NOLA C.A.R.E.S. MidYear Evaluation Report 2024

Sustaining Progress Amid Change

2023 marked a strengthening of individual programs within NOLA C.A.R.E.S. Midway through 2024, the final year of the grant, the collaborative continues to make progress toward goals in some significant areas.

In this report, we’ll explore ways partners work together toward language justice and increased engagement of Latine communities.

We’ll take a look at direct programming metrics – and celebrate as the numbers served move closer to project goals.

We’ll highlight partner research focused on ECE compensation issues, and describe policy efforts in a daunting legislative session.

And we’re thrilled to share reporting from a team of researchers, themselves ECE professionals, who have conducted interviews and a focus group with teachers and center owners who have taken part in NOLA C.A.R.E.S. programs.

2024 also brings great change. January 12th marked the last all-collaborative meeting under the leadership of Dr. Allisyn Swift, who moved from NOLA C.A.R.E.S. to an Executive Director position at Compassionate Schools. Kristyna Jones came on board mid-April as the new Project Director. She convened partners May 31 to identify year three priorities and prepare for an in-person, all-partners gathering in early September.

The project concludes official programming on November 30. Approaching that, the evaluation team wIll circle back to the aims, values and core questions that support NOLA C.A.R.E.S. As always, we look to partners and participants to collectively interpret the stories, perspectives and numbers that arise from the experience.

What key learnings can we take with us? How can future efforts gain from this project? In what ways will the Black and Latine women at the heart of the project – caregivers, entrepreneurs, mothers – benefit from the work, thought and care devoted here?

We’re eager to dive deep into these questions with you. Read on, reach out with any questions or feedback, and carry on the good work.

Examples of Partner Collaboration

Grounded in language justice trainings, partners seek to increase engagement among Latine families and caregivers.

More than a few partners entered the project knowing what they didn’t know: that is, how to reach out to, serve, and make a difference in the lives of NOLA’s Latine families and caregivers.

Through transformational trainings offered by NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partner BanchaLenguas, they’ve had the opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of Language Justice, a social justice framework rooted in popular education and supporting solidarity among Black, Indigenous, migrant, and working class communities.

In its essence, language justice addresses “the right to express ourselves in the language we feel most powerful.”

Alongside theory, BanchaLenguas workshops have built practical skills using real-time interpretation devices. Those who attended also learned more about the diversity of Latinidad in New Orleans, and found a brave space to explore shared struggles and perceived divisions between Black and Latine people.

BanchaLenguas provides translation and interpretation services for the collaborative and for individual partners, as well. The team translated the NOLA C.A.R.E.S. website and other public documents, and continues to meet with partner organizations to offer guidance and suggest strategy.

While partner attendance at the trainings has been sporadic, the ripple effects of the work are evident already.

“Language is intimately connected to who we are — the way we see the world, our thoughts and emotions, our cultures, dreams, and politics. Language Justice honors our individual lived experience and positions us as being both learners and teachers, listeners and speakers.”
– BanchaLenguas

Unity in the Community/Uniendo a la Comunidad and the Language Justice thread of Participatory Action Research

BanchaLenguas and Beloved Community’s PAResearchers, sharing interest and commitment, joined others to apply for additional funding to sustain Language Justice work. They secured a significant grant from BUILD Initiative that will support them to continue working together on community-centered projects.

Throughout their work, PAResearchers note that There are resources out there, people just don’t know about them. How can we make sure people know about them?

PAResearchers envisioned, organized, and on June 9 presented a public Resource Fair to address a gap for families who feel most powerful in Spanish. Along with free snoballs, healthy snack options, and children’s books in Spanish and English, families had access to information about Medicaid and other health resources, the opportunity to register to vote, and information about other available services. BanchaLenguas was on hand to interpret, and other NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners, Total Community Action and Power Coalition for Equity and Justice contributed to the event, as well.

Photo credit Jourdan Barnes

In a related collaboration, PAResearchers reached out to Power Coalition with a request for voter registration forms in Spanish. This simple request sparked action, as the civic engagement organization turned to the Legal Defense Fund, a partner outside the collaborative, to pursue this further. Hopes are high for legislative action, in the form of a Study Resolution, in next year’s session.

Current efforts and next steps

Project partners have shared multiple examples of ways they’ve started to integrate language justice principles into their programming and policy work. Among others, they include:

  • The City of NOLA / Office of Youth and Families created a new position to address language access
  • Louisiana Policy Institute for Children and the Geaux Far network raised the issue of website translation with the state Department of Education
  • United Way of SE Louisiana advocated for City funding for supports for Spanish-speaking families with young children
  • Agenda for Children is exploring avenues to provide on-demand translation services at all City Seats sites

Still needed are consistent, effective outreach efforts to families, to current and potential ECE teachers, and to prospective Latina ECE entrepreneurs who feel more powerful in Spanish. “The dream is to have bilingual staff in every classroom,” we heard – but the reality is that the few bilingual teachers currently working often carry an outsized burden of responsibility.

No one in the collaborative can confidently say how many, or where, monolingual Spanish-speaking families access early care and education for their infants, toddlers or preschool children. What is clear is that the people working with the young children of New Orleans’s growing number of Spanish-speaking families often lack supports available to those who navigate easily in English.

“We’re excited to have conversations about continuing to collaborate with coalition partners beyond this grant,” BanchaLenguas told us.

For now, we take heart in the story one partner, For Providers By Providers co-founder Kristi Givens, shared with us. Having been trained by BanchaLenguas in the use of interpretive headsets, Kristi found herself using the device in a meeting with Latina immigrants. Sharing stories in their home languages, Kristi was struck by how, despite widespread differences, they connected around a common experience as women of color. “I’m listening. And what they’re saying is important to me,” Kristi said. “It just made me have so much respect.”

We invite partners to share and discuss their language justice efforts, concerns, and plans with us.

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. Direct Programming

The 2023 Annual Report highlighted each of the four NOLA C.A.R.E.S. programs directly serving Black and Latine women in Orleans Parish.

  • The Facilities Fund, administered by Agenda for Children, delivers one-time, forgivable loans totalling between $6,500 and $50,000 to ECE centers.
  • Credentialing programs for ECE workers, offered by Total Community Action and For Providers By Providers, provide pathways to the CDA for those already in classrooms as well as those new to the field.
  • The Participatory Action Research program, led by Beloved Community, trains ECE workers and others in skills needed to conduct community research. It provides access and resources to share their findings, present recommendations, and spur action and change.
  • Peer-to-Peer Coaching from For Providers by Providers offers current or aspiring ECE center owners the training, guidance and resources to increase the sustainability of their businesses and/or open new centers. (Continue below for more detail on this program’s outcomes!)

A fifth program, Equity at Work, delivered by Beloved Community, offers training in diversity, equity and inclusion to decision-makers in the hospitality industry. Among other efforts, it advocates for employer support for childcare for working mothers of color.

Participation and attainment numbers are approaching project goals.

May 31, 2024 marked the end of the tenth of twelve quarters of NOLA C.A.R.E.S. programming. Data reporting from partners showed project metrics exceeding, meeting, or within 20% of reaching the original goals in most “jobs and skills” categories. These include numbers from PAR, CDA, and Equity at Work Programs. (Visit the NOLA C.A.R.E.S. Dashboard for detailed reporting.)

  • 186 CDA candidates,
  • 60 Equity@Work,
  • 31 PAResearchers.

92% of the way towards the goal of 300

New CDA cohorts starting soon are expected to bump total participant numbers beyond the projected goal.

Indicator 5

Number of people completing training.

Number of people who complete the CDA curriculum, plus the number of people who complete training in PAR, plus the number of people who complete the Equity at Work cohort.

Indicator 6

Number of people earning credentials, certifications or licensure.

Number of people who attain their Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential.

Indicator 9

Number of people placed into full-time employment.

Number of CDA candidates employed full time in an ECE center during or after their CDA program.

Program completion numbers and CDA attainment are on track to meet or exceed project goals.

Indicator 7

Number of people placed into apprenticeships.

Number of people who enroll in a NOLA C.A.R.E.S. CDA program and gain experience working in early learning centers, plus the number of people who train in and practice Participatory Action Research (PAR).

Indicator 10

Average wage for individuals served.

Sum of starting or current wage of all CDA program participants divided by total number of CDA participants placed into employment.

Indicator 14

Number of workers receiving wage increase.

Number of CDA-seeking teachers receiving a wage increase.

Enrollment in CDA and PAR programs has reached 74% of the goal, but wage increases for ECE workers lag behind projected goals.

All quantitative metrics are updated quarterly on this dashboard.

Peer-to-peer coaching provides significant benefits to ECE center owners.

Raising wages for ECE workers – the teachers and other staff who directly care for children in center classrooms – is a thorny problem. As research confirms, wages across the state are persistently low. More public dollars, distributed through innovative strategies, are essential.

But one key innovation is already being implemented. In a program launched through NOLA C.A.R.E.S., center owners are receiving financial training, professional resources, and one-to-one coaching from Black women mentors to help them improve their profitability and sustainability.

In some cases, increased revenue has given them the opportunity to raise employee wages, retain staff and recruit new hires.

Peer-to-peer coaching helps ECE providers develop skills, assets, awareness, and the confidence to pursue their dreams.

“I’m so grateful for the positive impact [my coach] has made on my business. Her guidance has helped me understand the importance of prioritizing and focusing on what truly matters. It has made a significant difference in the way my business operates.”

Prior to entering the peer-to-peer program, some owners – often serving as on-the-ground center directors, as well – prioritized the day-to-day demands of running their center over long-term financial planning.

The program provided financial training and connected participants with professionals for accounting and wealth management advice.

A retrospective pre-post survey asked participants in the first two cohorts, all of whom own their own centers, to reflect on their gains. Eight of the 11 participants responded; 7 felt comfortable sharing some financial information.

  • Four owners of Type 3 (publicly funded) childcare centers provided revenue figures for 2021 and 2023. All 4 reported revenue gains, with an average increase of 36%.
  • Five owners of Type 3 (publicly funded) childcare centers provided profitability figures for 2021 and 2023. All 5 reported gains, with an average increase in profit of 45%.
  • Some were introduced to their first experience working with a CPA. “Previously, I was not doing well with tracking my finances as detailed as a CPA does. This is also why I can’t accurately answer those questions,” one told us. “But my CPA is updating everything now.”

As valuable as participants found the financial training, support in accessing additional funding streams, and strategic advice for marketing, staff recruitment and retention, and self-advocacy, the biggest thing they remarked on was the professional network – what some called “sisterhood.”

“The most valuable thing is being a part of a community. Being able to call other childcare providers and get advice or ask questions is priceless.” — Peer-to-peer Coaching Participant

“The program offered workshops and resources focused on effective grant writing. I learned how to highlight the unique strengths and needs of my center, making my applications more persuasive.”

“The most valuable thing I learned from participating is my ability to think more strategically. I am able to develop a clearer vision of where I would like to go with our Childcare program, innovate, and capitalize on new opportunities that arise.”

“This program was operated professionally! I didn’t realize how critical a program such as this was needed in the Childcare Profession. I have no suggestions for changes but I would like to see it continue.”

“It helped me more to step into a director role rather than an educator role.”

Policy Progress

A strong coalition of partners weathered disappointment at the state level in 2024.

From the start, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. has invested in both research and policy efforts, weaving these critical components together to set the path for action and change. In the third year of the project, partners and PAResearchers have learned how deeply their advocacy depends on timely and effective communication of research findings to those empowered to create meaningful policy changes.

Just as necessary is that those in power – whether in elected or other leadership positions – commit to hear these findings, act upon them, and “close the circle” with the organizations and community members who shared the evidence, analysis and understanding.

So far, 2024 has been a bruising year for evidence-based early care and education at the state level. The gubernatorial election brought about a transition to a hard right state administration, and the legislative session reflected an agenda that did not favor the aims of NOLA C.A.R.E.S.

Partners coordinated a widespread advocacy effort, gathering organizations, families, ECE leaders, teachers, and business allies to try to hold prior gains and continue to educate legislators on the value and significance of quality ECE for all children. Despite that, the vital and popular CCAP program, which secures ECE seats for children most in need, saw its funding reduced. Other essential programs benefiting families and the Black and Latine women who work in the field were similarly endangered.

“Our partners really showed up this year to advocate for the CCAP program. We had legislators tell us that they received hundreds of emails from people about the importance of maintaining every dollar we could for that program, and we could not have achieved that without our strong network of partners.”

-Louisiana Policy Institute for Children

In another disappointing reversal, the immense, sustained, and collaborative effort to maintain the Early Learning Development Standards in a research-informed, unrevised status ultimately (and unexpectedly) was rejected by the Orleans Parish BESE Board. This is almost certain to have a negative impact not only on the children, but on ECE workers who care for them.

But bright moments arose this year, as well. In support of Orleans Parish ECE entrepreneurs seeking to expand or open new centers, Agenda for Children hired a dedicated director of facilities and established a new working group. Agenda reports that “the efforts of the Facilities Working Group, which includes several providers … have strengthened the development of the new facilities grant process, and provided much-needed insight into how to most equitably structure the process and the grants. Additionally, the NORA team’s deep expertise in working in public-private partnerships has ensured that the process will not only be equitable, but also adhere to best practices.”

Partners take heart in their sense that “we have a strong coalition and one that can cross the political spectrum in Baton Rouge, which is helpful,” we heard from United Way of SE Louisiana. That’s particularly vital in this political climate, where “things that seem to be about equity, just are quite harder to be able to finagle,” Morgan Shannon of Power Coalition said.

Participatory Action Researchers pursued a wide variety of strategies to move their recommendations to action, both in the policy realm and within the community.

Some examples of PAR action steps included the following.

  • PAResearchers spent a day at the state Capitol, learning the ins and outs of successful advocacy (see photo below).
  • Research into effective ECE facilities led to new partnerships and ongoing standards development, and efforts to ease entry for prospective licensees took steps forward.
  • She Leads, a civic leadership program hosted by NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partner Power Coalition, included a PAResearcher among recent graduates.
  • PAResearchers joined motivated community members to host a Language justice resource fair for Spanish speaking families.
  • Shared their research with community and in various ways

Aligning a policy agenda with PAR recommendations

As the project evolves, intersections emerge between PAResearcher recommendations and efforts on the part of professional policy advocates. Most recently, we note alignments in a strategic document crafted by LPIC to guide efforts for 2025-2027 around the need to create a model of training and coaching for early care workers who support children with special needs. PAResearcher participation in the development of such a model could add considerable value.

In the absence of a formal, PAR-informed and partner-approved NOLA C.A.R.E.S. policy agenda, partners have pursued their independent agendas. One especially hopeful outcome for the final months of the project would be to co-create a policy agenda that centers the concerns of the Black and Latinx women ECE workers at the heart of this project.

Partner Research and Public Presentations

Research has taken many forms in this project, and efforts to share actionable findings have been equally diverse.

PAResearchers, for example, have turned to presenting at community gatherings, to sharing their expertise at conferences, to publishing in academic journals, to appearing on podcasts and more.

Others outside the collaborative have seen the value of the work of PAR in NOLA C.A.R.E.S. and made it the subject of their own inquiry, as in this brief published by Abt Global, the JP Morgan Chase Challenge National Evaluator.

Also in 2024, Power Coalition for Equity & Justice conducted a series of community conversations to hear directly from community members about their experience of the millage implementation. Their report, not yet publicly released, highlights the advantages of having trusted neighborhood people in navigator roles for significant social programming. “When we pass policy that centers people, we have to make sure the people who it positively impacts know that there are new policies and programs to support them.”

The findings echo much of what we hear from PAResearch. Programs or resources intended to benefit people (including Black and Latine women ECE providers) may exist, but too often they are unknown, inaccessible, cumbersome to navigate, or poorly matched to the specific need of their intended communities.

A partner-led ECE workforce compensation study was completed and released in May of this year.

In 2020, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children surveyed ECE center owners to begin to understand the state of the early and education sector in Louisiana. In 2023, they surveyed child care staff about wages, benefits, educational attainment, and their perceptions of the field and their place in it. The latter survey revealed that “wages vary by region, but most [ECE workers] still earn less than a family sustaining wage.”

“While the individuals who care for and educate young children in Louisiana are overwhelmingly educated and credentialed, the average rate of pay in the sector is insufficient to support them, especially if they choose to have children of their own. As a result, one-third of early care and education staff are thinking of quitting their jobs, despite caring deeply about their work.”

– LPIC Workforce Compensation Report

To increase exposure for this research and cultivate discussion and action, LPIC organized and hosted three webinars to dig deeper into the issues. They included:

1- Strategies for Increasing Early Educator Compensation at the Local Level;

2- Using Wage Scales to Increase Early Educator Compensation; and

3- Beyond Wages: Providing Benefits to Early Childhood Educators.

Panelists included national and local experts, including two from NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partner organizations.

Image from the LPIC website.

We encourage all partners to dive deeply into the research linked in this section and consider ways the insights might be applicable to the project. Click here for a more comprehensive inventory of research and presentations by partners. If we’ve missed something, please contact so we can share it with the partners.

Partner Voices and Perspectives

Ampersand invited Beloved Community and their partner researchers, who are conducting participant-level evaluation for the NOLA C.A.R.E.S. project, to share their reporting in this section. Partners may access the rolling document of quarterly open-ended question responses here.

In May and June of 2024, researchers Brittaney Williams and Janine Ellis conducted focus groups and 1-on-1 interviews with NOLA C.A.R.E.S. participants in Childhood Development Associate certificate training programs, Peer-to-Peer mentorship, Participatory Action Research, and Facilities Fund recipients.

The goal of these conversations was to understand the impact of NOLA C.A.R.E.S. on the individual level:

  • How did these programs change participants’ perception of the early childhood education industry?
  • How did they impact peoples’ work or businesses?
  • Did they make a material difference in the livelihoods and well-being of Black and Latina women in the industry?

Initial conversations were limited to 6 participants from CDA, 2 Peer-to-Peer mentees, 1 PAR researcher, and 1 Facilities Fund recipient. These conversations gave insight into their experiences and clarified areas for continued exploration. In the coming months, we’ll conduct additional interviews and focus groups to fill out the picture.

6 CDA participants from the Elite Teachers program agreed the program was valuable and would recommend the CDA credential to anyone in the industry. Specifically, CDA reinforced what teachers intuitively know and gave them confidence in their work.

One participant shared that:

“the CDA training, it helped me to build more confidence in myself because it was something that I already was doing but I kept second guessing and questioning, well am I doing this right? Am I doing? And just to see it in black and white that this was already instilled in me, already knowing that I had to do it, it was just natural.”

Training also taught participants how to communicate with parents, especially around children with special needs, and gave them a better understanding of developmental stages and milestones. In response to questions about creating high-quality jobs for educators, participants pivoted to speak about the quality of care they were providing, rather than the impact of the job on their lives/livelihoods. In future conversations, we’d like to dig deeper to understand the impact of the CDA program on the participants themselves, not only on their increased capacity to provide quality care.

Both Peer-to-Peer mentees were from the current cohort, and they felt that their mentors were accessible and engaged. Their main priorities were the growth and success of students and employees. One of the biggest benefits of Peer-to-Peer that both interviewees named was the opportunity to connect with other center owners.

“I truly believe peer-to-peer is beneficial in running a child care center because you really get to speak to people who have the answers or the resources. They can connect you with people who have the answers or can help you to make better choices… Even helping with other peers, I used it on yesterday. I reach out, and just to have that networking, that is so beneficial because when I was in child care years ago, it did not exist.”

In future conversations, we’ll seek to include mentees from previous cohorts, in order to see how they’ve been able to put what they’ve learned into practice.

One Participatory Action Researcher named a change in her relationship to the job as a result of PAR:

“It was like I went from being just going to work, being quiet, following the rules and the regulations without looking at what could be improved or whatever. What could we do to service not just us, but to help everybody? And it went from that. And then me being in rooms with people that have made a difference. And being in them rooms that made a difference and they heard my voice and my voice is hoarse right now because I talk a lot. But when you get behind what you stand for and it’s brought out, then you can stand in the room with whoever. Phds, whatever. You can stand in that room.”

She also spoke about her impressions of the industry, including the observation that teachers need more mental health support for themselves as well as support for students with exceptionalities. In future conversations with PAResearchers, we’ll look for trends and commonalities that expand on this initial conversation.

One Facilities Fund recipient of a $50,000 Grow Grant spoke about her experience, which allowed her to purchase property and increase staff salaries. She described the application process as complicated, and worried that it might deter some eligible applicants. Her priorities were improving facilities and staff experiences and for her, wealth building was reflected by the success of her employees and the ability to scale and grow her business.

“With the programs that I received and some of the grants that I received, it helped me to be able to give my staff a decent salary, able to purchase the piece of property to the back part of my building where I was able to expand. That was the rewards of having the type of programs that I’m part of, partnerships that really just leveled things off for me.”

Click here for more detailed information.

Key Recommendations

In the final months of project programming, the evaluation team is reviewing all project data since the start to assemble a small set of core themes. Our aim is to bring these themes to partners this fall to generate reflection and collectively identify the most valuable project learnings to take forward.

We’ll be cross-referencing the quantitative programmatic data with qualitative data collected and analyzed by our colleagues at Beloved Community as well as our own deep qualitative data collection from partners. Naturally, we’ll be guided by the six research questions the collaborative co-created early in the project. They are:

1. What are we doing? How well are we doing it?

2. In what ways and to what extent does this project lift the voices of and shift power to Black and Latine women in Orleans Parish?

3. In what ways and to what extent does this project foster an economy that values Black and Latine women as caregivers and supports ECE as a sustainable career pathway?

4. In what ways and to what extent does this project foster changes in the hospitality industry that value Black and Latine mothers by providing childcare as a workforce benefit and by advancing equitable workplace practices?

5. What role does this project play in increasing access to quality, affordable, accessible childcare for Black and Latine mothers in Orleans Parish?

6. How are we collaborating?

In previous evaluation briefs, the eval team outlined 12 recommendations – some carried over from the first year, some based on new developments – to help guide partners moving forward. We leave you with these, below, to help guide your own reflection on the project and generate ideas around sustaining progress amid change.

Please click here to email us with your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions!

Project Processes

Improve Communications

Continue to address internal and external communications challenges to facilitate collaboration and engage the community of interest.

Center Equity Goals

Center equity goals and focus the year three work plan on these.

Partner-Centered, Rotated Leadership Practices

Move toward partner-centered, rotating leadership practices, and maintain a regular meeting cadence.

Direct Programming

Engage Latinx Women

Continue to develop relationships to center and engage Latinx women.

Recruit New Caregivers

Continue to build pre-professional outreach to recruit new care providers.

Define a supported professional pathway

Collaborate to define a supported pathway to professional success in ECE that Black and Latine women can enter at any point in their career.

Policy Advocacy

Black/Latinx Power in Policy

Increase the presence and power of Black and Latinx caregivers in the creation/implementation of policies that impact them.

Focus Policy Agenda

Hone policy focus to prioritize NOLA C.A.R.E.S. issues. Map out and work toward those specific policy issues that affect Black and Latinx caregivers.

Center PAResearchers

Deepen commitment to centering PAResearchers in advocacy and action.

Increasing Knowledge & Understanding

Raise Awareness of Research

Increase local community awareness of NOLA C.A.R.E.S. research and recommendations..

Apply Learnings

Re-energize efforts to share research learnings and identify applications within the collaborative.

Learn from Program Participants

Work together to learn from ECE professionals experiencing NOLA C.A.R.E.S. programming.