A Groundbreaking Solution to the Staffing Shortage
In Vol. 4 of Around the Community, we look at how staffing shortages continue to hurt the industry's ability to stabilize, and a Washington state solution to address providers' growing needs.
Short staffing and its consequences continue to impact child care providers, families, and businesses across the country. At LegUp, we’ve been searching for partners committed to solving this issue for the past several months. Today, I’m excited to highlight a notable solution in effect in Washington state.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with The Imagine Institute and found their dedication to resolving Washington’s child care staffing shortage incredibly inspiring and worth sharing. Let me know what you learn from The Imagine Institute’s efforts or if you’re doing something similar—I’d love to chat!
The Imagine Institute: The Imagine Institute is a grassroots professional development organization for and by education workers. We were established through collective bargaining between members of SEIU Local 925 and the State of Washington to ensure that providers had a say over their own profession.
We offer a variety of groundbreaking programs that provide supports to child care center workers, licensed family child care providers, and family, friend, and neighbor caregivers. All Imagine programs are built on the core tenants of relationship-based professional development and the belief that a provider’s years of experience translate to valuable knowledge and skill. Our professional development supports are culturally-responsive, respectful of provider skills and knowledge, and accessible to those already working long hours for insufficient pay. The Imagine Institute staff speak Spanish, English, and Somali, and 50% of our employees have worked as licensed family child care providers or lead teachers in child care centers. Our goal is to elevate the conditions of this profession while maintaining its incredible diversity.
The Imagine Institute: One of the aspects of our work, which has been a great source of value for providers, is the Early Care and Education Substitute Pool. The purpose of the substitute pool is twofold: strengthen the early education workforce by increasing the quality and caliber of new providers, and lowering the barrier to entry for interested providers while also supporting the current supply of providers who need consistent, quality staff to offer care to current and prospective families.
This substitute pool is designed to support both family child care and child care center providers in their professional development.
For current providers, we have been able to expand eligibility to the substitute pool, aiming to serve more providers throughout the state and help provide an immediate solution to this urgent need of providers.
For prospective educators, the substitute pool is a great way to get into the profession and obtain all the requisite certifications and training to be a quality provider. We cover all the training for providers to obtain their Child Development Associate (CDA) and ensure that all substitutes have completed their background checks prior to working as a substitute.
The Imagine Institute: The Early Care and Education Substitute Pool is designed to support family child care and child care center providers in their professional development. Furthermore, state funding is currently available for certain allowable activities.
The substitute pool is available through our private pay option for licensed centers and family home providers in good standing with Department of Children, Youth, and Families. These hours can be scheduled for any time, on any day, and the rate is set by the facility or provider. Here’s a quick overview of the substitute pool:
All licensed Washington child care facilities can access the substitute pool.
Providers may be able to subsidize some hours to pay the substitute, based on The Imagine Institute’s eligibility requirements.
Providers can request a specific substitute or access the director of substitutes.
Licensed family home child care providers who have served at least one state subsidized child in the last 12 months can access up to 50 hours of paid substitute hours through June 30, 2022. Additional hours can be accessed through our private pay option.
The goal of the pool is to provide a quick solution to the growing issue of staffing shortages in the field and ensure that programs can offer stable child care with qualified staff. Our aim is to grow the pool of candidates to ensure that programs who need to access it can rely on The Imagine Institute as an important resource today and in the future.
At LegUp, we’re regularly impressed and inspired by the hard work of our partners like The Imagine Institute. You can learn more about their work here.