Monday, May 3, 2010

First Thoughts

It has been a long time since I have written, but I am now done with my class and have a little time, and I have been thinking. A bad habit probably, but one I seem stuck with.

Working with ECE programs that are going through a Quality Improvement Rating System leaves me a lot to to think about. One of the issues that has returned frequently is the cost of continuing the rating once the grant funds are used up. The cost here is $1200 per classroom for both centers and homes. That seems like a lot of money in a field with profit margins that are not usually over 3%, but after years of thinking about financing ECE it occurred to me that I have been approaching this from the wrong angle. I have been trying to figure how sites can pay for a rating every 2 years with what they earn from tuition now rather than asking the consumers of our field to pay for quality. I reflected on this after a rater had mentioned again that they wanted licensing and the rating to become one. I believe that is a good idea (with some reservations), but it worried me to think that sites would have to pay the extra cost. Then I realized that once again as a field we are taking this on ourselves. We do not like to ask for help or support even when it doesn't let us maintain the highest quality care and education for the young lives entrusted to us. I often wonder why this is, but in this case it seems quite silly, especially once I crunched the numbers. For example, a family child care provider with 6 children would need to raise their tuition $8.33 per month to cover the cost of the rating (that would equal $1200 over 2 years). A family child care provider with 12 children would need to raise their tuition by $4.16 per month. A center for 16 children would need to raise it $3.13 per month and a center with 60 children (4 classrooms) would need to raise it $3.33 per month. So why when we are talking about so little money don't we do it? And what is the cost of ensuring quality and who does the quality benefit? Finally what message does it give when we don't ask for enough to cover quality? Let's start a dialogue around this since it can be applied to many other things we forgo as a field (such as education) and if you agree than take it public by starting to talk about it. For example, we can start giving the message that quality costs, and this is what you pay to ensure it, then it would be in society's court to tell us why we aren't worth $8 a month.

1 comment:

Nana said...

Putting a "business" face on the care of children may be one of the most effective ways of weaving in ongoing quality improvement. We cannot expect the "what" of quality to consistently happen unless there is a way to consistenly have the "how" to pay for it. Looking at the cost of staff planning time, ratings, education, new toys, and equipment can create a big sigh, feelings of hopelessness and a reach for grant resources.
Kim, your number crunching idea is a concrete, effective way for caregivers in any setting to implement a plan for control of their own quality improvement destiny. It becomes even more reasonable when the funds are broken down in to weekly amounts. And this is only ONE way to generate funds.
Those of us who work with sites on quality improvement need to offer them the idea that quality improvement is attainable, ongoing, reflective AND affordable.