As part of President Obama’s Early Learning Initiative the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) made approximately $500 million available to expand access to high-quality Early Head Start (EHS) Services nationwide, allowing new and existing EHS programs to partner with local child care providers serving infant and toddlers from low income families. Through the competitive process, approximately 235 programs emerged to pursue this grant opportunity, and Colorado-based Early Learning Ventures (ELV) was among the recipients. A total of $5.7 million was designated state-wide for Colorado to fund four different programs, of which ELV was granted $3.1 million, making it the largest award in the state as well as the only new Early Head Start Grantee.
The intent of the Early Head Start – Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnership grant program is to allow programs to partner with local child care providers serving infant and toddlers from low income families to enhance early learning settings and increase access to high-quality child care for more families. Through ELV’s grant award, EHS services for 240 eligible children and families will be delivered using ELV’s shared services network in Arapahoe, Garfield, Mesa and Pueblo counties. By working with each county’s Department of Human Services to leverage Child Care and Development Funds (CCDF), ELV will strive to improve the quality of infant and toddler care. Children and families will receive intensive, comprehensive EHS services, and providers will receive facility upgrade scholarships, business support, and extensive staff professional development. The model will employ program evaluation and continuous quality improvement, ongoing compliance monitoring and innovative family engagement practices, impacting the entire community.
“This newly awarded EHS funding provides the opportunity to merge comprehensive services for children and families with the already successful ELV shared services model. By leveraging other community funding and resources, the impact of the ELV model is expected to reach far beyond those direct EHS participants,” said Lionel Espinoza, ELV’s Early Head Start Program Director.
“Through this partnership grant, we will tap in to the existing business and technology infrastructure provided by ELV’s shared services model to significantly impact the quality of a number of Colorado’s child care providers and the well-being of the children and families that they serve,” said Judy Williams, ELV Executive Director. “In the initial 5-year funding cycle, ELV will receive approximately $2.9 million per year for the 4 years after implementation for execution of the ELV model that will continue to impact Colorado’s children and families by bring quality child care to even more families,” Judy added.
The market-based child care providers that are part of this project serve low-income communities and rely heavily on subsidy payments for revenue. As such, they are particularly sensitive to the increased costs associated with providing higher quality care. ELV creates greater operational efficiencies among providers that will allow them to meet the higher standards required by Head Start Performance Standards at a lower cost. An independent return on investment (ROI) study found that child care providers participating in ELV saved up to $8 for every dollar invested in the ELV model, and this return has been used for quality enhancements.