The Lafayette Parish School System is using a grant to hire a consultant who will be tasked with helping drum up private donations for early childhood education at local child care centers.
The $33,500 grant awarded by the Pugh Family Foundation will assist the efforts of the school system’s “Success by 5 Alliance,” a child care resource and referral agency that helps parents find quality child care options.
The agency also provides training and technical assistance to child care centers under a state law passed in 2012. The law was designed to improve educational quality at child care centers receiving state assistance and to promote greater collaboration between school systems and child care centers.
To fulfill their mission, the agencies can receive private donations from businesses and individuals. In turn, donors are eligible for dollar-for-dollar tax credits up to $5,000.
The child care resource and referral agencies, most of them overseen by nonprofit organizations, are located statewide. Previously, a regional child care resource and referral agency provided services to the Acadiana area. However, the school system last year applied for and received a contract with the Louisiana Department of Education to operate its own resource and referral agency.
“The benefit is we’ve had hand-in-glove, direct collaboration with the school system,” explained Paula Granger, the Success by 5 Alliance child care resource and referral agency supervisor.
The agency is located at the Vermilion Conference Center, 326 Gauthier Road. The school system’s early childhood department offices are also located there to provide one-stop service to parents who may need additional resources, such as speech therapy or other intervention services, said Barbara Wood, a technical assistance specialist who works with the agency.
The agency’s staff consists of Granger, Wood and Emmy Mouton, who also is a trainer and technical assistance specialist like Wood.
Granger said the marketing and development coordinator position to be funded through the grant is important to help fulfill its mission of providing support to child care centers in the community. The Lafayette Parish School Board approved the grant award at its meeting Wednesday, opening the door for the creation of a job description for the position, which also will require board approval.
“We haven’t gotten a penny yet and really need a person with marketing expertise to go out in the community,” Granger said.
The money raised will go to support local businesses — child care centers that have taken the steps to improve their educational programs to better prepare young ones for school, Wood said.
“Research shows that for every dollar spent on early childhood, you save $17 on reform programs,” Wood said. “That’s money saved on teen pregnancy classes, drug reform and dropout prevention.”
Granger said the agency is developing an online database of child care centers for parents to more readily and easily access the information about quality child care programs.
The agency consulted with the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce to develop a business plan in preparation for its outreach for donations, Granger said.
“Our goal is to generate $1 million in 2015,” she said.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.