The Preschool Coordinator Advisory Group heard from Sarah Vanover, director of the Division of Child Care (DCC) in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, about the Preschool Partnership Grant at its Jan. 27 meeting.
The grant is designed to encourage cooperative partnerships between public school districts and private childcare providers to develop full-day, high-quality programs for at-risk children.
The DCC awarded the grant to 45 school districts in the fall 2021, with funding from the American Rescue Plan that places an emphasis on assisting children who qualify for a Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and children who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Vanover said that in childcare programs, the most underserved population is often children with disabilities.
“Many children who have a disability enroll in childcare programs because their parents need full-day services. They may get expelled or experience a soft expulsion because the childcare providers don’t have the training on special education that IEC-certified teachers in the public-school system do, along with other supports like occupational, physical and speech therapy.”
For the purposes of the grant, a partnership would include a Kentucky school district collaborating with a local licensed childcare facility to provide subcontracted full-day, high-quality early childhood services to at-risk children in their community. Childcare facilities must be a rated three-, four- or five-star early childhood center. If there is not a high-quality center in a school district’s area, districts may partner with other licensed or certified childcare centers that meet the requirements of the grant.
Applications currently are being accepted for the next cycle beginning in fall 2022, with funding allotted each semester for two school years. Large school districts may apply for two grants. Applications are due March 11 at 4 p.m. ET.
The grant also will have a strong focus on supporting the social and emotional development of children enrolled in the program. The grant could provide training for childcare providers and social-emotional specialists or be used for childcare provider staffing or supplementary curricula and supplies to help children’s social-emotional growth.
“We want [children] to have that additional social-emotional support because we know there has been so many losses in social-emotional growth in the past two years,” said Vanover. “… Young children, one of their main goals in preschool is to learn those social-emotional skills. It’s very hard to do that if they had to go to any type of virtual learning or if they lost their ability to be in childcare.”
The DCC plans to use data collection from the districts participating in the grant to showcase the importance of full-day childcare coverage.