Okay, so maybe this seems like an easy question to answer. Child Care Aware of America sounds like fairly straightforward name. However, it’s really not as simple as it seems. The child care field can be incredibly complex, and understanding all the nuances of the important work Child Care Aware of America does can go a long way to illuminating that field.
It’s no secret that good, affordable child care can be incredibly hard to come by, especially in certain regions. There’s a lot of good work going on from Child Care Aware of America and child care resource networks like it to combat those difficulties for working families, but if you don’t know that help is out there, you might flounder all on your own. So, it’s important to make yourself aware of your options.
Here, we’re going to take you through the core aspects of what makes this child care resource network tick. We’ll go over their main services, a little bit of their history, and how their work impacts families all across the nation. If you’re already familiar with a Child Care Aware affiliate in your neck of the woods, then you’re already probably pretty well-versed in what the national organization does, but there are some key differences. We’ll go over those a little bit later. Right up front, though, we just want to focus on the basics of the national arm of the organization and all the good work they do.
Let’s start at the very beginning.
So, what is Child Care Aware of America?
Founded in 1987, Child Care Aware of America takes on the important task of working to advance the child care field. In pursuit of that goal, they split their efforts up into several different areas. You can categorize those areas by who the organization is striving to serve.
One of those groups is parents. They want to connect parents of young children with the highest quality services they can. Another group is child care providers — CCAoA works to make sure that those professionals have all the training and resources they need. The final group is all of society, really. They do that through their advocacy work, getting involved in the policies surrounding child care at the national level.
But the national arm of Child Care Aware doesn’t do this all on its own. Child Care Aware of America works with a whole host of child care resource and referral agencies — over 400 of them nationwide! These are the organizations that can connect parents with the best child care providers in their area, and they do more localized work.
The national organization is also membership-based. Individuals and organizations (like child care resource and referral agencies) can buy a CCAoA membership and receive access to additional resources. These benefits range from being the first to know about Child Care Aware of America’s annual reports to discounts on event registration and so much more.
Child Care Aware of America also acts as one of the primary child care resource networks in the country. That brings us to the next logical question…
What’s a child care resource network?
A child care resource network is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You might also hear them called child care resource and referral networks. Basically, one organization will connect parents and child care providers to different relevant resources.
On the child care provider side, a child care resource network is going to link them up with training and professional development opportunities. They might offer scholarships for certain programs, and they’ll have more information about the regulations in their area of focus. Local child care resource networks are going to have all the information on what kinds of trainings you need to complete and what your options are for completing them. They’re plugged into their local community to get the right resources to the right people.
On the parent side of things, a child care resource network also has a lot of information to offer. If you need assistance paying for child care, they can point you in the right direction. They can also give you good tips on what to look for in a child care provider, and they’ll also have tips on how to best care for your children yourself, or they’ll be able to guide you in the right direction to get that education. Child care providers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from child care trainings, and a child care resource network will be able to connect you with courses that might be helpful, like basic first aid.
Who does Child Care Aware of America serve?
As we stated in a previous section, this organization (like most child care resource networks) has three main areas of focus: Connecting parents with relevant resources, advancing child care providers’ careers, and advocating for better child care policy.
The organization’s main focus is on children up to 5 years old. It’s a well-known fact that the first five years of life are absolutely critical to brain development. The brain is developing rapidly, quicker than at any other point in our lives. Excess stress on children during this period can have long-lasting effects on their abilities to thrive later in life. Without high quality early childhood education and strong, responsive relationships with adults early on, children aren’t going to be as successful. This kind of good care can reduce the chance that children will have developmental delays.
These are all reasons why Child Care Aware of America and its affiliates focus on childhood before kindergarten. With that in mind, the organization narrows its focus to families with children under 5, as well as child care providers who care for children before they hit kindergarten. Their advocacy and policy knowledge also focuses on pre-k children and child care systems. So, to answer the question of who the organization serves, it’s really anyone in the field who has an interest in bettering the conditions of children from birth to 5 years old.
A huge part of what this national child care resource network does is help child care providers hone their skills through different professional development programs. There are always new discoveries and advancements being made in the child care field, and keeping on top of them is no small task. It’s important to do, though, because it ensures that our youngest kids have the best possible care and therefore the best opportunities to succeed later in life.
Child Care Aware of America also does a lot of work with military families. The organization serves more than 10,000 military children each year. The specifics of the program will depend on which branch of the Armed Forces your family is part of, but no matter which one you fall under, you might be eligible for help with your child care costs if you don’t have access to an on-base child care provider. Those eligibility requirements will vary from branch to branch, so if you’re interested in one of these programs, definitely check for specifics. Child Care Aware of America is proud to help the families of those who serve our country, and they’d be happy to connect you with the right resources for your situation, if they can.
Another aspect of Child Care Aware of America that might not be immediately obvious is their advocacy. They want to make positive change to the child care field at the structural level, and that includes advocating for better resources from the government. They also have a lot of information for others to advocate on their own. Child Care Aware of America is a trusted source for how best to advance the child care field in this country. Their experts have a complete understanding of where child care policy has been in the past, and they use research and data to inform their ideas on how today’s policies can be improved.
They also have information and resources for individuals who would like to join their advocacy efforts. In the Advocacy section of their website, you can find all kinds of helpful resources, from sample social media posts on relevant topics to ways to contact your representatives and ideas of what to say when you do.
What doesn’t Child Care Aware of America do?
It should be pretty clear by now what Child Care Aware of America’s core services are. We’ve gone over them in several different sections, and we’ve also talked about who specifically the organization serves. Their main purpose should be pretty clear by now. However, we also wanted to make note of what the organization does not do, just so we’re all on the same page before we wrap this up.
First of all, Child Care Aware of America doesn’t actually care for children. The organization (or one of its affiliates) can refer you to high-quality child care providers in your area, but they won’t take the tots in themselves. And while they can connect child care providers to resources and professional development opportunities, they’re not handing out degrees or anything like that themselves. As a child care resource network, they’re mostly just there to point you in the right direction for all your child care needs.
Also know that you’re often better off reaching out to your local child care resource network rather than going straight to the national branch. The national organization isn’t going to be up to date on all the goings on in your area, so keeping it local can help you get more specific information. That’s not to diminish how important the national organization is, but just keep in mind whether the information or resources you’re looking for is relevant to the whole country or just to your area.
Child Care Aware Near You
We’ve spoken about how Child Care Aware of America works with more local child care resource networks. You can find one through their website, but if you live in Missouri, we wanted to point you toward the Child Care Aware affiliate in your state. Child Care Aware of Missouri does a lot of the same work that we’ve discussed previously when it comes to child care resource networks, and they’ll be able to help you find the right resources in your area. Child Care Aware of Missouri serves families and child care providers statewide — check out some more specifics about them here.
This is just the start of what Child Care Aware of America is all about.
We’ve covered the core components of what makes this child care resource network so great, but that’s just the beginning. We couldn’t possibly get at every single detail of their organization in a single post. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out their website for more information.
CCAoA is doing important work every single day, and no matter who you are, you have something to gain from their efforts. If you’re a parent, they can point you in the direction of helpful resources in your area. Whether you need help paying for child care or just need some ideas on what to look for in a child care provider, they can get you some answers or put you in touch with the right people.
If you’re a child care provider, then you can get all sorts of resources for your profession through CCAoA. You might even join as a member, and then you’ll get all kinds of helpful information to increase your expertise.
And if you don’t fit into either of those categories, know that Child Care Aware of America is working to better our whole society. In that way, you’ll still benefit from their work. When parents can access high quality child care, they’re more productive, and their children grow up to be more successful and productive members of society. So, we all have something to gain from the great work this child care resource network does, and now you know some of what that important work is.