Running a child care business means keeping a lot of balls in the air. In addition to the critical work of communicating with families, managing staff, and making sure that each child gets the best possible care, you need to keep promoting your child care services so families can find you. That’s where child care resource and referral agencies come in.
These agencies are your connection with families who are looking for care. In 2020 alone, 63% of parents had difficulty finding child care, and 33% found it very difficult.
By connecting with a referral agency, you make yourself available to the people who need you most.
Increase enrollments and keep families informed with expert advice and all the tools you need, in one place.
What is a child care resource and referral agency?
Child care resource and referral agencies (CCR&Rs) serve as connections between families, child care providers, and state and local regulatory agencies. Each agency’s mission is to make sure that all families have access to safe, affordable, and high-quality care.
To meet that goal, CCR&Rs work directly with families and child care providers. They also stay in close contact with regulators to make sure they share up-to-date information about things like health and safety regulations, child to adult ratios, and more.
How do CCR&Rs help families?
When you work in the child care industry, it can be hard to grasp how mysterious and out-of-reach good child care can feel to parents. Not everyone knows how to find care, how to afford it, or even what good care looks like. CCR&Rs aim to fix that.
What CCR&Rs do
CCR&Rs work with individual families and advocate for early education in the broader community. On the individual level, they:
- Help families find safe, healthy, quality care when they need it
- Connect eligible families with financial assistance to pay for care
- Distribute lists of providers in a certain area
- Explain recommendations and requirements such as what good supervision looks like and elements of age-appropriate care
Also, CCR&Rs educate parents and communities about the importance of early education. They emphasize the importance of early education in child development and describe best practices in early learning.
In the broader community, CCR&Rs distribute information about early education and its connection to ongoing educational success. They emphasize the role of early education in preparing children for school and make child care more accessible for all.
Why child care resource and referral agencies matter to families
For families, CCR&Rs are their connection to the world of care. A family can contact a CCR&R with no experience finding or choosing care, and the agency will help them with the process.
By the time the family gets to you, the CCR&R team has helped them to understand the process of arranging for care. That includes what questions to ask about curriculum, safety, and policy, as well as how to talk about finances. Below is an example of the guidance that Massachusetts provides.
The family may come directly to you with those questions or try your child care website first, so make sure that your website is up to date. Your local CCR&R agency can help you know what to include.
CCR&Rs also help families access vouchers that help them pay the costs of care. Families can turn to CCR&R staff for guidance in navigating the application process, including what paperwork they need.
If a family comes to your center needing help with child care costs and hasn’t connected with a CCR&R yet, refer them to an agency in your area. Not only will the family be grateful for the tip, but they’ll also remember your help when it’s time to choose a provider.
How to work with a CCR&R referral
Families who come to you through CCR&Rs may have specific questions that the agency recommended they ask. Ask your local agency about those questions, and what they like the answers to be.
For example, CCR&Rs in Massachusetts tell parents to ask providers if there’s always an adult on-site with first aid and CPR certification. If you can’t answer “yes,” consider sponsoring certification for your staff. Your local CCR&R can help you figure out how.
Your CCR&R referrals may come to you with payment vouchers. They’re not difficult to work with, and the child care resource and referral team can help you.
How do CCR&Rs help providers?
The other side of CCR&R service is working with providers. Agencies know that it’s not possible to place families in quality and affordable care without a healthy and supported caregiver community, so CCR&Rs:
- Guide new providers through the start-up process
- Help providers get and maintain required licenses
- Offer free or low-cost training opportunities in both the business and direct care aspects of the industry
If you have a question about how to set up and run your business, or what best practices in child care look like in a center like yours, your local CCR&R agency can help.
What CCR&Rs can do as advocates
CCR&Rs also serve as the voice of caregivers in decision-making situations. Sometimes, that means working with lawmakers to create financial incentives for providers, like those associated with high service quality ratings.
Your local CCR&R can tell you whether there are any incentive programs in your area and what you need to do to qualify.
Also, CCR&Rs support the development of accreditation programs. They work with organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation Commission to develop credential requirements for centers and teachers.
CCR&Rs help providers to navigate and meet those requirements. That’s important because providers can work from the best knowledge about child development, and families get access to more informed providers.
What CCR&R agencies can do for you
As a provider, there’s a lot you can gain by connecting with a CCR&R agency. Even if you have years of experience in the industry, an agency connection can help your business grow. A CCR&R will:
- Send you child care “leads” — parents actively looking for a placement for their child/ren
- Share financial resources available to providers in your area
- List your services and link to your website, which broadens your presence online and might improve your search engine rankings
Connecting with a CCR&R agency also lets you offer more training and resources to your staff. Now that turnover in child care is between 26 percent and 40 percent nationwide, convenient and low-cost training is important for keeping the quality of care high.
How can you get involved with your local child care resource and referral agency?
Even if you’ve never worked with a CCR&R agency before, making the connection is easier than you might think. Just visit ChildCare Aware of America and enter your address, city, county, or ZIP code. You’ll get the phone number and email of a child care resource and referral agency close to you.
Reach out and tell the agency that you’re a provider open for enrollment.
While you’re at it, take a look at your existing marketing efforts and make sure your name is out there. Not everyone will come to you through CCR&R, so be sure you have a solid website, social media presence, and email list.
The Download, Constant Contact’s comprehensive marketing resource for child care providers, can help. With this resource and CCR&R connections, you’ll have more opportunities to do what you do best — educate and care for young children.