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Find Heart Child Care App

We want to create an app to inform families about all of their child care options, quality indicators, health, safety, and provide reviews.

Photo of Michelle Saint Hilarie
8 16

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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)

We're currently reaching out to application developers so we can build a prototype of our app to test and engage the market. We need to get feedback from our end-users to see what may or may not work, what they like or dislike, and how we can improve our application. We've learned that we need a to find a sustainable business model that makes the most sense for this industry.

Name or Organization

Child & Family Resources, Inc.


Tucson, AZ with the intent to go nationwide.

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?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

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

Searching for high-quality, affordable, and accessible child care is a complex and overwhelming task for anyone. The early care and education field uses a lot of jargon to educate families about their choices while unintentionally confusing them with too much information. Consumers are making purchasing decisions almost subconsciously and rely on information at their fingertips. The app would change how families are currently evaluating and making child care decisions by providing options in their local community that have been vetted by a trusted resource with an option for parent reviews.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Daily we come across families who are scanning the internet or posting on social media sites that they need child care and need it fast. As a result, young children (especially infants and toddlers) are being left with caregivers who are not qualified and not monitored or regulated. Children are literally being left with strangers because families are in desperate, tough situations. If you were to go on Facebook or Craigslist you would find hundreds of groups or pages where people post things like “need child care asap” or “Need a babysitter for my 2 month old starting tonight so I can work” giving them little to no time to vet a qualified caregiver. This ultimately leads to children being left at risk for abuse and possible other negative outcomes. We’d like to build a mobile app that will enable families to search for child care by eliminating the obstacles they currently face by giving them immediate, comprehensive and verified options. Some of the obstacles include not having time to do the research to see who is licensed, accredited, or participating in a quality rating and improvement system and who they can afford. This is not information they can receive just by searching the internet and the language of early care and education is not commonly known. Licensed? Accredited? Quality Rating? What does all that mean anyway? We want to provide an app that is user-friendly, collaborative, and educational while providing an easier, better way to find child care.

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

1. The lack of the availability of high-quality child cares by educating families about what to look for and questions to ask therefore creating a higher demand. 2. Infants and toddlers are at risk of being left in the care of under or un-qualified caregivers thus having a negative impact on their growth and development. 3. Lack of awareness and education about what to look for in a high-quality child care program

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

We are in the research and development phase of this idea. We would like to build an application that’s compatible with all mobile devices to enable families to search for child care in their community. The Find Heart app will create a new platform for families and child care providers to engage with one another. To build an app that is innovative, marketable and in demand, we need to work with the people with the technical knowledge, skills, and expertise. This app has not been developed but, here’s how we envision the operation of our app: Download the App: Open and automatically it would take you to our welcome screen where you can begin finding quality child care. Main Menu: The main menu will list all of the options and various features of the app. Begin Your Search: Answer a series of questions to set your search parameters. Once you complete the required questions, hitting the “FIND” button begins the search. View the map: The results and all pertinent information about each child care program will display on a map. Each child care programs will be represented by a heart shape. You can hover over the hearts to see a summary of the child care program. From here, if you are interested in looking at the details of a child care program, you will click on the summary that previously popped up. When you click on it, you will be taken to the page of that specific program. On the top you will see the name of the business and photos of the program that you will be able to scroll through. On the photo you will have a button that will allow you to contact that child care program to set up an appointment to visit. View a list: On the bottom, you can click “List” to switch from map view to a list view. Scan a location: If you are in a neighborhood and would like to use the scan to see what is around the area, all you have to do is click on “scan” and using the AR feature of the map, run your phone camera through the neighborhood and child care programs will pop up on the screen. If you are very specific on the area that you would like to see child care programs in, you are able to draw your limits directly on the map and the app will search within those limits by using the “draw” button. Search a Specific Provider: You have a “Search for a Provider” option just in case you already have a child care program in mind and you would like to see their details. Child Care Calculator: You have a “Child Care Calculator” that will allow you to figure out what your budget for child care is. My Find Heart Folder: On the bottom right, you will find the “My Find Heart Folder” icon. This is where you will be storing all of the different child care programs to compare and review. “My Find Heart Folder” is where you will find all of the necessary tools to make your child care decision. You will see a list of all of the programs you’ve added and check off programs you’ve contacted and/or if you have visited. When visiting a program, you will be able to bring up the Quality Child Care Checklist for that program and fill it out during your visit. Parent Reviews: You will also find “Parent Reviews” that have been left by other parents and you have the option of leaving a review yourself. Providers will also have the opportunity to respond to reviews. Share Feature: On the bottom left, you will have a “share” icon in case you would like to send the profile to someone. Compare Programs: Once you selected programs you want to visit you will be able to compare one program with another to determine which one best meets your needs. Color coding: Programs will be color coded to help families easily identify higher quality and regulated programs over those of low quality or unregulated. Ideally this will raise awareness for families when choosing a child care program.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Children, families, child care providers, businesses and the community will benefit from our idea of developing an app anyone can use to find child care by connecting families to providers who meet various licensing and quality program standards. Child & Family Resources is a private, community-based, non-profit organization with over 30 years experience serving children, youth, families and early care and education professionals. We’ve operated a Child Care Resource & Referral for over 23 years and know firsthand the challenges families face finding child care they can trust. In addition, we’ve also provided ongoing professional development and learning for child care providers and can see the challenges families and providers face trying to connect with one another. We have the skills, knowledge and expertise of high-quality early care and education and family engagement. We also have specific experience working with infants and toddlers through our early intervention and infant-toddler caregiver training programs.

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

We believe this app could forever change the way families seek and find information about child care on a national, if not a global level. We also believe this will help bridge the gap between the needs of families and what caregivers are able or willing to provide. We know that if more families had the tools to locate and identify what quality child care looks like, as well as, the crucial importance of having a well-educated and trained professional caring for the infant or toddler they would make better child care choices for their children. Ultimately leading to better developmental outcomes or young children, kindergarten readiness, and helping children reach their fullest potential.

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

Low income children are at higher risk for being left with caregivers who are not qualified to care for them due to a wide variety of reasons. One reason is that families of a lower-socio economic demographic tend to work jobs that require them to be there during non-traditional work hours. The majority of licensed child care providers are not open during non-traditional hours posing a big barrier for families, and forcing families to make the difficult decisions of leaving them with a family, friend, neighbor or potentially a stranger who has not had the proper background checks, training or gone through state licensing to meet minimum health and safety requirements. The app will enable families to make quick decisions about child care because we will have already done some of the hard work for them. The app will contain information about programs that are licensed, certified, meet health and safety requirements, and meet quality program standards. It will include those who may not meet all of these requirements but that will be addressed through the consumer education features of the app.

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

Old Systems for New Consumers We want to provide a completely new platform for families to use to locate state regulated, quality-rated child care programs. Right now, their only option is to call a local resource and referral, search the internet or social media, and/or get word-of-mouth recommendations. We want to empower them to make the best and most informed decision while simultaneously giving them peace of mind that the child care options displayed meet state licensing and quality rating requirements. This is a completely new way of engaging end users in locating child care and, quite frankly, the current infrastructure to find child care in antiquated and doesn’t meet the needs of families today. The strategies and technology used is often times over twenty-plus-years old and it isn’t flexible, nimble, or convenient enough to meet the demands and needs of child care consumers. This app could be very disruptive to the child care search market and, honestly, we want it to be! We know firsthand the barriers families face due to outdated practices and technology and we know the current systems are deeply flawed. Just tell me where to go! Families are looking for recommendations for child care and federally funded child care referral programs that exist today cannot give a direct recommendation for a wide variety of reasons. This model has created a big gap between what we know as early childhood educators to be the most important criteria to make the best child care choice and how families are making their child care decisions. They literally want someone to make the decision for them. They tell us daily, “Just tell us where to go!” or “Can’t you just tell me what program to go too?” and since local resource and referrals cannot do this, they turn to other, unverified sources of information. They turn to resources such as Yelp or Google, or some other platform, and these sources do not always have accurate, up-to-date or verified information. I just don’t have the time or resources to find child care! We want to save time for families by doing the research for them, sharing the results, and have them make a decision based on options that have already been vetted, customer-reviewed, and meet licensing standards. Thus, making our app unlike any other child care finder that exists on the market today. The Find Heart App will give families the ability to locate child care within minutes of searching. It brings the ease and convenience of technology with the expertise and experience of early educators together to support families in their search for care. Let us do the work for you! No, really, let Find Heart Coaches will verify the licensing and quality of child care programs listed on the app. They will collect and verify program information and once completed, Find Heart will identify them as a verified program. We acknowledge and want to reinforce that nothing will or should ever replace a family visiting a child care program to determine if it meets their individual needs or perceptions of quality. Families will still need to visit programs to evaluate if the care meets their needs. However, we can make it a lot easier by eliminating the barriers of having to go through an intake process or overcome other bureaucratic processes that disengage families from getting the information they need to make the most informed decision they can about child care.

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

The app has the potential to reach several thousand users a day. Families all over the nation are searching all hours of the day and night for child care. A review of the Google search term “child care” confirms there’s a steady interest in the need to locate child care on any given day. Families are turning to Google but are not able to receive the information they are seeking about all of their child care options. As this application becomes more widely adopted it could be appealing to prospective advertisers or sponsors that could help generate revenue to support this project. It may also be possible to offer revenue generating features and/or sell various early childhood/child development products through the app. Some anticipated barriers may be getting information or cooperation from state agencies about the child care programs because this could be a perceived threat to the programs or services they are offering. However, families are frustrated with those services and are hungry for a different way of locating the goods or services they need.

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

With our vast knowledge and years of experience working with families to locate child care and hearing direct feedback from how frustrating the process can be we feel we have a deep understanding of the demand for an application that will simplify the process. We also understand the need for infants and toddlers to be enrolled in programs where their caregivers are well-educated and highly trained. We have current team members with the expertise and knowledge of the landscape of child care and the vision, as well as passion to design the app. We need to work with people who have the technical expertise and resources. With the right people and supports this app can easily be done because the technology already exists. Developing and launching the Find Heart app is possible.

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

We’re excited to share that Child & Family Resources is fully committed to investing time and resources into the development and testing of The Find Heart App with the intention that is will serve as a new line of business under our non-profit, 501(c)(3) status. We’re currently conducting research on existing business models to best determine which one may be a great fit for our app. However, we are also exploring other, possibly new business models to generate revenue. Examples of existing models include: charge to download app, in-app purchases, limiting access to app features by charging fees for more features, advertising, lead generation and marketing, selling data, and transaction fees. While we are advanced innovators in early childhood, we are early stage innovators for the app. We’re talking through each of the existing models to see if there is one that is the most viable for our app. We’re also exploring including some form of in-app payment processing for families to pay providers for care. We think the app could be a great marketing tool for child care programs and believe there could be some revenue generating possibilities by charging for additional marketing features on the app., We’re confident we can make the app into a viable business model. We just need more time to do more research and make sure we figure out the best one.

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

We’re in the inspiration phase of our human centered design work, gearing up to enter the Ideation Phase. Currently, we’re generating and researching various ideas and solutions for developing, prototyping, sustaining, and sharing the Find Heart Child Care App. We’re excited as an organization to build something we believe to be creative, innovative and maybe even a little revolutionary. The energy within our organization since we’ve shared with our staff about our submission is invigorating. We’ve also been sharing our idea with other community partners and networks and we’ve received an overwhelming positive response to the app. We hear feedback like “I wish that app existed when I needed child care” or “How do I get it, where can I download it at, I need child care now”. Steps 1 and 2 of the Experience Map are in progress. We envision how consumers will engage with our app and believe we know who are users will be. We’re having idea generating, problem-solving, and brainstorming, as well as processing and reflecting on each users experience and benefits of using the Find Heart App. We’re asking a lot of questions and seeking to find the answers. For example, we had no idea how to build an app or even where to start. We’ve reached out to our networks to connect with individuals who have the knowledge, resources and if appropriate, the right connections for us to explore the cost, technology, and sustainability to build an app. As a result, we’ve learned that we need to build our prototype and start testing it with end-users as soon as possible. By doing so, we can gather data, generate feedback, test hypothesis, generate results and analyze our work. We recognize that keeping the people we serve at the heart of our design and platform will enable us to deliver a product and/or service that is sustainable and will have a big impact on the early care and education market. Actually, we hoping it will transform it! We are working on connecting with app developers to build a prototype of our app so we can test it. We know that child care providers and anyone searching for child care, primarily parents of young children, are the people we are designing this app for. Our experience with families informs us that they want fast, dependable, accessible, and affordable high quality child care. Our experience with child care providers lets us know they are always looking for families to serve and have no idea how to best market themselves. Early childhood research tells us it’s critical for young children to be cared for in environments that support their optimal health and development. Once our prototype is developed and available we’ll be sharing the app and then conducting various focus groups, surveys and testing with end users. We’ve got some upcoming meetings with potential partners, app developers, and other groups to start generating feedback.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

The idea came up during a team meeting with our child care coaches and marketing and outreach coordinator. The team was discussing how scary it can be when we see posts on the internet from families who are looking for child care and getting responses from people who do not meet even the minimum requirements to care for children. We were talking about ways we could change this and possible solutions, while also thinking about ideas for this submission. That's when our marketing and outreach coordinator literally said “We need an app that can help parents find child care, right in their neighborhood, with all of the features that parents demand and we currently cannot deliver to them because it doesn't exist”. The conversation exploded from there and we immediately knew we were on to something. Our inspiration came from apps or websites that allow you to search for products or services using geographical locations. We noticed that you can find the location of almost anything on Google maps and that if you hover over the pins you can also get more information on a pop-up menu. Early care and education is our mission and passion. Our organization was founded on improving the quality of care for children and their families. We are determined to make a difference in children’s lives through education, prevention and intervention programs and services. We’re excited to be able to offer a new and exciting product to families and child care providers. Child & Family Resources has a long history of building community collaborations that address unmet needs and gaps in social services. The agency was originally known as The Tucson Association for Child Care in 1970. The goal was to mobilize communities to develop quality childcare options for low-income families. As the agency grew and took on new challenges, the name was changed to reflect the wider scope of our programs. We currently employ over 300 people throughout Arizona who are all working towards our mission of building strong communities and families where children can reach their fullest potential. Our services for childcare providers help them provide the highest quality child care possible. Investment in quality early childhood care saves money by increasing the likelihood that children will be literate, employed, enrolled in post secondary education, and less likely to be school dropouts, dependent on welfare or arrested for criminal activity. Our team members reflect the cultural demographics of the communities they serve and are residents of those same communities. We help build communities that value children and families.

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

We have internal staff who will work on this project and we’re looking to contract with database and application developers. We need people who have the skills, knowledge and expertise in building databases and making them work with applications. We need mobile app, database and website developers. We may possibly need some marketing support and partners as well.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We need your help! We’re excited about this idea and feel it is feasible but we need guidance and help from the people who have the expertise to tackle this technical project. We need to do some more research and connect with the experts in technology, website, database and mobile app development experience. We do need to think through more about how this can be a sustainable endeavor and we need time to go through and utilize all of the resources that been provided. We want to use all of the amazing resources provided such as the localization, storytelling, prototyping and refinement toolkit but they require time and resources to do so. We also need to guidance and support from people who are experienced with these tools. We're trying to teach ourselves the tools while we simultaneously use them and it's challenging. We need some help!

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

We don't know what we don't know but we do know we need mentoring support! We anticipate that we need mentoring support from mobile app developers, techies, marketers, and the business community. We pride ourselves on being good community partners and collaborators and are open and willing to do whatever is needed of us to make this a success.

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

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

First, thank you so much for the opportunity to meet with a mentor. Our mentor connection went very well and was extremely beneficial. Here’s what we learned as a result of our mentor meeting and are working to leverage all of the following feedback: - This idea’s "got legs"! It has the potential to be a competitive, real viable product. - We need a prototype! We’ve got to start testing this app to and collect data. We need to test our hypothesis and best guesses. We’ve got to figure out what works and what doesn’t and use the results to inform our work. - We need an investor deck! Prior to our meeting, our team didn’t even know what an investor deck was. Since then, we’ve learned words like “slide deck” or “pitch it” and a whole new world has opened up for us. We’ve got to share our results with investors and other partners. We’re becoming a legit start-up and entering a realm that is completely out of the box for us. - We need to research various business models for apps. We actually wish we could have recorded our phone call with our mentor because he shared so much with us. We’re incredibly thankful for the opportunity and he offered to be a support to us whenever needed. Overall, it was a very successful one hour meeting.

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

We’ve been strategizing about the development, features, business model, design and name of the app. We’ve strategized about ways to make the app a place that users will need to visit more than a onetime use and how might childcare programs be incentivized to make use of this app – is it a billing feature? Is it two-way communications between parent and caregiver with updates about their child? We’re not sure, but it’s become a big topic of conversation. We also starting wondering if advertisers be interested, presuming there are enough sufficient users, to market child/parent friendly products and services through the app We’ve realized that marketing plays a role in this idea in several ways. We know that there needs to be a big marketing campaign and money behind it to get the word out about the app and to start engaging customers. We also realize that the app is an avenue for the caregiver to market their services. We’ve got this on the back burner for the moment as we work to try to get a simple prototype going. We will revisit and work on the marketing pieces of the design. We learned about another submission called CarePass and we’ve had an initial conversation with them about our ideas. Just today, the creators of Baby Noggin reached out via the submission platform about helping is bring this idea to fruition and we’re getting an hour and a half meeting on the calendar to talk with Dr. Lee about her ideas and what she sees as possible options for partnering.

Attachments (1)


We've included an attachment of how we visualize our app will look and can be used.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Carina Rubio

A great approach to adapt to the generations! I'm sure families would find this so useful, especially given the need for fast and easy help nowadays. It is important to use the technology that everyone uses anyway, and that's what makes this exciting!

Photo of Michelle Saint Hilarie

Thank you Carina!

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