Denver Family Members, Friends, and Neighbors (FFN) Provider Support
A large number of young children are cared for family members, friends, neighbors (FFN) or other informal care providers. Nearly all FFN providers are interested in tangible developmental resources that they can use to promote learning and literacy skills in the children under their care; however, FFN providers often don't have the funds to provide those opportunities. In Denver, city leaders are bringing together municipal agencies and key community institutions to conduct trainings for FFN providers and distribute materials that highlight developmentally appropriate activities. In addition, city departments are sponsoring free, culturally enriching programs at community centers or local museums and supporting a lending library for books, toys, puzzles, games, and videos through the library system. These resources and activities help FFN providers build their instructional practices. Also, city departments are providing developmentally appropriate activity ideas, free culturally enriching programs at the local museum, and they are setting up a lending library for books, toys, puzzles, games, and videos through the library system.
Initiated in 2007, Denver's efforts to create support structures for FFN caregivers have benefited from the leadership of the Mayor's Office, strong partnerships with the Mile High United Way (MHUW) and Making Connections-Denver, and the collaborative planning efforts of the Mayor's Early Childhood Education Commission, a group of 15 policymakers, providers, parents and advocates. Early in this effort, city and United Way leaders worked to better define the FFN community, including babysitting or child care in a home during the day, evening or overnight for grandchildren, other relatives, younger siblings and children of friends and neighbors, whether or not the provider was paid.
The city and United Way embarked on this effort by reaching out to FFN providers connected to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). After trust and relationships were developed with these FFN providers, they would bring other FFN caregivers outside of CCCAP to local support and training programs. To ensure that these programs are accessible to all parents and caregivers, the city and its partners engaged A Place of Our Own/Clayton Early Learning for training and outreach to Spanish-speaking providers.
MOEC, MHUW and Making Connections-Denver worked together to provide financial support and coordinate in-kind donations from community organizations to FFN providers, and launched a Play & Learn facilitated play group in both English and Spanish for young children from infancy through age five and their caregivers. In addition, a parent resource guide provides information about early care and education resources in the community, literacy resources have been enhanced in Family Resource Centers and the One Book Program supports the distribution of books to young children and early literacy materials to providers throughout the city.
The Mayor's Office and the United Way work together to connect FFN providers to state resources and they coordinate donations to FFN providers that help launch peer learning opportunities. Past sponsors have included MGA Communications, 1STBank, the Regional Transportation District (RTD), and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. Children Museum of Denver, Denver Public Library, Colorado Symphony, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Zoo, and Colorado Ballet.
The city created a Resource Facilitator Mentor (RFM) program to respond to the needs of early childhood providers (both Spanish and English-speaking). The RFM provided community-based technical assistance, mentoring, social network development, resources and health and safety training to a cohort of 21 FFN caregivers. The goal of this program was to use the mentor/trainer to help these child care providers improve the quality of care and become licensed.
Using ongoing data collection to assess impact, the city and its partners realized that the traditional coaches employed in this program were not achieving measurable results because they were not adapting their approach to the unique situation of informal caregivers or the cultural and linguistic diversity of the participants. In response, staff secured support and resources from the local Quality Improvement (QI) Fund to bring aboard new trainers with more culturally and programmatically relevant experience and to provide additional training for a small subset of existing trainers.
As a result of the program - and the city's willingness to make mid-course corrections - FFN providers who received RFM coaching were more likely to purchase developmentally appropriate educational materials and curricula, address health and safety needs and improve communication and relationships with families.
The FFN work has continued over the years. The Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care Learning Community grew out of the early work and now is a collective voice ensuring children in FFN care are thriving throughout the state of Colorado. The role of FFN caregivers is being considered in the Early Childhood Colorado Framework, more nonprofits are addressing the need of FFN caregivers, and a page in the state's Kids Count data book is dedicated to informal unlicensed caregivers.
Institute for Youth, Education, and Families
Diana Romero Campbell
Director, Early Learning & Education
Mile High United Way
711 Park Avenue West
Denver, Colorado 80205