined that the following issues existed and would need to be addressed:

  • Caregivers and child welfare caseworkers did not clearly understand the benefits and importance of early childhood education.
  • Caregivers and child welfare caseworkers were not aware of the local resources available to help children access high-quality early childhood education programs.
  • Agencies mutually serving this population of children had limited interaction and few guidelines for working together.
  • Child welfare caseworkers and child care providers had limited interaction or exchange of information about jointly served children.
  • Child care subsidy referrals were not consistently processed.

The project implemented several strategies, which are outlined below.

Electronic child care subsidy application process: The CW-EEP developed a process for online completion and submission of the child care subsidy application that allows caseworkers to track the approval process. Project staff indicated that the new process holds both entities accountable for the application and approval process.

Training:

  • Foster parents—One night of PRIDE1 training is dedicated to teaching prospective foster parents about the importance of early childhood education and high-quality child care, why and how to select high-quality child care and early education providers, and the Guiding Stars2 program. In addition, a short training video describing the importance and benefits of early education, key indicators of quality child care and early education programs, and local service providers was developed by the project.
  • Child welfare caseworkers—The initial training for child welfare caseworkers includes a 2-hour presentation on the benefits of early childhood education.
  • Child care center staff—The role of the child welfare caseworker and the child protective service process are described to child care and early education services staff in Child Welfare 101 training. Training on trauma-informed care and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) were also provided to child care center staff. PBIS is a classroom management technique used with children who have behavioral issues.
  • Early education specialists—These specialists participated in a 5-day train-the-trainer course in PBIS.

Foster parent requirement: Prior to being licensed, prospective foster parents are required to explore, select, and contact three child care providers from the Guiding Stars program to discuss using their services if a child under 5 years of age is placed in their home.

CW-EEP Certification program: Child care providers can participate in the certification program and become preferred providers for young children in foster care. The child care directors participate in a 10-hour training course that includes Child Welfare 101, trauma-informed care, and PBIS. The child care director then presents a 2-hour summary training to their staff.

Tracking system for young children in child care: CW-EEP developed a data system to ensure the number of children in foster care enrolled in Early Head Start, Head Start, or other quality child care programs was collected on a regular basis.

The project's goal for increased enrollment of children in quality early childhood programs was 20 percent. The project far exceeded this goal—enrollment in quality early childhood programs increased 52 percent during the 17-month grant period.

For more information on this project, contact Cynthia Harpman at Cynthia.Harpman@fssnf.org. The full site visit report for this project will soon be available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/management/funding/funding-sources/federal-funding/cb-funding/cbreports/earlyeducation/.

The North Florida Child Welfare-Early Education Partnership project is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CO1065). This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from site visits made on behalf of the Children's Bureau.

1 PRIDE is the training for prospective foster parents.
2 The Guiding Stars program is a voluntary quality rating improvement system of child care providers in Duval County (http://elcofduval.org/gsod.asp).

 

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