2021 Family Child Care Innovation Networks Award

A new award designed to spark, accelerate, and sustain community-based peer learning networks across Massachusetts.

 

What is the Family Child Care Innovation Networks Award?

This new award aims to highlight and strengthen the kinds of professional networks and reflective, collaborative activities that have been proven to enhance educators’ job satisfaction, wellbeing, and the quality of their practice. While in years past the Zaentz Initiative has used the Innovation Challenge to solicit new ideas and fresh thinking from across the country and field, we see an important opportunity to respond to the current moment, and our own research findings, in a meaningful way. This new award will help us support providers who are doing critical and innovative work across our state, at a time when connection and collaboration are more important than ever.

Awards will be given in amounts of up to $5,000. Award funds may be used to cover investments and expenses associated with building and sustaining community-based peer learning networks, including professional learning facilitators, trainers, or speakers; food or child care during network meetings; technology needed for remote meetings and collaboration; or curricular materials to support the work of the community of practice, among other things.

In addition to receiving funding, awardees will be invited to share their innovative practices at a virtual convening in the spring of 2021.

Responding to the rich racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity that is a hallmark of the family child care community, applications will be offered in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Chinese.

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Why a focus on family child care?

Family child care providers are an essential part of the early education and care ecosystem, and they have unique strengths that will make them critical to our pandemic response and recovery. These providers serve small, mixed-age groups of children – a configuration that may be especially in demand given public health concerns about large group sizes and a need for more feasible care options that serve siblings within families. Family child care providers also tend to be more affordable, flexible, and likely to be staffed by educators and caregivers who reflect the racial, ethnic, and linguistic composition of the communities they serve than other types of early education and care programs.

But in recent years, family child care providers have struggled to maintain viability. They have also been especially hard hit by the pandemic, threatening their ability to support children and families in the months ahead. In response to a recent survey of early educators and caregivers across Massachusetts, part of the Early Learning Study at Harvard, nearly all (87%) family child care providers reported their income had been affected, which was not the case among those in other provider types, including public preK and Head Start. Unsurprisingly, family child care providers also reported disproportionately high levels of stress and uncertainty about the future of their programs. Additionally, family child care providers often work long hours and balance multiple professional roles and tasks, and they are often professionally isolated compared to peers in center-based and more formal classroom settings.

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Why is the Zaentz Initiative offering this award?

The Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative seeks to be a leading connector for innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of early education. We recognize that new ideas are needed in our field, and we hope to use this award to highlight creative, effective, and provider-led approaches to peer learning. Reimagining the Innovation Challenge in this way also enables us to further our mission of promoting the knowledge, professional learning, and collective action necessary to cultivate optimal early learning environments and experiences.

The Family Child Care Innovation Networks Award: Cultivating Communities of Practice in Massachusetts

Award Timeline + Application

  • Online application launched
    Date: 12/17/20
  • Optional informational webinar
    Date: 01/25/21
  • Online application deadline (11:59PM)
    Date: 02/19/21
  • Awardees announced
    Date: 04/19/21
  • Virtual Event to Highlight Awardees (Spring 2021)
Judging Criteria

Members of the Zaentz Initiative award committee will review applications for their quality, feasibility, and potential to promote reflective, collaborative practices across the peer learning network. To avoid any conflicts of interest, the faculty directors of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative, Professors Nonie Lesaux and Stephanie Jones, will not participate in final award decisions.

Award Announcements

Funding recipients will be announced in spring 2021.

The 2020-2021 Family Child Care Innovation Networks Award is open to applicants who operate a licensed family child care program in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Award is designed to support peer learning networks at any stage of development, from emerging to established. Award money may be used to enhance ongoing peer learning work or support new networks and collaborative learning opportunities.

The Award is intended to support provider-run communities of practice; support networks run by a larger organization (not a family child care provider or group of providers), either for profit or not for profit, are not eligible to apply.

Yes, you must be a licensed family child care provider within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to apply for this award.

You can access the application by clicking “Apply” above. You will be able to download an attachment to preview the application questions, but all answers and materials must be submitted using the online portal.

Applications are available in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Chinese.

Las aplicaciones están disponibles en varios idiomas, entre ellos el español.

Aplikasyon yo disponib nan plizyè lang, ki gen ladann tou pa egzanp kreyòl ayisyen.

有多种语言版本的申请表,包括中文。

If you need access to the application in a language that is not listed above, please reach out to Zaentz@gse.harvard.edu.

Applicants must submit proposals prepared collaboratively with other providers or on behalf of an identified group. Groups must consist of three or more providers who intend to use award funding to support peer learning and collaboration work. Applicants should submit one application per group. The group may be one that is newly formed or one that has already engaged in peer learning work.

Yes, please list all providers who are or will be part of the peer learning network. You will be asked to provide more detailed contact and program information for up to five providers; if more than five providers are part of your network, we ask that you simply list any subsequent names.

This award is designed to support provider-led peer learning networks at any stage of development, from emerging to established. Award money may be used to enhance ongoing peer learning work or support new networks and collaborative learning opportunities. It may be used to cover investments and expenses associated with building and sustaining community-based peer learning networks, such as: • Professional learning facilitators, trainers, or speakers • Food or child care during network meetings • Technology needed for remote meetings and collaboration • Curricular materials to support the work of the community of practice

Yes! We encourage you to apply for funds that can help get your peer learning network off the ground.

We are interested in learning how award funding will help you address challenges and learn together in new or creative ways. Your approach may be completely new or build on best practices for peer learning and collaboration. We do require that any research or other sources used in your submissions be appropriately cited; if you reference someone else’s thinking, be sure to give that person credit! Plagiarism will result in immediate disqualification.

We will host an informational webinar in January to go over the application and answer any questions. Please reach out to Zaentz@gse.harvard.edu if you need help with your application.

The exact number of applicants who are awarded funding will depend on the number of applications received and the amounts of funding requested/allocated to each group (up to $5000 per network).

There are no requirements or timelines for implementation once funding is given. Awardees will be asked to share their innovative approaches to peer learning and collaboration with the HGSE community in the spring of 2021.

Yes, we hope to offer the Innovation Challenge again in the future. In the meantime, we are using the Family Child Care Innovation Networks Award to respond to the current moment, and our own research findings, in a meaningful way.

2019 Winners & Finalists

Idea Track Winners

1st Place:
Strong Families, Mighty South Ward Loyalty Program
An innovative loyalty program designed to motivate and reward Newark families for continual use of the high-quality two-generation resources in their community.

Participants: Jasmine Spencer, Ashanti Jones, Fady Ibrahim

2nd Place:
2Gen Includes Men: Supporting Baltimore City Children and Their Fathers Through the Power of Play
A two-generation program at Baltimore’s Port Discovery Children’s Museum that actively engages low-income fathers and their young children through regular and ongoing playful learning experiences, including monthly father-child parenting and play workshops, events, and activities.

Participant: Patricia Hoge

3rd Place:
Flourish in Frazer Forest
Bringing inclusive early learning experiences outdoors through a project-based forest learning curriculum.

Participants: Susie Riddick, Tonja Holder

3rd Place:
SmartShift: Early Learning Centralized Float Pool Application
A first-to-market digital staffing application designed to build short-term and part-time workforce capacity while also offering unusual suspects the chance to enter the early childhood education field.

Participants: Maureen Weber, Brittany Krier

Pilot Track Winners

1st Place:
The QuickCheck®
A simple tech tool that breaks down teacher professional learning curricula into manageable strategies, helping teachers build their skills and become fluent in effective classroom practices.

Participant: Sheetal Singh

2nd Place:
Building the Muscle: Arts Integration Professional Learning for Early Educators
Giving early childhood educators the tools and confidence to support children’s learning through the arts.

Participants: Abby Crawford, Crystal Cauley

3rd Place:
Telepractice Services for Communication Disorders at West Liberty University
Creating a telehealth suite within a university clinic setting to ensure children and families across rural West Virginia have access to high-quality speech, language and hearing services.

Participants: Stephanie Bradley, Tori Gilbert

Scaling Track Winners

1st Place:
FASTalk
An evidence-based tool that helps teachers engage diverse families and improve student outcomes through curriculum-aligned text messages delivered in families’ home languages and two-way parent-teacher messaging with automated translation. (California)

Participants: Vidya Sundaram, Elisabeth O’Bryon

2nd Place:
Shared Services for Providers
A “partnership, not product” approach designed to help child care providers efficiently manage their business and improve quality for the children and families in their care.

Participants: Judy Williams, Michael Taylor

3rd Place:
Connected for Success
Creating a unified statewide framework in Mississippi to improve care and access to services for both children and their families across the state’s mixed delivery system.

Participants: Micca Knox, Katerina Sergi

Idea Track Finalists

Early Learning Centralized Float Pool Application
A first-to-market digital staffing application designed to build short-term and part-time workforce capacity while also offering unusual suspects the chance to enter the early childhood education field. (Indiana)

Participants: Maureen Weber, Brittany Krier

ToyLend: A Library for Play
A community-based library of playthings that supports children’s healthy development through play. (New York)

Participant: Lauren Berman

Pilot Track Finalists

Creating a Deliberately Developmental School Culture
Using research-based tools, interactive retreats, and one-on-one coaching to help early education leaders build a deliberately developmental school culture that supports teacher growth and results in higher quality programs for children. (Massachusetts)

Participant: Susan MacDonald

SayKid
A screen-less, play-based learning tool that uses voice technology in the form of a plush robot to help kids learn in a safe, natural, and engaging way. (Minnesota)

Participants: DeLonn Crosby, Scott Schanke

Scaling Track Finalists

Healthy Apple Program
Pairing early educators with peer mentors to coach them on best practices for nutrition and physical activity, empowering educators to promote and establish lifelong healthy habits for all children in their care. (California)

Participant: Mona Malan

We Care for Dane Kids
A set of four interdependent, innovative strategies to transform the child care system by increasing the supply of child care, maximizing funding to pay for care, and creating efficiencies of scale for child care programs through a shared services network. (Wisconsin)

Participants: Ruth Schmidt, Katherine Magnuson

2021 Family Child Care Innovation Networks Award

Meet some of the providers chosen to receive the 2021 FCC Innovation Networks Award.

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