“Good morning! I sure have missed your smiling face! Could we set up a virtual visit this week so I could see you and we could talk about how everything is going in your program?”
As funny as this may sound, this has gotten one of our outstanding consultants many virtual visits.
Connections are so important when working with child care providers. Consultants make many connections with the providers with whom they work. For the consultant mentioned above, just saying she misses seeing them is enough to rekindle that connection during this time of social distancing and virtual consultation visits. The providers missed the consultant too, and were happy to tackle technology just to see their consultant again!
Meeting the Needs of Prospective Child Care Providers
For those providers who are just starting the process of building a connection with Iowa’s Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (CCR&R), our region has held two virtual trainings of ‘Child Care Ready,’ an accelerated professional development series that offers all of the pre-certification training required to open a home child care business or start as child care center. The series involves four sessions:
- Assisting prospective providers with rules and regulations.
- Completing the registration packet.
- Introducing the required training needed for registration.
- Setting up training accounts, and possibly even earning free items for their new business.
During this series, the provider also starts a connection with their local CCR&R consultant.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had many new applications come into our office. This may possibly be due to parents staying home with school-age children who are doing virtual learning, and deciding to make a career shift so they can care for younger children at home, too. One consultant received seven new applications from perspective providers in one week. These are great prospects for the ‘Child Care Ready’ series.
If the series is not an option for new applicants, then virtual visits are a great way to meet with these prospective providers. Consultants can guide individual applicants through any of the tasks included in ‘Child Care Ready.’ This connection gives the consultant the ability to customize the visits with a provider and ask specific questions along the way.
Meeting the Needs of Current Providers
Child Care Resource & Referral of Central Iowa has been able to continue many other services virtually as well. We have moved to virtual training with local instructors, which has had a huge response with classes filling quickly. This has also allowed providers from all over the state to take different training that is not being offered in their region. In addition, consultants are hosting visits to help providers prepare for ChildNet 3.0 (a 25-hour interactive training series with an optional coaching component offered to support new skills and procedures) and validators are doing virtual ChildNet certification and recertification.
When a provider has a need, the consultant can evaluate whether that need can be addressed through a virtual visit. The platform that we use is GoToMeeting, which is free to the provider without having to download an app. Many CCR&R programs across the state use Zoom or Microsoft Meetings. All they have to do is click on a link the consultant sends to the provider’s phone, iPad or computer. Additional services offered through virtual visits have included:
- Coordinating quality rating system documentation. The consultant can show documents on her screen and explain to providers how to complete them.
- Collaborating around ChildNet Certification/Recertification to review the training and forms.
- Evaluating environments with or without children present to help with traffic patterns and organization.
- Observing children to assist with behaviors and guidance if the provider has a camera and assistance available.
- Evaluating and enhancing policies and procedures.
- Previewing and evaluating a new child care space before the opening of a new center.
- Preparing a provider for the inspection of the new space.
- Hosting “Director’s Meetings” through a virtual platform, which spares directors from having to be away from their center! Twenty-eight directors from Polk County (Des Moines area) attended their last meeting virtually. Consultants find it helpful to resend the meeting link the day of the visit for better attendance.
As one provider shared with a consultant, if she realized how easy it was to have a virtual visit, she would have done it long before! Virtual visits allow us the opportunity to maintain our relationships with providers and continue to serve their needs.
In what ways has your CCR&R organization had success with virtual delivery of services? If you are a provider, how have you benefitted from receiving virtual services? Let us know by commenting below.
Gina Wells works for Child Care Resource and Referral in Central Iowa as a Child Care Consultant Supervisor. Her education consists of a Bachelor of Science from Truman State University and a Masters in Elementary Education from Viterbo University. Her experience has included teaching preschool and elementary school, being a Child Care Center Director, a college advisor and a child care consultant. Gina’s motto in life is to always be willing to learn!