By Todd Cohen
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — To help their employees find child care, Wake Forest University, Senior Services and Kaplan Early Learning Center partner with the Work Family Resource Center in Winston-Salem.
The arrangements generate fees for the nonprofit agency from Wake Forest and Kaplan, as well as elder-care services from Senior Services for Work Family’s own employees.
“We are trying to diversify our funding, like most nonprofits,” says Katura Jackson, executive director at Work Family.
The agency, which opened in 1991, grew out of a 1985 study, funded by the Winston-Salem Foundation, that looked at the need for an agency, and the feasibility of creating it, that would provide resources and referrals for families seeking child care.
Operating with an annual budget of $1 million and a staff of 15 people, the Work Family Resource Center works to help families find child care and to improve the quality of child care in a nine-county region.
Generating 60 percent of its funds from a federal grant that passes through the state, 35 percent from Smart Start and 5 percent from contributions and fees, the agency provides service to parents and child-care providers, and serves as an advocate for better child care.
Families, for example, can phone or visit the Resource Center and talk to a parent specialist to learn about quality child care and how to recognize it, including the star-rated licensing systems and factors such as the level of teacher education, child-class ratios, physical environment, and integration of children and staff.
The agency, which maintains a computerized database with information on roughly 800 child-care programs in Forsyth and eight nearby counties, also encourages parents to visit programs before enrolling in them.
And, through $1.9 million from Smart Start, it provides a child-care subsidy for roughly 400 children, as well as emergency child-care assistance for families in crisis.
For child-care providers, the Resource Center offers a one-day start-up class, as well as a five-week course in developing family child-care as a business, along with a range of professional development programs.
“We encourage providers to go back to school to improve their educational levels,” Jackson says. “The higher the education level, the better the children will be prepared once they leave child care and enter the school system.”
The agency also can send a staffer to home child-care centers to provide a technical-assistance plan that providers can use to improve the quality of their program under the star-rated licensing system.
And it offers about 10 one-time grants of $1,200 each, with funding provided by Smart Start, to help providers improve the quality of their programs.
The Resource Center also employs specialists who work with providers in the areas of services for infants and toddlers, healthy social behavior, and school-age children.
A specialist in healthy social behavior, for example, works with child-care programs in the nine-county region to help them better work with pre-school children with challenging behavior to prevent their suspension or expulsion, or burnout among staff.
Now, using a new strategic plan its board recently approved, the Resource Center is looking for ways to build awareness about its work, and to diversify its funding base.
That will include trying to generate fees from more corporations that are looking for assistance in helping their employees find child care, and possibly also offering assistance in finding nanny services and babysitting services.
A key goal of those corporate services, Jackson says, will be to “help employees reduce the amount of time they spend on the job during the day looking for child care.”