Tarrant County uses pandemic funds to give big boost in child care
The Tarrant County Commissioners Court made a big investment in child care to the tune of $45 million.
The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), part of a larger $408 million that Tarrant County received in pandemic recovery funds.
On March 1, the commissioners approved a budget on how to spend that $480 million, and $45 million of it was allocated to child care purposes as follows:
- $2 million to strengthen child care businesses and quality
- $15 million to stabilize quality child care and increase whole child supports
- $28 million to expand infant-toddler access and infrastructure for highest need families
To help figure out how to spend all that money wisely, the county found a nonprofit partner and also helped in the formation of a larger committee.
Their partner is Child Care Associates (CCA), a nonprofit founded in 1968 that provides child care services for low-income families in Tarrant County as well as 19 counties in West Texas.
The committee is the Blue Ribbon Action Committee on Child Care, a collaboration between Tarrant County, the city of Fort Worth, and the city of Arlington.
The Blue Ribbon Action Committee consists of business, philanthropic, and community leaders across North Texas who came together in the thick of COVID-19 to try and reimagine child care in Tarrant County. Members include former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; Elva LeBlanc, acting chancellor of Tarrant County College; and nonprofit representatives from various foundations.
In a statement, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley calls it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"The pandemic both highlighted and intensified the need for affordable, high quality child care for families in Tarrant County," Whitley says. "I'm thrilled that we're applying these once-in-a-lifetime funds to expand and strengthen the industry, so that more parents have the support they need, and more children have access to transformational childhood development."
Strengthen Child Care Businesses
The county’s $2 million investment expands $3 million in funding from Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County. This is in addition to $3.4 billion in historic funding from the Texas Workforce Commission to stabilize child care businesses statewide.
The money supports licensed child care providers and offers business coaching to help ensure they invest the funding for long-term success, says Blue Ribbon Action Committee co-chair Rose Bradshaw.
Stabilize Quality Child Care and Whole Child Supports
The county's $15 million goes towards quality child care, enhancing child care educator salaries, and expands whole child supports to children in these programs. "Whole child" addresses needs outside the classroom such as healthcare and homelessness.
Expand Infant-Toddler Access and Infrastructure for Highest Need Families
The county and Child Care Associates will seek partnerships with municipalities, ISDs, higher education, and other public entities with a goal of doubling the county’s investment of $28 million and adding 50 new infant-toddler classrooms in high need neighborhoods.
Tarrant County Commissioner Roy C. Brooks says that toddlers and infants are a group that can really use the help.
"I am thrilled that Tarrant County and CCA together can expand Early Head Start services for infants and toddlers in some of our highest need neighborhoods," Brooks says. "The greatest return on investment in education remains largely untapped – providing high quality early education and care services for infants and toddlers of families who need those services
Child Care Associates is one of the largest child development nonprofits in North Texas and has served more than half a million young children over the past 54 years. Through Head Start, Early Head Start and Child Care Management Services, they deliver early education programs to children and families of disadvantaged means, offsetting the high cost of child care for lower-income working families, and increasing the quality of child care delivered across Tarrant County.