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

Expanding the Reach in Year Two

The time and effort NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners invested in their programs in 2022 yielded valuable gains in 2023, the second year of the project.

Programs ran efficiently, serving 139 more Black and Latine women in early care and education and delivering $484,375 to ECE center owners to expand and improve their centers.

Participatory Action Researchers deepened their work in community and moved from research to action as they shared learnings and made recommendations.

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners leveraged trusted relationships, embarked on new ones, and found creative ways to collaborate in support of project goals.

The Language Justice team introduced important concepts, tools and strategies to honor people’s right to communicate in the ways they feel most powerful.

This report augments the annual evaluation brief (find that here), and highlights learnings from the first two years of the project. The midyear 2023 report is available here.

The big story of NOLA C.A.R.E.S. centers on the ways in which the collaborative is bigger than the sum of its part(ner)s. That’s why we start our report each time with a story of collaboration. In our mid-year report, we focused on PAResearchers joining with NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partner organizations to gain advocacy skills, amplify their voices, and learn about available services. This time, we begin with partners supporting and celebrating a new, Black-led effort to promote ECE providers’ growth and wellness.

Below are report sections:

All of this is a work in progress, and we’re honored and humbled to be part of it with you. Read on, reach out with any questions or feedback, and carry on the good work.

Examples of Partner Collaboration

For one long weekend in August, early care providers came together in joy, shared learning, and much needed respite.

The occasion was an inaugural conference focused on growth and wellness. Envisioned, planned, and hosted by For Providers by Providers, this first Early Learning Conference drew the support of nearly half of all NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners as sponsors and/or presenters. Partners joined early learning teachers, providers, and parents, the majority Black women, to network together, dance together, and learn together.

The nearly 300 attendees kicked off each day with morning yoga, paused between panels and workshops to dance to DJs and second lines, and eased stress at massage stations. The conference provided an interpreter for Spanish speaking parents and teachers. Be Well with Dr. B (Dr. Baraka W. Perez, the closing keynote speaker) emphasized the importance of spirituality and care. It was clear how deeply providers needed this space to rejuvenate and learn together.

Creative Collaboration: ECHO Fund Workforce Pitch Competition

For Providers by Providers founders, Kristi Givens and Rochelle Wilcox, fresh off a first place win at Harvard’s Early Education Innovation Challenge, brought their experience to jump start the conference.

Hosted by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, the Saul Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge invited big ideas from across the country. Roughly one hundred groups submitted ideas and 11 were chosen as finalists. Givens and Wilcox won not only the $10,000 first place prize, but also the $1,000 audience choice award.

Why not similarly tap the brilliance of providers in Orleans Parish in finding solutions to workforce challenges? Inspired by Wilcox and Givens’ Zaentz triumph, Jen Roberts, leader of Agenda for Children, reached out to For Providers By Providers with an offer to collaborate.

Fast forward to the evening before the conference commenced: For Providers By Providers, in collaboration with Agenda for Children and Go.Be., hosted the ECHO Fund Workforce Pitch Competition. Seven finalists presented pitches to address ECE’s workforce retention problem, vying for a grand prize of $50,000 from the ECHO Fund.

Among the seven finalists were two NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners: Total Community Action and Early Partners. In the end, Ariann Sentino, director and owner of SEA Academy, won first and audience prize, and TCA took home second place.

This NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partner collaboration elevated provider voice, expertise and ingenuity in the search for workforce solutions.

“We’re working with the providers because we know what we need, and we have great ideas. Most of the time people don’t give us opportunities to be able to share our great ideas and do the things that we do.”

— Kristi Givens, Co-Founder of For Providers By Providers

Power Coalition for Equity and Justice was one of several NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners to table or present at the conference.

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

NOLA C.A.R.E.S.’ successful pilot of facilities expansion funding this year, along with the project’s steady growth in CDA programming, increasingly opened doors to wealth and mobility for Black and Latine women in ECE.

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. Facilities Expansion project selected and funded 21 grantees in 2023. The timing was serendipitous. When last year’s $21M a year early childhood millage passed in late April, the already-in-action NOLA C.A.R.E.S. project offered a unique opportunity to ground the larger project’s facilities expansion grants in racial and gender equity. Agenda for Children engaged Kristyna Jones Associates to conduct a thorough literature review and interview process with community stakeholders before co-creating an equitable application and selection process.

Type III Early Learning Centers and Family Childcare Centers received sizable grants to improve or expand their ECE classrooms.

This spring, 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. Reflection clarified the need to bring additional, community-anchored resources to administer the fund in future cycles.

In Fall 2023, Agenda for Children, with input from Beloved Community and other NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners, selected the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), a public agency, for that role.

“The group selected NORA for its deep local expertise in redevelopment and its close alignment with our community’s values. This partnership will help to ensure that the fund is publicly accountable, and that childcare becomes part of development conversations happening in the future.”

Agenda for Children

Year-over-year data regarding changes in revenue, profitability, number of seats, and other relevant markers will be a helpful way to evaluate program impact when it becomes available. Meanwhile, grantee declarations regarding the intended use of these funds clarify the program’s wide range in scale, serving small home-based childcare centers seeking to improve accessibility or upgrade play structures as well as large centers opening new classrooms or completing structural improvements.

Dozens of ECE teachers earned their credential through NOLA C.A.R.E.S. programming this year, boosting their hourly wage to $14.75/hour.

Credentialing programs for ECE workers served 91 more women in 2023 than in 2022, bring the total number served by the project so far to 134. Program retention rates rose this year, as well, as 67 Black and Latine women have already earned their credential (up from 12 in 2022), 28 more completed the curriculum and are actively pursuing their CDA, and another 23 are making their way through the curriculum.

While ECE wages crept up slowly year over year, more than half of those who completed their credential in a NOLA C.A.R.E.S. program received wage increases of $2/hour or more. In another bright spot, one partner’s CDA program enrolled 24 candidates new to the field, paying them $12/hour to learn. Five months later, two thirds of that cohort were employed at ECE centers making an average of $14.78/hour.

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners Total Community Action and For Providers by Providers deserve kudos and credit for their supportive and innovative approaches to these trainings. Maintaining access to programs like this is essential to solving workforce issues in ECE. And yet…

Gaining a CDA is only the first step toward achieving equitable wages and workplace benefits.

ECE workers must rely on center leaders to increase their wages, promote them to lead teacher positions (when available), verify their eligibility for city-sponsored stipends, and recommend them for the Early Childhood Ancillary Certificates, which position credentialed lead teachers to receive, on average, $2900 annually in tax credits.

Our NOLA C.A.R.E.S. data set shows that, as of 11/30/2023, 47 of 67 (70%) ECE teachers who earned their credential through the program received a wage increase following that accomplishment. For 36 of those teachers, the raise was robust: $2 or more per hour. Still, the average wage of the 67 credentialed teachers, $14.75, remains stubbornly low.

The goal of $18/hour established prior to recent inflation is far lower than the $23.10/hour (plus increases with each year of experience) recommended by a compensation-focused “Tiger Team” research effort in 2022. In real life, project data shows some experienced teachers still making as little as $9/hour. Others, having invested the time and effort to attain their CDA, have not yet seen a raise. From this standpoint, even $18 can seem frustratingly far – and the work, more often than not without paid medical leave, health benefits, reliable coverage for professional development, or classroom support for children with disabilities, can feel more difficult than ever.

Peer-to-Peer Coaching helps ECE providers develop skills, assets, and awareness.

Continued investment in peer-to-peer coaching, as offered by For Providers By Providers, can help center owners access additional funding streams, improve their business practices, and increase the quality of their centers in ways that position them to pay themselves and their staff more equitably.

“Because of this program, we were able to grow our business which provided more funding, hiring of more teachers, and allowed us to give teachers raises. This year, our center had 6 teachers who completed the Child Development Associate program, received their Ancillary Certificates, and are on the career ladder to success.”

— Peer-to-Peer Coaching Participant

In 2023, the peer-to-peer coaching program served six more participants, including early-career entrepreneurs eager to open their first center.

Meanwhile, eleven former participants continue to benefit from collective advocacy opportunities and individualized assistance in pursuing professional development and new funding streams.

While peer-to-peer coaching helps ECE providers develop skills, assets, and awareness, they grow confidence and efficacy voicing their concerns and proposing solutions in wider arenas through Let’s Talk Advocacy, an online monthly gathering hosted by For Providers By Providers.

Policy advocacy, community research, and direct programming intersect for NOLA C.A.R.E.S. PAResearchers.

This year, 21 more community members, all connected in some way to early care and education, learned the skills and tools of Participatory Action Research. With the support of their peers and the guidance of Beloved Community’s Dr. Nnenna Odim, PAResearchers have been exploring topics they are passionate about, sharing learnings, and proposing policy changes and other potential solutions to uplift their community and make a positive impact on their lives and others’.

In June and in December, PAResearchers showcased their findings and shared recommendations for action. They demonstrated power, agency, drive, and remarkable collaboration among the group to move their work forward, and Beloved Community created multiple, welcoming opportunities for them to share their work with collaborative partners and with community. Their concerns and expertise were presented in accessible ways, and partners who attended listened attentively and reflected on their work.

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. offers a unique opportunity for those with the structural power to effect change to not just amplify the voices and concerns of those with lived experience, but to follow the lead of those whose experience demonstrates directly what is needed.

The collaborative took steps in 2023 to support greater reach among Spanish-speaking ECE providers.

Three all-collaborative trainings conducted by the Language Justice team brought tools and awareness to partners who attended. While the number of Latinas served remains low, BanchaLenguas and other partners secured additional funds to broaden the outreach to the Latine ECE community and expand partnerships with community leaders. The Language Justice team increased language equity by providing translation and interpretation services as well, including interpretation for the Spanish speaking PAR cohort.

The collaborative has directly served 203 Black and/or Latine women in Orleans Parish in ECE since its start. This number includes 17 center owners who receive peer-to-peer counseling in business practices and quality programming from For Providers By Providers, 134 CDA candidates, 31 PAResearchers. and 21 Facilities Fund grantees.

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

Policy Progress

Despite a challenging political atmosphere this year, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners logged several policy wins.

At the state legislature, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners were able to move forward a number of bills and preserve funding 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.”

Partners fostered relationships with lawmakers and others to promote increased funding for ECE, including via a “Wee MP,” which would afford the pre-K education ecosystem a funding standard similar to that enjoyed by K-12.

Unlike K-12 schools, child care centers are not funded by Louisiana’s Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), a dedicated funding formula that calculates and provides sufficient funding to provide a minimum program of education necessary for future success for children in all public elementary and secondary schools.”

-Professional Wages for Professional Educators: Recommendations for Improving Early Childhood Workforce Compensation in Louisiana

Other policy-level gains included:

  • Early Learning Development Standards (ELDS) passed without revision after partners repeatedly mobilized ECE teachers, providers, and parents of young children in their defense.
  • Stipends of as much as $2250 annually per full- time ECE teacher renewed in the City’s 2024 budget. Qualifying teachers received the first $750 installment of the 2022-approved stipends in December 2023.
  • A full-time position was funded and staffed to assist ECE entrepreneurs navigating City requirements for opening or expanding a center.
  • The state Paid Family Medical Leave policy was expanded by the governor to cover most unclassified employees not covered under the Civil Service, which will now reach almost 80,000 families.
  • A new three-year, $3M grant for ECE workforce compensation efforts was secured by Louisiana Policy Institute for Children as the grantee. One of three statewide grants in the nation, and the only one to a non-profit rather than a government agency, the grant has significant participation from NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners, including For Providers By Providers, Mayor’s Office of Youth & Families, Agenda for Children, and United Way of Southeast Louisiana.

Some heartbreaks occurred this year, as well, including low voter turnout in the gubernatorial election resulting in a hard right state government moving into 2024. In a huge win, partners can cheer – and, in the case of Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, take some credit for – the redistricting victory that led to the creation of the second majority-Black district in the state.

Funding challenges loom as ARPA dollars ended abruptly in September 2023, 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.

As PAResearchers explore the movement from research to action, they are increasingly concerned to see their recommendations find purchase in the world.

Issues PAResearchers have identified include: professional development within the ECE environment; wage growth and savings vehicles to support financial stability for caregivers; support within the classroom; and more. They’ve indicated a need to have rooted conversations with policy professionals where jargon is not centered, and then to follow up on those conversations with reporting on concrete steps.

PAResearchers recognize that most partners do, in fact, want to collaborate—but, amid competing priorities, a challenging political situation, and a skill set that favors different ways of communicating, they may not find their way forward.

PAResearchers want to know, What actions will you take, based on what you heard? What results should we expect to see?

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. is a unique structure that can make space for exchange and accountability, and can document the results of this.

A new vision emerged for the Childcare As A Workplace Benefit strand of the project.

Thoughtful consideration of the parent-serving thread of the project, aimed to promote childcare as a workplace benefit for hospitality-industry employees, yielded a new direction. No longer a direct service program, the team has shifted to take an educational and policy advocacy approach. It joins the expertise of Beloved Community’s Equity at Work team, which has been hosting monthly learning sessions for industry professionals, with the deep organizational knowledge and resources of United Way of Southeast Louisiana. Early care providers will continue to take part as content experts, sharing their knowledge with hospitality industry folks to help them see both benefits and potential pathways for them to serve their employees who are also parents.

Partner Research and Public Presentations

Alongside the Participatory Action Research, partner organizations working on broader initiatives contributed vital research and knowledge-sharing, both locally and nationally. Examples include:

  • Power Coalition for Equity and Justice created a 2023 Updated LA Policy Guide for Equity & Opportunity just in time for the legislative session.
  • In 2022, a multi-partner “Tiger Team” effort established compensation guidelines for ECE professionals and identified the need for state increases in funding per enrolled child to support wage increases. This year, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children conducted a poll of providers to gather baseline data on teacher wages and to identify the barriers to increasing staff compensation.
  • Soliciting applicants and selecting recipients for facilities expansion grants led Agenda for Children to build a series of trainings/tools to support providers ready to start or expand a child care program. Through this, entrepreneurs will be better prepared to submit competitive proposals for future rounds of Facilities Fund grants.
  • A podcast hosted by the Collective Impact Forum interviewed Dr. Nnenna Odim (Beloved Community) and PAResearchers Peggy Patterson and Lisa Williams about how NOLA C.A.R.E.S. practices PAR to further their goals – embedding it into their initiative to uplift community leadership, voice, and expertise, and support community members to take the lead in the changes they want to see.

Partners publish and present regularly on NOLA C.A.R.E.S. innovative programming. Click here for an 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

Partners shared successes, voiced concerns, and reflected on their roles in the collaborative. Each quarter, Ampersand asks partners to provide written or spoken answers to a set of open-ended questions. In the spring and in the fall, partners respond to two questions via zoom interviews. In September 2023, we asked:

1. Looking ahead to the next year of NOLA C.A.R.E.S., what two or three things do you think we most need to focus on across the collaborative, and why?

2. Describe an area of increased collaboration that may not have happened without this project.

Prior to that, in March 2023, we asked:

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?

Partners found it useful to read their colleagues’ frank responses in the confidentially shared, transcribed interviews. A summary of the September responses is available here.

Every quarter, partners respond in writing to six questions in their data sheet. 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

Key Recommendations

At the close of its second year, the collaborative has plenty to celebrate — and some key questions to resolve. As the project moves into its third and final year, focus shifts to accountability and sustainability. In our annual evaluation brief, the eval team outlined 12 recommendations – some carried over from the first year, some based on new developments – to help guide partners moving forward. Which of these recommendations, below, do you feel speaks most specifically to your concerns?

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.