Access to Quality Childcare
Expanding access to quality early educational opportunities and care is critical to ensuring school readiness and success for all young children. Childcare quality is defined and measured in a variety of ways, but there is general agreement that quality childcare environments are safe and provide developmentally-appropriate opportunities for play and learning. Quality care is responsive to needs of individual children; and is staffed with professionals who focus on creating warm, responsive relationships with the young people in their care. In addition to expanding early education services for all four-year-olds, there is a need in Forsyth County for expansion of quality and affordable early education opportunities for children ages birth to three. In particular, research points to three important populations of children who often lack access to child care that meets their needs—homeless children, children with special needs, and dual-language learners. Additionally, there are too few affordable offerings in the existing licensed child care system for two groups of children: infants and toddlers and children living in rural parts of the county.
Furthermore, we know that most Forsyth County children are not currently in licensed early care and education settings in Forsyth County—which is typical of most communities. And too little is known about the quality of care children receive when they are being cared for by families, friends and neighbors—where most children spend their days before they reach kindergarten.
We intend to learn more about the childcare gaps system wide. Understanding these gaps includes gathering information about parents’ childcare preferences and challenges, as well as learning more about the needs of the families, friends, and neighbors who care for most children outside of the formal childcare system. We will use this information to make investments in increasing access to high quality care and improving the quality of care provided by family, friends and neighbors. We will invest in building the capacity of existing licensed childcare providers to care for children who currently lack access to quality care, and in identifying creative funding mechanisms for creating more affordable childcare slots.