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Community Day Early Educator Institute

The Early Educator Institute provides public school parents the opportunity to become licensed Family Child Care Educators or Assistants.

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

Our program is continually evolving based on the needs of participants. Since the start of the challenge, we have continued to add to and refine the adult education offerings that serve to support the participants of the Early Education Hub.

Name or Organization

Legal Name: Community Day Care of Lawrence, Inc. DBA: The Community Group


Lawrence, Massachusetts

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD


  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

The Early Educator Institute utilizes the school as a community hub and engages neighborhood residents and parents to become trained and licensed as Family Child Care educators or assistants. This will increase the supply of high-quality child care options in the neighborhood, while simultaneously strengthening social and economic capital within the neighborhood.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

The Early Educator Institute aims to attract and train parents from a Lawrence Public School to become licensed Family Child Care educators and assistants. The school is located in the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts, a small Gateway City of 80,000. Lawrence is a city with a high immigrant population, where 76% of residents over 5 years old speak a language other than English, but which also struggles with some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the state. The neighborhood where the school is located is often the first home of new immigrants to the city. The Early Educator Institute was designed to increase parents’ access to high quality child care that reflects the languages and cultural diversity of the neighborhood, while also helping families to strengthen their social network and economic prospects. A 2015 “Review of Child Care Needs of Eligible Families in Massachusetts” by the Urban Institute found that “immigrant families faced challenges finding providers who spoke their language and with whom they were comfortable…this was not just about language, but also the cultural capacity of the program, that is, about the provider’s ability to offer programming that demonstrates an appreciation and respect for the family’s culture and language” (p. 24). Neighborhood-based Family Child Care educators are well-positioned to meet this need, and the school serves as a natural hub for the development of neighborhood relationships.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

The Early Educator Institute will solve two related problems in the care of infants and toddlers: access and quality. The program improves access by training local parents to open or work in home-based Family Child Care businesses, thereby increasing the pool of knowledgeable, culturally competent, bilingual child care providers. It improves quality by providing training and mentoring on child development, health and safety, and early childhood language and literacy development.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

The Early Educator Institute is a tuition-free program for parents of children at a public elementary school in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The Early Educator Institute offers classroom instruction, coaching, and field-based experiences that lead to licensure as a Family Child Care Educator (authorized to operate a home-based child care business) or a Certified Assistant (approved to work in a licensed Family Child Care Program). The Institute was first launched in 2015 and has been in operation for 3 years. In that time, over 60 participants have been issued 3-year Educator or Assistant licenses by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. In creating the course of study that produced these outcomes at the Hub, TCG drew from its extensive educator training and professional development programs. We intentionally designed classroom instruction, coaching, and field-based services to maximize opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills consistent with state licensing requirements, which encompass health and safety, nutrition, child development, curriculum, assessment, parent communications, and business practices. The Institute is staffed by two women who are experienced in both early and adult education and also fluently bilingual in English and Spanish. The Early Educator Institute is part of a broader array of offerings for parents known as the Early Education Hub, which includes adult education classes such as English as a Second Language (ESOL), citizenship classes, nutrition classes, and family literacy workshops. As the first three years of the Early Educator Institute come to a close, we are preparing for a new enhancement phase of the program. For the first three years of the program, aspiring Family Child Care Educators and Assistants received guidance and mentoring primarily from the Director and Assistant Director of the program; during the next phase of the program we will begin to provide more leadership opportunities to alumni themselves. At this time, participants from Year 1 (2015) of the Early Educator Institute are preparing to renew their licenses, and the Early Educator Institute will offer support, mentoring, and coaching to alumni of the program throughout the renewal process. In addition, we will accept a new cohort of parents seeking to obtain FCC licensure for the first time. Alumni of the program who have completed the process to renew their license will be offered the opportunity to become mentors to the Institute’s newest aspiring participants. The goal of the Early Educator Institute is not just to improve the skills of individual parents who complete the program, but to provide opportunities for connection among the overall school and neighborhood communities. In addition, we will implement an increased focus on curriculum, assessment, and early childhood literacy. Selected alumni of the program will be trained to lead Family Literacy programming with parents and aspiring FCC Educators, and trained to provide curriculum and assessment support to existing FCC Educators in the community. This will also help to improve their employ-ability as licensed FCC Assistants.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The primary beneficiaries of this idea will be the children and parents of the neighborhood. Parents will benefit from increased economic opportunity, a strong and supportive social network, and the development of key knowledge and skills related to early childhood education. Children will benefit by having families that are more economically stable, and by having caregivers that are knowledgeable, skilled, and culturally competent caregivers. The Community Group has been in existence since 1970 and has a long history of listening to and responding to the needs of children and families in Lawrence. We are deeply embedded in the neighborhood and have been implementing the Early Childhood Institute for 3 years.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

Our idea has already had significant impact in the neighborhood, and on the elementary school. The Early Educator Institute and the broader array of supportive programs known as the Early Education Hub have vastly increased parent involvement in the school, with a robust set of parent education offerings and an empowered and active parent network. More than 60 parents have received Family Child Care Educator or Assistant licenses. Currently, aspiring early childhood educators have to navigate a sometimes confusing maze of state-level processes that can be overwhelming for those who do not speak English, are not familiar with state agencies or resources, or don’t have connections to point them in the right direction along the journey of licensure. By moving the preparation to neighborhood-level training that takes place in the community hub of a local elementary school, we can more effectively reach and train aspiring educators. Because the program is targeted at parents, the benefit for participants is both professional and personal. Even those participants who do not obtain employment related to their FCC license have gained a greater understanding of early child development that will benefit them as parents and as family, friend, and neighbor informal caregivers.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

The Early Educator Institute is designed to meet the challenges that low-income children and families often face in navigating the early childhood field, both in terms of access to high-quality child care as well as access to career opportunities in the field. The program has been operating for the previous 3 years in Lawrence, at an elementary school where 70% of students are considered economically disadvantaged (compared to 30% statewide).

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

The primary innovation of the Early Educator Institute is the decision to embed it within a public school, with a focus on a specific neighborhood, and to provide a high level of support for interested educators. The Early Educator Institute builds on the existing relationships that parents have with the school – most of the participants in the Early Educator Institute would typically face a high number of personal and institutional barriers to becoming a licensed Family Child Care provider.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

Lawrence is a mid-sized Gateway City with a high immigrant population. As a former center of the textile industry, the profile of this former mill city mirrors that of mid-size cities across the nation. Across the nation, the twin challenges of providing both access to early childhood care and high quality of care are felt keenly throughout the field. The community-based, parent-focused approach of the Early Educator Institute has the potential for replication in small cities across the country.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

The current staff of the Early Educator Institute are experienced, knowledgeable professionals who have developed strong relationships with the families and children of the school. The first three years of success have demonstrated the feasibilitly of the idea, and the direction of our expansion is based upon our deep knowledge of the community and the program participants.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

The Community Group has a long and distinguished record of funding and supporting successful and scalable models of education programs, parent support models, and training offerings. The Early Educator Institute meets the needs of families in the community where it is located, and draws heavily from local input and feedback. This relationship-based model ensures the success of the program through its ability to respond to family needs in real time.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

Participants and users are at the heart of the Early Educator Institute model: the need for this program came from parent demand, and ongoing refinements to the model have been based on participant feedback. Parents are both participants and designers of the program and ensure that the needs of the community are continually met.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

The Community Group (TCG) was founded in 1970 to provide early education and care for the children of working families in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Over the past 45 years, TCG has grown from one small preschool serving 20 students, to a large, multi-faceted organization that provides a variety of education and enrichment opportunities to children and their families. Throughout our history, TCG has focused services on the city of Lawrence, where nearly 74% of residents identify as Latino, and 76% of residents over 5-years-old speak a language other than English at home. Our programs have grown and developed in partnership with the community and in response to the needs of the children and families we serve, including the many immigrant and migrant families from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Central America. Today, TCG serves more than 3,000 youth annually by operating or managing: • Public Schools – three Lawrence K-8 charter public schools and one in-district turn-around school. • Early Education Hub – a resource center that helps parents of children at the school, many of whom are recent immigrants, pursue employment opportunities in early childhood education and take adult education classes in English as a Second Language, computers, citizenship, and driver’s education. • Teen Parent Infant/Toddler Program – a program helping teen parents complete high school, learn to parent, and connect with services while providing care for their children. • Family Child Care – a network of licensed providers operating small, home-based programs. • Early Learning Center – education and care center for children (18 mos – 6 yrs.) • Childcare resource, referral, and voucher services and early childhood educator training. • Out-of-School-Time enrichment programs for Lawrence Public Schools (LPS) students.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

We do have the people and partners needed to implement and expand our programs. Our strong partners include the Lawrence Public Schools, as well as Lawrence CommunityWorks, who has provided support for the project since its inception, including individual and group financial coaching to participants of the Early Educator Institute.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • No, please do not share my contact information


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