They’re good-hearted, caring people. They’re trying their best to help friends and family. They sacrifice their time and energy to help their loved ones. And they’re getting little support from the outside.
They’re what are referred to as Friend, Family and Neighbor providers – or informal providers.
It’s a term with which not everyone is familiar. In general, it refers to people who are close to you and who want to help. They’re good-hearted grandparents, friendly neighbors and close friends offering affordable childcare – not something that’s readily available to everyone these days.
What these kind-hearted souls don’t always have, however, is professional support.
Filling a gap
Enter the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition. This group, founded back in 1980, saw a gap in the educational growth of children and decided to fill it.
“We focus on supporting the educational system from birth to 20 years old,” said Executive Director Lorena Garcia. “We started 42 years ago when a group of parents recognized that our educational system was not really built to support their children – primarily Latino parents. So, we set out to train migrant parents on how to be the best advocates for their children.”
Over the years the organization grew. As problems were tackled, others arose, and in 2005 the coalition saw a need well before children ever walked into a classroom.
“Typically, we find out where children are in their educational journey by about the third grade,” Garcia said. “It’s too late by then. We wanted to focus on how we address the educational opportunities gap before Black or Hispanic kids enter school.”
Keeping up with needs
Thus, the Providers Advancing School Outcomes (PASO) program was born, and to date has already served more than 1,400 providers. The program is a 15-week, 120-hour training program guiding informal childcare providers. Its goal is to provide them with the skills and knowledge necessary to earn a Child Development Associate credential, a key piece to becoming a qualified teacher of young children.
“We have one provider that graduated from PASO about seven years ago,” Garcia said. “She continues to care for kids, but recognized what she needed to do to dramatically improve the environment for them. She saved money while charging for childcare in a better, more equitable way. Then she built an entire room in her home to be a childcare center.
“She’s entirely dedicated to the children in her care.”
With a grant from , Garcia said the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition has been able to reach out to and help more providers.
“It’s a pretty costly program,” Garcia said. “When we’re able to expand and receive help from sources like Elevation Foundation, it has quite a reach. And it has an exponential impact on children and the providers we’re able to train.”
While the work to educate caregivers continues, the Coalition has its sights set on a recently-passed, state-level bill creating the Colorado Department of Early Childhood.
“It’s designed to provide support for all families and all forms of care, including informal friends and family members,” Garcia said. “Our focus is making sure we can operationalize the vision. It’s nice to envision all these things, but if it’s left as a vision it doesn’t help anyone.
“We want to ensure it goes beyond a vision and becomes a reality for the people who love and support us.”
For more information on Elevations Foundation and the work it’s doing in our community, to learn more about its grant program or to help support one of the foundation’s causes, please click .