Shared services build program capacity
Shared services bring small, independent child care businesses together to achieve economies of scale (purchasing power) and specialization (in areas of business management expertise). Alliances benefit from greater buying power (individually, small businesses lack the scale to negotiate real savings) and a larger financial and staffing base to support specific tasks such as marketing, finance, and human resources.
In 2008 the William Penn Foundation commissioned a feasibility study to explore the possibility of creating a shared services alliance in southeastern Pennsylvania. The foundation funded DVAEYC the next year to conduct a shared services pilot project. Working in partnership with Public Health Management Corporation, Opportunities Exchange, and CCA for Social Good, DVAEYC convened providers to introduce the concept of shared services—alliances and streamlined business practices. Our experience of supporting quality improvement informed the development of a website by CCA for Social Good, ECESharedResources.com, with tools, templates, and resources to drive best teaching practices. Shared services alliances in 11 states use this website.
When the first-year pilot was extended, DVAEYC invited PAEYC and PennAEYC to join the collaboration to bring these resources to Pennsylvania statewide. PAEYC successfully secured funding from Hein Endowments to customize the website based on Pennsylvania’s early learning system. PennAEYC assumed responsibility for administering member access to the website. The boards and executive staff from PennAEYC, DVAEYC, and PAEYC made the decision to offer the platform as a free benefit of AEYC membership—funded through a slight increase in PennAEYC annual membership dues.
Staff from the three Affiliate organizations collaborate to continue adding resources to the website. The newest addition, and the first of its kind in the nation, is a section with resources directly related to Keystone STARS standards. For example, at the higher STAR level, the standards require programs to employ best practices for children’s transitions to new settings. Some of the resources offered on the website include
A page on preparing for successful transitions, with resources, forms, and templates to assist program leaders in orchestrating effective transitions. Directors can download resources such as a template to invite families to a meeting regarding transition and a sample meeting agenda
A sample plan for transitioning children from one classroom to another and a policy for teacher changes
Links to the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center's resources on transitions from early intervention services to preschool
Alliances through shared services
By far, the greatest benefit of shared services comes when providers enter into alliances that allow directors to off-load administrative tasks to a shared operations structure while assuming a greater role as the educational leader in their program. In an alliance, child care providers share business functions such as accounting services, payroll, food purchasing, child enrollment, and record keeping. By participating in an alliance, small businesses become stronger, more accountable, more financially sound and efficient, and better equipped to offer affordable, high-quality services.
Alliances are built on the concept of shared risk and reward in a climate of trust—which takes time to build. DVAEYC is currently working with a group of eight child care programs in Philadelphia that are exploring alliance options. Under review is a plan to share payroll and benefits administration, marketing, janitorial, and professional development functions.
In Pittsburgh, PAEYC is facilitating the Family Child Care Home Alliances. This shared services project provides access to support for business practices (for example, how to prepare a budget and keep track of expenses, and income tax preparation and support) and also creates group purchasing networks, mentoring to strengthen business practices, and sharing of bookkeeping services. ... continue to read
Jodi Askins, MS, is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC) in Harrisburg. She serves as a member of the Governor’s Early Learning Council and on several state and local advisory committees. email@example.com
Sharon Easterling is the executive director of the Delaware Valley AEYC (DVAEYC). She leads a staff of 25 who provide professional development, quality improvement, and leadership development/advocacy initiatives for the early childhood community in the Greater Philadelphia area. Sharon@dvaeyc.org
Michelle Figlar is the executive director of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC), serving a 10-county region in southwestern Pennsylvania. Since joining PAEYC, she has worked to increase membership, create professional development programs, and develop a coordinated plan for AEYC advocacy efforts. firstname.lastname@example.org