By Mia Pritts, Head of Early Care and Education at Wonderschool
In May 2020 NAEYC released a national survey of child care providers, aimed at gathering information on success applying for federal COVID recovery assistance. Curious about how their findings compared with our experience at Wonderschool, I decided to query our community of providers. The results were affirming: Home-based providers that participate in Wonderschool consistently reported greater success in applying for and receiving federal COVID recovery assistance.
[Note: We call the home-base providers that participate in Wonderschool “Directors” — because they are! So I will use that term throughout this blog.]
The Wonderschool directors who responded to my survey were two times more likely to apply for the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP) than the national sample, and were much more likely to be approved for a loan. Almost 48% of Wonderschool directors applied for PPP, compared to the national average family child care application rate of 25%. And over 70% of the Wonderschool directors who applied for PPP were approved, compared to a national family child care approval rating of only 45%.
Targeted and strategic support appears to be key to this success. Wonderschool has built a virtual community of home-based child care directors that includes access to both professional and peer support on a host of business and program quality issues. The Wonderschool technology platform (which can be run off a cell phone if computer access is a challenge) makes it easy for directors of home-based child care programs to keep tabs on finances and automate their business.
Access to support, including an online community and accelerator cohorts, was a vital resource for those seeking to apply for COVID relief funding like the PPP. Experts helped identify participating banks, encouraged directors to apply again if denied, let them know when the next round of funding opened up and if funds were still available. On-line peer support systems made it possible for directors to ask each other questions, share successes (or setbacks) with banks, and offer a stream of encouragement throughout the process.
As directors shift from securing PPP loans to providing the documentation needed to convert those loans to grants, the Wonderschool platform and support network will once again play a vital role.
While the average annual wage for the owner/director of a home-based child care program is estimated to be around $29,000, directors who participate in Wonderschool earn 2.5 times as much – roughly $70,000. Approximately 76% of the home-based child care directors that participate in Wonderschool are women of color and about a third speak a primary language other than English. Approximately 40% serve families who use subsidies in addition to families who pay tuition privately.
Wonderschool has recently begun to partner with local and regional Staffed Family Child Care Networks, via a new Enterprise-level version of the software that supports aggregate, real time supply and demand data as well as the business and pedagogical information funders and regulators require. Virtual support for daily tasks like managing family leads, tours, and enrollments; collecting fees; documenting expenses; and more, makes it possible to track metrics and benchmark success without additional, burdensome data collection.