Partner institution: University of Michigan – Flint
This engagement was contracted through InGlobal Learning Design.
Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) child care providers are a crucial but often overlooked part of the child care landscape, especially in communities like Flint, Michigan, where many parents find that other child care options do not accommodate needs such as non-standard work hours, transportation, and cultural preferences. While state and local programs exist that can support FFN providers financially and logistically, many of these resources go unused. How might we help FFN providers overcome barriers to accessing assistance and resources?
The PEP team spent nearly a year doing discovery and problem framing, working with community organizations and talking with individuals to identify areas of highest need among child care providers in Flint. We found that among various types of providers, FFN providers had access to the least support and resources, and those resources that exist were underutilized. A lack of information, poor access to technology, and the complexities of applying for assistance were major barriers to utilizing resources.
A workshop with a regional organization, Child Care Network, was crucial to problem framing. We generated categories of issues through a “brain-swarming” and affinity grouping process, and through persona-writing and persona-mapping, we ended up with a primary persona whom we named “Andrea,” to guide our next steps.
Using “Andrea” as our guide, we then experimented with a variety of prototype solutions, each time gathering feedback from providers we served, and modifying the prototypes based on that feedback.
Since different FFN providers have a variety of different needs, our solutions also took multiple forms.
- To address the lack of information, PEP team members participated in public events around the city, and once Covid hit, we shared information on our website, through a text-message system, and on Facebook. We kept a list of FFN providers who had reached out to us, and checked in with them regularly.
- To address barriers to accessing technology, we helped providers find free or low-cost internet access and devices, and gave individual assistance when other options were not feasible.
- We helped providers apply for state subsidies and grants, guiding them through the process and advocating for them when necessary.
- Finally, we worked with individual providers to find solutions to their unique needs, for example, helping to find funding for home repair, acquiring safety and play equipment, finding training and professional learning opportunities, and building their child care into a licensed business.