One of the most important times in a child’s education occurs before they ever step foot inside a school building.
“The research shows that from birth to five, a child’s brain starts building the educational capacity and the joy of learning,” said Leadell Ediger, executive director of Child Care Aware of Kansas. By incorporating age-appropriate play, reading skills, social skills and good nutrition, child care providers can play a key role in making sure children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
“It all happens right there, between birth and five,” Ediger said. “But, the sad part is, of all the child care providers in the state, only 31% have some kind of college education.”
Ediger said there is a direct link between a childcare provider’s education and the care children receive, but funding for continuing education can be a challenge.
“A family child care provider in Kansas makes around $15,000 a year,” Ediger said. “So how are they going to be able to afford additional education, that we know makes them better, if there aren’t some kinds of scholarships available?”
Since 2000, Child Care Aware has offered scholarships to approximately 1,000 child care providers through a variety of funding sources, including its organization fund at the community foundation. Ediger said she doesn’t know of any other nonprofits in Kansas with an endowment solely dedicated to offering scholarships for child care providers.
“The board said that this endowment will support, into perpetuity, the educational needs of child care providers. When I leave this organization, that will be my highlight,” she said.
Every year, Child Care Aware participates in GSCF’s Match Madness to help grow the endowed fund, and the board aims to have $100,000 in the fund by the end of 2020. A larger endowment means they will be able to provide more scholarships for child care providers looking to further their education. Currently, Ediger is working with one provider pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
“She’s been in family child care for thirty years,” said Ediger. “But she understands the link between her higher education and the care that she’s giving kids.”
In addition to scholarships, Child Care Aware also offers low-cost professional development workshops to help providers remain licensed. A recent safety training, supported by a grant from the foundation’s YW Legacy Fund, came just in time for one Kansas child care provider.
“We know child care providers must be ready for a fire, tornado, active shooter, a variety of things,” said Ediger. “One provider had a shooter come into her home.”
Ediger said, because this provider attended a training offered by Child Care Aware, she knew what to do and lives were saved.
“She went back from the training and told the kids the code word for emergencies, and that the code word meant to hide in specific places,” Ediger said. “When the shooter entered her home, she shouted the word, the kids were nowhere to be seen, and they all came out safely.”