As the central focus of an Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) grant, you as a grantee are told to “partner” with child care providers. Yet, on paper these relationships are bound by legal contracts. Consider whether your process aligns more with a “contract” or a “partnership” approach. It will be important to find the right balance. Keep in mind that you contract for certain services in your program – for example, janitorial service – and that you don’t necessarily partner with those service providers. With your child care partners, you will both contract and partner, all around a shared goal of providing high quality comprehensive services to children and families.
There are a few steps to keep in mind to reach a balance between contract and partnership. Engage in a joint planning process with your child care partners. Develop written documents detailing process and procedures, and be sure to establish strong communication procedures. Also ensure you establish processes for updating decisions based on changing circumstances. And, remember that the more funding you provide to child care partners, the greater the program success!
In November 2014, the Office of Head Start (OHS) released a report, Early Care and Education Partnerships: A Review of the Literature, summarizing a literature review conducted by Mathematica of 78 studies of partnership in the early care and education field. In this report, 10 factors for success, noted below, were identified which embrace the positive ideals of “partnership.”
- Committed leadership. Executive leadership is part of the process, and the governance structures are adapted for EHS-CCP.
- Strong, trusting relationships. Building lasting, strong relationships is essential throughout project implementation.
- Common vision and goals. Develop shared program goals and measurable objectives that are aligned to performance and specific grant expectations.
- Joint training. To maximize funds and build relationships, consider shared training and professional development and retention systems that integrate child care partner staff.
- Plan for ongoing communication. Ensure communication plans include staff, parents, policy groups, and the general community.
- Formal agreements defining roles, responsibilities, and funding arrangements. This may include program management, data collection, and organizational systems across grantee, child care partners and other major partners. Be sure to address policies and procedures that integrate child care partners and conform to new Head Start Program Performance Standards.
- Specific staff assignments and strong relationships among staff. Have clear roles between grantee and child care partner staff. Implement strategies to help build rapport between staff (e.g., coaches and teachers) which will help to support the provision of high quality services.
- Funding plan. Ground yourself in your overall program budget, start-up and annual funds, in-kind, and ensure compliance with Federal Uniform Guidance.
- Emphasis on stability and longevity. Use the strengths of relationships and success-focused monitoring and mentoring to advance the quality of child care partner programs. Embrace a long-term strategy that focuses on partnership to improve program quality.
- Process for addressing alignment issues. Be prepared with processes for monitoring and quality assurance for performance outcome data. Keep Federal Monitoring requirements on your radar as part of your process.
There are also “potholes” to success. For example, this may include poor collaboration, regulatory differences, staffing issues and insufficient funding. Insufficient funding has been viewed as one of the key challenge among Round 1 EHS-CCP programs. Focus on the factors of success to help avoid these barriers!
Based on Mathematica’s research Foundations for Families developed an assessment tool of for use by EHS-CCP sites as a baseline during the child care partner selection process and also as an ongoing tool to gauge and respond to the quality and strength of partnerships. Foundations for Families also offers a workshop on Contracting vs. Partnership that may benefit your program as you navigate the partnership process. Please be in touch to learn more!
Foundations for Families offers EHS-CCP grantees targeted technical assistance and strength-based coaching of key start-up staff. We have helped multiple organizations design, plan for, and draft successful proposals for EHS-CCP. Please be in touch with Amy Augenblick, Executive Director, at 703-599-4329 or Augenblick@foundationsforfamilies.com to learn about how we can support you and your program.