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Mapping Tool Created to Find Child-Care Gaps Expands Beyond Philadelphia

A mapping tool created in Philadelphia to determine where child care is most needed is now spreading to other areas in that region and beyond.

The Childcare Map was produced by Reinvestment Fund, a community development financial institution, or CDFI, that lends money and makes grants to create things like child-care centers, affordable housing, health centers, and spaces for art and culture.

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The map, which was launched in 2014, came about after the fund was approached by the William Penn Foundation, a local nonprofit, for help to determine where the child-care gaps were in Philadelphia.

Reinvestment Fund_ChildrensPlayhouse_Jan2017-15_crop.jpgThe Reinvestment Fund bills the map, which is updated annually, as the first complete source of information for all of the child-care options in the city. It provides the location of 3,000 providers in Philadelphia, both licensed and unlicensed, and the number of children from birth to 5 who live near those providers. The analysts also looked at other data including information about employment since some parents prefer care that's close to where they work versus where they live.

"Having all of that information in a single place allows us to think about where additional high-quality supply was most needed in low-income communities and what the opportunities might be for building that supply," said Elliot Weinbaum, the program director of the Great Learning Program at William Penn.

Reinvestment Fund has now created similar child-care maps in Passaic County and Newark, N.J., the five-county metro region of Atlanta, and in Washington, D.C.

A New Funding Model

The foundation spent about $20 million to support the creation of Philadelphia's Childcare map and the Fund for Quality (FFQ),  a targeted investment fund that's designed to increase the availability of quality early-learning programs for low-income families in Philadelphia. 

Since the Fund for Quality was developed in 2014, it's created more than 1,500 new, high-quality child-care seats in the city, and plans are underway to create about 1,000 more by 2020.

Weinbaum says it's an important resource for child-care providers in the city because the industry has such narrow profit margins that traditional loans are often hard to obtain.

Bevin Parker-Cerkez is the senior director of early-childhood education in the Reinvestment Fund's lending and investing group. She says the information gained from the map is used in the fund's loan application and helps her team to make lending decisions.

"We already know subsidy is scarce nationally, particularly in early childhood and educational resources," said Parker-Cerkez. "To have that level of detail and data around that, so that when we're making these investment in child-care operators we can target the most vulnerable populations is really a great thing,"

Reinvestment Fund is also working with industry leaders in the nation's capital to help them create their own version of the Fund for Quality.

"The efforts here in Philly show that if you have really good information about a sector, and if you have good resources, particularly those that have some flexibility to them but discipline as well, you can solve a problem," said Ira Goldstein, the president of Reinvestment Fund's policy solutions group.

The Fund for Quality is a partnership between Reinvestment Fund and the Public Health Management Corporation that provides child-care providers with business planning assistance and facilities-related financing to help them expand their businesses.

The Vanguard Strong Start for Kids program also supports the FFQ financially.

Photo: As a result of multiple FFQ grant awards, a previously vacant building now offers early-childhood education and after care for 156 children at the Children's Playhouse Early Learning Center in Philadelphia. Courtesy Reinvestment Fund


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