Home Grown’s Thriving Providers Project (TPP) is garnering national attention. Launched this summer in Colorado and coming soon in Nashville, Tennessee and other communities, TPP will send monthly, unconditional cash payments to home-based providers for at least one year. This project hopes to inform early childhood payment system policy reforms at the local and national level by demonstrating that children thrive when the adults who care for them do as well.
Following a feature in Early Learning Nation, the fall special issue of, Yes! Magazine, highlights two Colorado home-based childcare providers who will benefit from TPP payments. The article highlights how the Thriving Providers Project can transform the work ecosystem in ways that are good for everyone: childcare providers, working parents, and the communities they live in.
Colorado TPP recipients Olivia Hernandez and Carmela Enriquez have decades of experience running their own childcare programs, but they earn less than $18,000 per year. Even though home-based care is the preferred childcare option for Black and Latin-x families, as well as rural families, families with nontraditional or unpredictable work schedules, and those with low incomes, many home-based providers must take on extra jobs to make ends meet. Even those who care for children an average of 56 hours/week earn less than 30,000/ year.
Hernandez and Enriquez bring their knowledge about the working conditions of home-based providers to the Colorado pilot advisory board, which is facilitated by a local partner. According to Home Grown’s Director of Policy and Strategy Alexandra Patterson, this collaboration between local family, friend and neighbor (FFN) and family child care (FCC) serving community based organizations makes TPP an especially innovative model for addressing the unique financial needs of home-based caregivers. Utilizing the guaranteed income body of evidence as a strategy to address the financial needs of providers with the resources and expert technical assistance for the project provided by Home Grown, is an opportunity to demonstrate the impact of addressing material hardship in home-based child care providers and how that impacts the economic stability of the provider themselves.
The simplicity of TPP’s premise stands in contrast to multiple failures on the national level to increase federal public investment in child care, according to Patterson. “We believe that eliminating barriers for eligibility and directing small, but regular cash payments to home-based child care providers can be the difference between struggling and thriving for both the providers and the families they serve,” says Patterson. That premise offers the promise of greater financial stability to the nearly five million caregivers who serve millions of children ages 0-5, caregivers who have often been overlooked by other subsidy programs.
Notably, the TPP direct cash payments are grounded in trust that providers know best how to invest the funds they receive. A recurring TPP payment of less than $1200 can enable a provider to serve healthy meals to the children in their care despite inflated grocery prices, pay for required certification renewals or training, pay the electric bill, or enable her to take days off for medical appointments or a vacation. And the project is designed to minimize bureaucratic hurdles to eligibility and layers of documentation in the application process. Other subsidy programs often require proof of employment income or documentation of citizenship, a paperwork burden that turns away unpaid caregivers and self-employed providers whose first language may not be English.
Eliminating these barriers means that more caregivers can receive the funding and put the cash directly to work in the local economy in the service of kids and families. “It may seem simple, but eliminating paper and using a payment platform that automates the verification process on the back end makes a huge difference in getting this money to providers in an efficient and sufficient way. For a provider who does not have a cash reserve or credit, who is maybe going hungry herself in order to continue feeding other people’s children, getting paid regularly and reliably is a little fix that makes a huge difference,” according to Patterson.
The Thriving Providers Project is not just about boosting the income of caregivers, says Patterson. It is also a way of nourishing the roots of communities that depend on home-based caregivers who are the essential support system for families. Positive and continuous relationships between parents and their childcare provider nurture an essential pipeline of information. “Home-based providers are so in tune with the needs of families,” says Patterson. “They are not just taking care of your kids. They are also thinking about ‘How do I connect families to the resources they need? How do I make sure they have enough food and know how to register for kindergarten and know about the free event that the library does on the weekend.’” Those resources reduce parents’ stress and help children in school and at home. It’s valuable, community building work that holds the whole economy together. This project recognizes the added value home-based providers give to the American economy by sending funds and resources directly to the providers who are the foundation for millions of working parents across America.