An ongoing crisis
It’s no secret that the child care sector faces massive challenges in the form of worker shortages, sub-living wages, and limited government support. While many of these challenges were evident well before the pandemic, the last three years have only exacerbated them, bringing the child care industry to a breaking point.
To understand why our current child care system is struggling, it is necessary to take a look at the cost structure for child care providers. In order to meet licensing requirements and safety standards, providers must meet certain caregiver-to-child ratios; and the younger children are, the higher the ratio of caregivers to children must be. These requirements are important and are in place to ensure quality and safety. But, meeting those ratios creates a cost-burden for providers and means that wages for caregivers remain painfully low, exacerbating workforce turnover and shortages. In some cases, Masters-degree holding caregivers can find the same or better wages working in fast food.
To make matters worse, those hurt the most by the current child care model are our children. 80% of a child’s brain is developed by age 3 and 1 million new neural connections are made every second in the first few years of life, making quality early child care a crucial part of setting our children up for happy and successful lives.
But the current child care crisis puts that important early support in jeopardy. In 2022, 40.35% of Virginia kindergarteners were not ready to start kindergarten. This particularly impacts students of color, multi-language learners, students with a disability, and those from low income backgrounds. Early childhood education and care are of paramount importance for each and every child in our region, and there is an urgent need for support and new solutions.
Barriers to funding
Child care organizations are strained and in need of support. In addition to the challenges providers already face, the process of applying for philanthropic funding can be onerous and time consuming. Many non-profit organizations have their own grant writer on staff, but child care providers, especially smaller ones, struggle to pay the staff they have, much less dedicate someone’s time and role to applying for grants.
Our region’s child care footprint
Robins Foundation suspected there were many small non-profit child care providers that we did not know about, and which were unaware of the Robins Foundation as a potential source of support. To make sure our support is accessible to all nonprofit child care organizations in our footprint (Chesterfield, Henrico, Petersburg, and Richmond), the Robins Foundation commissioned a landscape assessment to determine eligibility for funding and mission alignment within our region. The study identified a total of 484 child care providers in the Robins Foundation footprint. 112 of these child care providers were non-profits and out of those, 61 providers were identified as serving children under the age of five.
Our foundation’s solution
In response to the challenges and needs within our region, Robins Foundation is piloting a non-profit SEED (“Support for Early Education and Development”) grant program, the goal of which is to provide small, local child care providers with a simplified and responsive funding opportunity, which lies outside of our traditional grant application process. This pilot is for 501c3 non-profit organizations who meet all of our foundation’s grant eligibility criteria. It includes a simplified application process for grants of up to $25,000.
How to apply for Non-profit SEED
We are excited to announce that our non-profit SEED pilot opens May 15, 2023 at noon.
To be eligible for Non-profit SEED funding, child care organizations must meet the following criteria:
- Have 501(c)(3) non-profit status
- Be licensed
- Serve children 0 to 5
- Use a secular (nonreligious) curriculum
- Be located in Chesterfield, Henrico, Petersburg, or the City of Richmond
- Not currently receiving other funding from Robins Foundation
If you meet this criteria and are in need of support, we encourage you to apply starting on Monday, May 15th. The non-profit SEED application can be found here.
Grant applications will be reviewed on a monthly basis until funds are depleted. Providers who are offered a grant will be required to complete a brief final report at the end of the funding period.
Any organization receiving funds through the non-profit SEED pilot would be ineligible to apply for funding through other Robins Foundation grants for a period of 12 months.
If you have questions about the non-profit SEED pilot program, please contact our Early Childhood Senior Program Officer, Meg Pienkowski, Ph.D. If you have questions about the grant process or technology, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are optimistic about the SEED pilot program and the ways it allows us to expand our support to even more mission-aligned child care providers across our region. Together, we will continue to work for and support a child care solution that benefits all involved.