Funding will help build out the child care pilot project
United Way of Northern New Jersey has been awarded a $750,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to continue building and strengthening United In Care, a three-year pilot project designed to address the inequitable deficiencies within the child care system.
United In Care is focused on increasing the availability and affordability of quality child care for those struggling to afford basics—ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and families in poverty. The project also aims to improve the quality of life for child care workers, many of whom are ALICE essential workers.
“We are extremely grateful to the Kellogg Foundation for this generous grant and its commitment to helping solve the child care crisis in New Jersey,” said United Way’s Senior Director of Strategies Michelle Roers, who oversees the United In Care project. “This funding will help us continue to implement the program to ensure more New Jersey families who need child care, not only have access to it, but receive high-quality care they deserve.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck more than a year ago, registered child care centers and at-home family child care providers (or FCCs) have been hit hard. According to Child Care Aware, up to 50 percent of the 4,000 licensed child care centers in the state have or are expected to close due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, Child Care Aware reports that more than 300 FCCs in New Jersey have shut their doors for good, putting an already broken child care industry into further crisis.
The United In Care model partners registered child care centers with local family care providers to expand capacity, leverage expertise, share resources and sustain critical infrastructure. It brings together the scope and scale of child care centers—which provide administration/fiscal operations, marketing, substitute/back-up staffing, training, and learning—with the intimacy and expertise of registered FCCs. United In Care not only supports the providers, but also provides tuition assistance for ALICE families.
United Way is currently targeting three vulnerable areas across the state to test the model: rural Warren County, growing Gloucester County and urban Hudson County. All three areas lack access to quality, affordable child care and have more than 35% of households falling into the ALICE demographic.
At every step throughout the project, key performance indicators, which measure results like increased capacity, increased affordability, improved wages, and better quality of care, are being gathered through feedback from the participating families, centers and providers and analyzed by data analyst experts.
“Metrics, dashboards and evaluation tools will be the bedrock for the program’s evolution and continued improvement,” Roers said. “United In Care has the potential to transform the sector, promoting quality child care and early education and supporting economic opportunities for working parents and early education professionals.”
The Kellogg Foundation joins other philanthropic organizations who are championing United In Care, including New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund ($3.5 million), the Overdeck Family Foundation ($1.2 million), David A. Tepper Foundation ($1.2 million), New Jersey Health Initiatives ($100,000), and Barclays ($100,000). United In Care has already raised $6.85 million of the project’s total $8.4 million budget.