Family child care is extremely important to many families with young children.  Often run by independent small business owners, family child care providers balance caring for children with all of the functions of running a small business.  To help support these critical early childhood professionals, ECD Measure has partnered with the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative (NECC) to use the Brief Early Quality Inventory (BEQI) observation tool and BEQI self-assessment as part of NECC’s new Family Child Care Network initiative to providers in Nebraska.

Introducing a network to support family child care providers

The recently launched Family Child Care Network is a 3-tiered approach to supporting family child care providers that includes varying levels of engagement based on provider needs and self-selection.  The tiers provide a variety of services to address provider needs at each stage of their professional development. At Tier 1, providers receive networking opportunities and resources.  At Tier 2, providers can access The Business Training Series, a Licensing Toolkit program, professional development, classes to earn their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, and a scholarship for pursuing a degree.  At Tier 3, providers are able to access a comprehensive package of supports including child care management software, tax preparation services, funding opportunities and much more.  Tier 3 providers are paired with a Family Child Care Network specialist who serves as a mentor and meets with them regularly to discuss their needs, set goals and identify available resources.  The specialists serve as a primary contact and resource for the provider and are responsible for helping the provider understand and use the BEQI data in their planning.

A new observation tool to understand family child care program quality

Data is a key element of the 3-tiered approach, and our team at ECD Measure is supporting the Family Child Care Network with the tools to help providers learn and grow. We created a new quality measure designed to help family child care providers and their mentors get a quick and easy read on the strengths and areas for investment within their programs, the Brief Early Quality Inventory (BEQI).  The BEQI observation tool is a 50-item yes/no checklist that examines provider-child interactions, activities, materials and health and safety indicators.  We created it based on the science and practice of early childhood education. We adapted it for use in family childcare programs in late 2019 and began piloting it in early 2020.  In response to the many challenges of 2020, we also created a BEQI self-assessment tool to help providers reflect on their own strengths and practices and to identify their areas of need, especially while in-person observations are not possible due to COVID-19.

The BEQI observation and self-assessment tools will be completed after the Tier 3 onboarding process and again later in the program to track changes in program quality. Due to COVID-19, the team is currently revising the observation protocol so that the BEQI observation can be completed through Zoom. Data from both the BEQI observation and BEQI self-assessment tools will be used to help providers establish program improvement goals and action steps within the Family Child Care Network system of supports offered by NECC.

Future Plans for the ECD Measure—NECC Partnership

NECC’s program is voluntary, provided at no cost to providers and available to family child care providers across the state of Nebraska. To date, almost 40 providers have enrolled in the program and NECC aims to enroll 50 providers in Tier 3 of the Family Child Care Network by the end of 2020. BEQI observations and self-assessments will begin in 2021 and will continue throughout the year. ECD Measure and NECC will collaborate throughout this time to refine the tools, supports and process.  Additionally, the development of an app for the BEQI observation and self-assessment will be phased in to explore the use of technology in collecting and sharing data.

Goals for this partnership include: piloting the BEQI observation and BEQI self-assessment within a mentoring program to explore how data feedback loops can be used to improve program quality in family child care homes, getting feedback from the specialist on the process of using data feedback loops for goal setting and identifying necessary resources, and to measure the impacts of these activities on program quality. Our team has collaborated with NECC staff to develop materials and procedures for integrating the BEQI tools into the Tier 3 services and collecting feedback throughout the process. Our team has also trained NECC educational coaches on the BEQI observation tool and provided the specialist with an overview of the BEQI.  This partnership offers a unique opportunity for ECD Measure and NECC to enhance our services to benefit both organizations. Together, we seek to better understand how data can be used to improve quality and how the BEQI tools may be used within a model of provider supports.

If you are interested in learning more about our partnership or the BEQI, please email [email protected]. If you are a Nebraska Family Child Care provider and are interested in learning more about NECC’s services, please email [email protected].