The Tri-Share Program was originally developed in Michigan and is administered by the Michigan Women’s Commission. This Tri-Share Program proposal was crafted specifically for Noble County, addressing the issue of child care affordability, while also creating future guidelines for child care sustainability and quality.
What is Noble Thrive by 5?
The Noble Thrive by 5 Early Childhood Coalition brings together organizations in Noble County to develop innovative, sustainable solutions around the challenges of child care and early learning so parents are able to go to work knowing their children are safe, loved, and learning. From the core organizations of the Community Foundation of Noble County, Noble County Economic Development Corporation, and Crossroads United Way, to the many organizations that make up New Community Initiatives, the Noble County Interagency group and the Community Learning Center Leadership Team, child care affects so many throughout the community, and many are deeply involved in its solution. The existence of Noble Thrive by 5 is to bring the community together to increase the capacity, affordability, and quality of child care and early learning in Noble County.
As you know, education is primarily publicly funded. It doesn’t matter your socio-economic status, every child in grades K-12 has access to a public school education. That’s not the case with early learning opportunities for ages 0-5. In this space, high quality child care that provides a curriculum even for the youngest infants can be prohibitively expensive for families, while still preventing early learning professionals from earning a living wage. In a July 7, 2022 article from WFYI PBS in Indianapolis, a home child care worker said it best when she stated that child cares are a “school setting without the school funding.”
Children need these early learning opportunities to have the best chance at not only success in school, but for the rest of their lives. Ninety percent of brain development happens in the first five years of a child’s life. So much happens in the child’s brain during those years that if we’re not investing and putting young children in environments that are learning-rich, we are setting them up for struggles in school, lower income levels as adults, higher health care costs later in life, even a higher likelihood of amassing a criminal record.
The Tri-Share Program will address the affordability of child care and early learning programs in Noble County. Parents who make less than 127% of the Federal Poverty Level can qualify for Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) vouchers, while parents making 128% or more still struggle to pay for child care, as well as the daily costs of living.
“Affordable” child care is defined as paying 7% or less of a household’s gross salary on child care. In Noble County, the average weekly cost for care is around $150. To be considered “affordable,” a family (or single parent) would have to be making $109,000 annually. In Noble County, the median household income is $56,000. That means child care is not affordable for most Noble County families.
This program will increase affordability for families by splitting the cost of child care three ways for qualifying families.
- One third the cost of child care is paid for by an American Rescue Plan contribution from the Noble County Commissioners
- One third the cost of child care is paid for by the parent
- One third the cost of child care is paid for by the employer
Some things to note about the Tri-Share Program. We do not intend this to be a stand-alone project. It is one piece of a multi-faceted plan to address the capacity, affordability, and quality of early learning opportunities in Noble County.
It will address affordability now, by putting more money back in the pockets of working families. They will be able to spend it elsewhere in our economy, while the child care centers still get the support they need to continue their vital work of educating our youngest Noble County residents.
As we move forward, plans are developing to tackle the challenges of capacity and quality. We are working with providers and local stakeholders to expand and open new seats to ease waiting lists. As space becomes available, this could potentially draw more residents to Noble County, if local government plays a role in a child care benefit to families. Employers who “opt-in” would be more attractive to potential employees, because participation in the Tri-Share Program indicates that employer appreciates and supports it workers.
We are advancing ways to make sure child care and early learning workers are supported through professional development that’s not a burden to them or to their families. That education, in turn, increases the quality of care our children receive and allows them to receive the additional benefits, including financial incentives and recognition to attract families.
There are so many people and organizations locally invested in making a difference in this space. This Tri-Share Program is one small step in the right direction.
- Employers may “opt in” to the program.
- Employers could choose which employees (outside of income levels) would be eligible for the benefit (full-time, part-time, etc.).
- They would choose a maximum number of staff members who could participate, or could choose to fund the education of a maximum number of children.
- If more than that maximum number at one employer are deemed “eligible,” priority will go to the staff members with the lowest household incomes.
- We would request that each employer that “opts in” provides at least one representative for the Tri-Share Program Committee.
- We have several employers who are interested in the program, talking further and potentially allocating funds, but want to ensure government support before proceeding.
- Child care providers may “opt in” to the program.
- All Noble County child care providers and early learning programs who are licensed, registered, or legally licensed exempt will be eligible to participate in the pilot program.
- We hope that this will encourage more providers to become regulated.
- Continued eligibility will depend on guidelines for providers after the first year, which could include increased staff wages and participation in the Paths to Quality program (see “Future Plans” under Benefits, below).
- Interested providers include:
- Kendallville Day Care Center (Licensed Center, Paths to Quality Level 3)
- Lighthouse Childcare and Learning Service (Registered Ministry)
- Trinity Day Care Ministry (Registered Ministry)
- The Jr. Jungle (Licensed Home, Paths to Quality Level 3)
- Employees of companies that “opt in” to the program are eligible.
- Eligible employees willmake between 128% and 300% of Federal Poverty Levels*
- They must not be eligible for other assistance (CCDF, On My Way Pre-K).
- Their children must attend a participating child care/early learning program.
*Guidelines for CCDF eligibility are expected to be updated in October 2022. At that time, adjustments to the eligibility of Noble County’s Tri-Share Program will be updated accordingly.
The administration of this program will be conducted by Noble Thrive by 5. This includes:
- Application and approval process for employees.
- Onboarding of new providers and employers
- Billing for government funds (through the Community Foundation of Noble County)
- Billing for employer funds.
- Billing may happen quarterly or monthly, depending on needs of provider.
- Noble Thrive by 5 will request a small administration fee (10%) from grant funds to support this program.
How This Will Benefit Noble County
The Noble County Tri-Share Program will immediately address the issues of child care and early learning sustainability and affordability for families, while creating additional plans to support quality and increased wages for early learning professionals.
- Affordability: Sharing the cost of child care will help families who are making a livable wage, yet still struggling, be able to spend less on quality child care, increasing the amount of money they have to spend elsewhere.
- Sustainability: Building a partnership between the county government and local employers will support the operations of the child care center, while also allowing more parents to put their child in a quality early learning environment so they can fill some of the open positions in Noble County, improving the local economy.
- Future Plans for Increased Wages: Employers participating in the program want to make sure that the investment not only supports the current funding levels of the child care provider, but increases wages for employees to a “living wage.”
- More information is needed yet from child care providers about what a preferred minimum hourly rate would be, and the cost to provide that to all employees, while also providing a pay increase to existing employees.
- This part of the project will require additional development
- Future Plans for Increased Quality: Participating providers will work to earn or maintain Paths to Quality levels.
- This could be a barrier for some to start. While providers are in support of additional education for staff and the possibility of joining Paths to Quality, time and willingness to take classes are a hurdle that we must address before this can become part of the program.
Support for the Tri-Share Program by the Noble County Commissioners
Noble Thrive by 5 is requesting $50,000* of Noble County’s Share of American Rescue Plan funding. This money will be deposited into a Noble County Tri-Share non-permanent fund at the Community Foundation of Noble County, where it will be distributed to local child care and early learning providers to pay 1/3 of the fees for eligible families.
In addition to the funds, we would request that the Commissioners appoint one representative to serve on the Tri-Share Program Committee, which will guide the pilot program in the first year, and collaborate to determine its future.
*Noble County Government offices were named as one of the largest employers of parents with children in local child care. We would like to suggest that the Commissioners allocate more funding, and would essentially pay 2/3 the cost of child care for their eligible employees. If the Commissioners agree with Noble County being an employer, as well, we would request an additional $25,000 in funding, for a total of $75,000. For reference, we expect the maximum amount of 1/3 of child care in Noble County to be around $70 per week. If Noble County, as an employer, was funding 1/3 of the child care for ten children at the maximum, the cost for the year would be $36,400. However, if we look more at the average amount of child care in Noble County, 1/3 of the average cost would be closer to $50 per week for a total cost of $26,000 annually. This amount is negotiable, based on the maximum number of employees/children the county would agree to support through the program.
We expect that this initial $50,000 investment would be able to assist about 20 families in its first year, depending on the cost of child care. True participation depends on a number of factors, including income levels, participating employers, and whether children are being cared for in one of Noble County’s licensed, registered, or legally license exempt providers.
If there is funding still available at the end of the pilot period, we would request that the money be retained at the Community Foundation of Noble County for the purpose of supporting child care and early learning. At that time, the Commissioners would be able to determine how those funds would be used.