NOLA C.A.R.E.S. MidYear Evaluation Report 2023

(NOLA C.A.R.E.S. Annual Evaluation Report 2023 available here)

Building Awareness, Building Momentum

Halfway through the project, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners are leveraging trusted relationships, embarking on new ones, and finding ways to collaborate in support of project goals.

You’re learning more about each other.

Supporting more Black and Latine women in the ECE field.

Pooling your efforts to make change in the policy realm—and hearing from local caregivers about what matters to them.

The time is speeding by. This report and those to follow combine snapshots taken mid-action with reflection on the collaborative’s progress. In these reports, we on the evaluation team hope to applaud successes, acknowledge challenges, and highlight areas that need to change. When it seems helpful, we’ll offer suggestions aligned with project goals.

Here are report sections, linked for easy access:

All of this is a work in progress, and we’re honored and humbled to be part of it with you all. Read on, talk back to us in this shared document, and carry on the good work.

Since the start of the program, 70% of NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners have collaborated with Participatory Action Researchers.

Through June 2023, 24 Black and/or Latine women–most of whom work in early care and education–have trained in Participatory Action Research at Beloved Community. They’ve explored topics they are passionate about, shared learnings, and proposed policy changes and other potential solutions to make a positive impact on their lives and others’.

As they pursued their research, these women consulted NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners and those in their community. Engagement with partners took place primarily as they gathered data, but partners also listened to their findings and shared ways to gain traction for their recommendations in the policy realm.

Collectively, PAResearchers and partners are working to build understanding, lift their concerns, and advocate for change.

PAResearchers are moving from research to action.

Through the program, several of the PAResearchers developed or reinforced an interest in pursuing policy advocacy and/or providing support and mentorship to others in their community.

In response to that interest, Beloved Community organized a series of workshops addressing policy advocacy. In one, held June 7 at the TEP Center, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners spoke about opportunities, offered resources and shared first-hand experience around making change.

A PAResearcher survey shared that day spotlighted knowledge, teamwork and empowerment in NOLA C.A.R.E.S.’ ECE advocacy. PAResearchers’ policy knowledge and moderate confidence signal the need for more support and collaboration. Recommendations for enhancement include:

  • promote partner collaboration and networking with PAR;
  • amplify PAResearcher voices;
  • celebrate PAResearcher achievements; and
  • document and track engagement.

All recommendations are aimed at empowering PAResearchers and the Black and Latine community for lasting ECE change. You can read the full survey report here.

The opportunities are profound for PAResearchers to take a leading role in determining the direction of project efforts.

PAResearchers have already met with success in some efforts to leverage their findings to create change. In meetings set up with NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners, they’ve

  • shared their experience and insights regarding City programming obstacles,

  • discussed the need for mental health supports in the workplace, and

  • advocated for more meaningful professional development for ECE caregivers.

In other examples, their program experience empowered them to talk with employers about pay increases and other relevant issues.

“I’m excited about PAResearchers learning more about the policy world. One of them said, ‘it demystifies the process, which makes me less fearful to join.”

–Beloved Community

Two new cohorts of CDA candidates led the increase in NOLA C.A.R.E.S. direct programming participation.

In the first half of 2023, 51 new CDA candidates have enrolled in programs leading to the premier ECE credential. So far, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners Total Community Action and For Providers by Providers have focused their efforts on those women who are already employed at ECE centers.

43% of CDA candidates are already employed as Lead Teachers in ECE classrooms.

The benefits of a CDA are profound, but many in the profession lack this basic milestone.

  • Caregivers who attain the credential and go on to acquire the state’s ancillary certification are eligible for substantial, refundable tax credits–directly improving caregivers’ financial status.

  • Staff credentials are increasingly required by funding agencies. Caregivers who lack the CDA are at risk of losing their job.

  • Having a CDA means greater job opportunities, mobility, and access to further professional development. Caregivers are empowered to seek better wages, benefits and opportunities.

Approximately 63% of those who entered the programs at TCA and 4PxP completed their coursework. Currently, 25 candidates completed the curriculum. 49 are still in progress.

84% of caregivers who completed the NOLA C.A.R.E.S. CDA course curriculum have gone on to receive the credential and the remaining 16% are on their way. The additional resources afforded by NOLA C.A.R.E.S. mean that candidates are supported through the multiple steps and considerable expense of applying for the credential.

CDA cohorts to start Summer-Fall 2023 introduce new workers to ECE.

The third cohort of CDA programming at both TCA and at 4PxP will shift focus to recruiting new people to the field. Both utilize blended funding to provide stipends to participants so they can “earn while they learn.”

The collaborative has directly served 121 Black and/or Latine women in Orleans Parish in ECE since its start. This number includes 11 center owners who receive peer-to-peer counseling in business practices and quality programming from For Providers By Providers, 89 CDA candidates, and 21 Facilities Fund grantees.

The first round of NOLA C.A.R.E.S. Facilities Expansion Grants delivered $484,375 to Black women entrepreneurs.

Owners of 21 ECE centers in Orleans Parish received good news this spring when they learned their grant applications to NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partner Agenda for Children had been successful.

Five large, established Type III (publicly funded) centers received $50,000 each to offset building costs, provide collateral for larger conventional loans, and in other ways expand and improve their centers.

An additional 16 grants, ranging from $6,500 to $15,625, were awarded as “seed” funding to Type 3 and Family Childcare Centers to support center development.

Outreach efforts and one-to-one support yielded 63 applications for this pilot cohort—and a deeper understanding of the amount of ground work needed to help candidates successfully secure funding. A reflections document drafted by Kristyna Jones shared learnings and recommendations.

“We are excited to launch a redesigned grant process in the fall, along with a suite of technical assistance and support services to support providers in their journeys to start or expand their programs.”

–Agenda for Children

42 Orleans Parish ECE businesses have been directly impacted by NOLA C.A.R.E.S. programming

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners led a fierce effort to “claw back” funding for ECE in the state legislative session.

Despite a challenging atmosphere at the state legislature, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners were able to move forward a few bills to benefit the ECE field.

Policy-focused partner LPIC reflected that “being able to mobilize all of our partnerships this session had a huge impact. Everyone was ready to jump in and support the effort, even as things changed very quickly in the legislature and there was not much [advance] notice.”

In a victory for all, parents of children with disabilities will have greater access to public meetings of boards and commissions via electronic means. Advocates hope this access will expand to include ECE caregivers whose job obligations prevent them from advocating in person in Baton Rouge.

“Our coalition showed its power in being able to move from $0 in the state budget for early childhood education to $44M in a week, which marks the largest state investment in the Child Care Assistance Program in over 15 years.”

-United Way of Southeast Louisiana

Funding challenges loom as ARPA dollars end abruptly in September, putting 80,000 seats for children and more than 1,000 ECE centers in Louisiana at risk of closing. (For more information, click here.) With the loss of centers, jobs for the Black and Latinx women childcare providers are at risk. Working parents who depend on quality, reliable care for their children will find even fewer options.

Fortunately for Orleans Parish, the 2022 millage, which NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners worked so hard to pass, will help offset some of that loss.

Focus on PFML at Orleans Parish ECE centers?

The failure to move the bill for Paid Family Medical Leave, a NOLA C.A.R.E.S. policy agenda priority, was a blow to collaborative efforts. Partners agree that the political climate looks bleak for this issue in the near future.

Partners report that 50% of ECE businesses in the Parish are not able to provide paid sick leave, much less PFML, to their workers. As valuable as a state-wide effort to secure PFML for major employers undeniably is, the Black and Latine caregivers may be better served by a local effort aimed directly at their needs.

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. brings together a unique collaborative in an effort to effect real change in the lives of the Black and Latine women who make up the majority of the ECE workforce in Orleans Parish.

What can we change?

How might NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners further focus their policy efforts and collaborative power to increase wealth and mobility–as defined by the women themselves–for ECE caregivers?

Alongside the Participatory Action Research, partner organizations have been actively conducting research and sharing learnings.

Highlighted below find just a smattering of the good work partners are doing.

  • Early in January, For Provider By Providers presented their unique model for strengthening and centering provider and community voice in early care and education public policy and decision-making at the BUILD 2022 National Conference. Late spring, they won a pitch competition for funding innovative ideas in ECE at Harvard’s Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge with a plan to recruit new caregivers to the field.
  • In July, PAResearchers brought New Orleans to Detroit! Beloved Community presented at the National ABPsi Conference on NOLA C.A.R.E.S. Participatory Action Research, both the experience and the findings.
  • Agenda for Children polled parents about EC center choice and released a brief that includes information on workforce implications and more.
  • Power Coalition for Equity and Justice created a 2023 Updated LA Policy Guide for Equity & Opportunity just in time for the legislative session.

Louisiana Policy Institute for Children conducted a statewide survey to collect real data on ECE caregivers’ wages, and we’re all eager to see the results when they become available.

Here in Orleans Parish, among ECE centers served by NOLA C.A.R.E.S., wages for ECE workers in Orleans Parish continue to stagnate—with one bright spot.

Click here for an inventory of research and presentations by partners. If we’ve missed something, please contact [email protected] so we can share it with the partners.

Partners shared successes, voiced concerns, and reflected on their roles in the collaborative.

Each quarter, Ampersand asks partners to respond to a set of open-ended questions. Quarter One of 2023, partners responded to two questions via zoom interviews.

  1. Reflecting on the first year of NOLA C.A.R.E.S., what do you think was the most significant moment, experience or accomplishment for the collaborative as a whole?
  2. Looking ahead, what two or three things do you think need to be changed to increase the collaborative’s effectiveness, and why?

Significant takeaways from partner responses include the following:

  • Participatory Action Research has played a significant role in furthering the major goals of NOLA C.A.R.E.S.
  • In order for NOLA C.A.R.E.S. to feel like a collaboration, everyone needs to show up at in-person meetings.
  • There needs to be more transparency and vulnerability to have uncomfortable conversations, especially around white supremacy culture.
  • There is disagreement on the value of the all-day, warm welcome meetings. Some partners see them as important for building trust and breaking down white supremacy norms, while others feel the meetings could be more productive for action-item work.
  • In meetings, there needs to be clearly assigned action items and follow-ups for the different partners. A dynamic way of communicating with partners such as a newsletter and/or timeline, along with frequent individual phone check-ins, would be valuable. An essential step would be full attendance at the monthly meetings. Facilitation could be improved.
  • Partners still feel silo-ed, working in alignment on project goals rather than fully collaborating.

Partners found it useful to read their colleagues’ frank responses in the shared transcribed interviews. [Link to summary and interview transcripts – confidential to partners]

Every quarter, partners respond in writing to six questions in their data sheet. Beginning with this report, and with partner consent, we are sharing these responses with the collaborative. Click here to learn what partners are excited about, worried about, and happy to celebrate together.

“We are concerned at how quickly the timeline is moving and we have not been able to get women from the Latine community into the pipeline. This is an incredible opportunity that could really benefit many women in this community, and we’d love to see them be able to take advantage of the grants and trainings available.”

–Bancha Lenguas

Midway through the project, the collaborative continues to feel its way forward.

At the close of 2022, the evaluation team identified 12 areas where increased attention could bring the collaborative closer to its goals. These recommendations fall in the four main segments of NOLA C.A.R.E.S. activities. Flip these cards to see where we think progress stands in these areas – then hop over to [this shared document] to add your assessment!

Project Processes

  • Continue to address internal and external communications challenges to facilitate collaboration and engage the community of interest.
  • Affirm project goals through an all-collaborative “reset,” and center the year two workplan on these.
  • Move toward partner-centered, rotating leadership practices, with meeting structures that foster engagement and team building.

Improve Communications

Marching Forward

All-Collaborative Reset

Just Getting Started

Partner-Centered, Rotated Leadership Practices

Marching Forward

Our Rationale

Spring 2023 saw the launch of the NOLA C.A.R.E.S. website, and we look forward to seeing implementation of Beloved Community’s plans for a public-facing, online dashboard and shareable publicity materials. Intra-collaborative communications rely primarily on monthly update meetings. One happy hour event was a success; more opportunities for intra-collaborative networking and brainstorming would be welcome.

The March 31 convening planned to focus here, but got derailed with tech problems and a late start. Despite the time crunch, partners dove into honest, passionate conversation about project challenges, communications styles, decision-making strategies and equity issues. Outlook: fuzzy, but promising. Revisit in fall convening?

Project leadership took note of a desire for more collaborative discussion during the March 31 convening, and organized partner-led working groups around outreach to the Latine community and around participant-level data collection. Progress appears slow in both these working groups, but the effort reflects a positive trend.

Direct Programming

  • Develop relationships to center and engage Latinx women.

  • Increase pre-professional outreach to recruit new care providers.

  • Revisit project goals and strategies for employer-supported childcare.

Engage Latinx Women

Just Getting Started

Recruit New Caregivers

Marching Forward

Revamp Employer-Supported Childcare

Just Getting Started

Our Rationale

The effort is there, demonstrated by the Language Justice training in January, a bilingual website, and the discussions surrounding CDA eligibility for immigrant candidates. However, by mid-July, our Language Justice partner was still awaiting outreach materials for translation and use to recruit for fall cohorts. Would relationship-building among Latinx organizations help spread the word about NOLA C.A.R.E.S. programming to Latinx-identifying caregivers?

A crisis at the state level prompted partners to focus attention on those already in the workforce. Summer-fall 2023 cohorts are actively recruiting new people to the field, and will likely be bolstered by the collaborative’s success at establishing ECE as an in-demand occupation eligible for public funding support. Keep an eye on third quarter data that reflect more entry-level CDA candidates.

Discussions between partners are promising, and recent research contracted by one NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partner [link to Agenda for Children report] illuminates some of the challenges and reflects an interest on the part of business in participating toward a solution. Currently, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. data collection for this thread is on hold as partners work toward redefining the goals.

Policy Advocacy

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

  • 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.

  • Implement formal structures that embed reflection and feedback processes from Black and Latinx partners and communities.

Black/Latinx Power in Policy

Continuing Along

Focus Policy Agenda

Just Getting Started

Equitable Feedback Structures

Just Getting Started

Our Rationale

A primary project goal for NOLA C.A.R.E.S. is to lift the voice and power of Black/Latinx caregivers in the policy world. PAResearchers (see above) have begun to integrate their concerns, ideas and recommendations into the policy discussion, and most NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners are listening and supporting this movement. Black-led partner organizations actively empower project participants and the wider community to advocate for issues that matter most to them.

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. policy partners, in a wider collaborative, collectively hammered out an agenda early in 2023. Some aspects do center on uplifting Black and Latinx women caregivers, but strategies and goalposts for these could use some refining. Could PAResearchers, their findings, and their recommendations help map out and work toward those specific policy issues that affect Black and Latinx caregivers?

Committee structures and processes for sharing materials within the collaborative continue to need refinement. Limited collaborative work time presents challenges to group reflection. Making NOLA C.A.R.E.S. goals explicit at the start and end of each meeting may help. Other ideas?

Increasing Knowledge & Understanding

  • Raise awareness among partners of work that’s available or in progress.

  • Continue to explore and elevate ways to apply learnings to our work.

  • Identify what’s missing, and create a strategy to address gaps. Resource and amplify the research component of the project directly related to workforce.

Raise Awareness of Research

On Our Way

Apply Learnings

Marching Forward

Address Gaps

Marching Forward

Our Rationale

Partners are increasingly sharing their research in monthly all-partner and committee meetings, inviting each other to showcase events, and distributing work in draft form for feedback. Great to see!

The potential of this collaborative is immense. The more connections are made and learnings shared and applied across sectors, among organizations, and with community, the more effective it will become. We see a promising trend.

PAResearch and recent surveys of ECE caregivers will help identify challenges and illuminate potential solutions. Still missing: reliable quantitative and qualitative data at the participant level. Beloved has developed a scope of work, and the search for staff is on. By third quarter reporting, partners should have significant support in this realm.