Sound Child Care Solutions was founded in 2007 by Diana Bender and Laura McAlister. Its establishment was the culmination of years of work and analysis of the early childhood education (ECE) field—both in policy and planning, and classrooms. Built on national research showing the importance of strengthening child care economically, SCCS is was the first of our kind in the nation when we started in 2007. We join together strong, high-quality ECE centers to share business functions and professional development through a centralized non-profit operations structure.
Diana Bender spent 10 years in early childhood policy and planning at the City of Seattle. As an Early Childhood Planner with the City, Diana conducted a series of projects, including the True Cost of Quality project from 2001-2003. The project examined the financial infrastructure and quality of ECE at the service delivery level. The project validated what many in the field knew anecdotally:
- Teachers subsidize the true of early education through low wages and virtually no benefits.
- Low wages and no benefits lead to high staff turnover and impacts educational quality.
- Quality stuffers because there is not enough money to invest in materials, equipment and environments.
- The majority of most center directors were unprepared to do any type of budgeting for their centers.
- Small centers, while creating nice, small communities for children, were unstable and often overwhelmed by fluctuations in the economy.
- Sharing the costs of professional development is relatively easy to achieve and there is an added benefit of support and exchange of ideas.
Reflecting on the budget data and collaborative projects, Diana recognized the lack of capacity among child care centers to do even basic financial management with excellence. She began dream of ways to overcome the challenges faced by centers and imagine ways to allow more of every dollar to go to children. The seeds of the consortium were planted.
Diana and Laura McAlister met in 2004 through a Seattle Early Reading First project. Laura had been the Director of an accredited ECE program. She experienced the challenges of being a director of a standalone center. Her high skill level allowed her to achieve high quality on a shoestring budget, however she was thinking of ways for ECE directors to join together to share costs and ideas. As a teacher of more than 25 year, Laura recognized the incredible value of pooling resources from a professional development and quality stand point.
In late 2005 and early 2006, the research and development phase of the consortium was being conducted through focus groups, best practice research and by interviewing local and national experts on shared services. The Kellogg Foundation Linking Economic Development and Child Care project, funded by the Kellogg Foundation and others awarded their sole Venture grant to Sound Child Care Solutions in 2006, funding our early start-up. for the implementation of the consortium.
In February 2007, Interlaken Preschool in the Capitol Hill neighborhood became the first center to join SCCS and by fall, Little Eagles Child Development Center in downtown had also joined. Within our first year, SCCS was already serving almost 100 families.
With these early centers in place, we received three key foundation grants which allowed us to further develop the Consortium approach. In 2008, we received grants from:
- Paul G Allen Foundation ($95,000)
- Seattle Foundation ($25,000)
- United Way Venture Fund ($15,000)
Then, in In July 2008, SCCS was awarded funding for one City of Seattle Step Ahead classroom to serve low-income children in southwest Seattle. Southwest Early Learning (SWEL) was established through partnership with Southwest Youth and Family Services. A year later, In the Fall of 2009, the City of Seattle funded SWEL’s expansion to triple the size of the program.
In late 2009, the Boeing Corporation decided to fund the development of our professional development system.
In April 2010, Pinehurst Child Care Center in the Wedgwood neighborhood unanimously voted to join the consortium. Pinehurst will officially join during the summer of 2010. SCCS is now serving 130 children each day at 3 strong centers with fully integrated basic business services and basic support for professional development, with the addition of Pinehurst we will serve just over 200 children. As we continue to grow and reach our full-scale model, we expect to serve 750-1000 children by the end of 2014.