Quality work on the fringes

Childcare and other services

A locally run CEDAH (Central Database of Available Hours) will support a pool of flexible, localized, childcare professionals. Vetted and trained to work in family homes, they can cost-effectively supplement traditional facilities.

 

 

Helping daycare evolve

Lack of childcare holds back recovery. It forces women out of the workforce and rolls back womens’ gains in labor markets. The resulting hardship and stresses fall disproportionately on parents of color.

Additional choices for childcare can only help. Few families can afford a full-time nanny, many are wary of unregulated in-home care. A CEDAH can develop at-home, regulated, as-needed, care relationships. Even pre-pandemic group childcare, typically during office hours at a fixed location, was not right for every household. It could struggle to meet the needs of:

  • Irregular clients: Parents who have unpredictable hours may want to look after their kids one morning but have them cared for in the evening. Adjusting to a daycare center’s hours can be difficult. Parents who work between multiple locations may find themselves travelling long distances to deposit children at a regular venue.
  • Special needs: Some children find groups challenging, or are a risk to other youngsters.
  • Home workers: Mom may have a few hours she can work in a room with her children today but then have a Zoom conference call for which she must be alone to concentrate. Shuttling them to and from daycare for those times would be a huge burden.
  • Caretakers needing flexibility: Childcare can be demanding work. Many people who are naturals at it have their own unpredictable family caregiving commitments. There are many people who would like hours of childcare work at times that fit around their
  • Older kids: Groups can be a lifeline for younger children but 8- to 15-year-olds equally need supervision if out of school and may dislike group facilities.

Daycare offers solid benefits for many children; stability, development of social skills, access to play equipment, and interaction with multiple adults. But other families and potential workers have more complex lives, particularly in the pandemic. They may need comprehensive options between group facilities and a full-time carer at home.

 

How responsive at-home childcare works

For maximum impact, the model requires a sophisticated hourly labor market such as a CEDAH (Central Database of Available Hours). It enables:

  1. Recruitment: A pool of childcare professionals who need to work flexibly and locally are attracted through public outreach. Some may only qualify for constantly supervised work, for example helping an experienced caregiver looking after several children in one house. Or they may qualify as a “parent’s help” who assists with childcare duties only while a mother or father remains at home. Provenly reliable workers in adjoining sectors can be targeted for assessment as childcare workers to grow the supply of candidates.
  2. Training: An intermediary body that will act as employer of record needs to vet each individual then typically offer training modules such as “Covid prepared”. The system will ensure completion and sign-off on courses appropriate to the care each worker will be permitted to provide.
  3. Legal verification: The system includes EVV (Electronic Visit Verification) in the app on each caregiver’s phone. It records their location and the duration of their stay on the premises using verified satellite and phone data. (Charges may be payable for this functionality by the intermediary.)
  4. Precision booking: Most families have to watch the costs of childcare. With a CEDAH they can book hours exactly as needed. So if the Dad finishes a shift three hours after Mom starts hers this afternoon, they make a three hour booking. (If their intermediary allows, the system can calculate higher pay for short notice or short length assignments based on each provider’s personal rules.)
  5. Regular relationships: The CEDAH system aims constantly to foster on-going patterns of work. So a family might identify perhaps two or three caregivers who their children like and see repeatedly. The parents may choose to view hour-by-hour availability of these individuals before making commitments to leave home, knowing who can be booked.

 

A responsive childcare pilot: “WorkLB”

The City of Long Beach, CA, launched a CEDAH – badged CalFLEXI – for family-funded childcare early in the pandemic. CARES Act funding was then tapped so the service could extend to low-income essential workers. Over 600 residents signed up within four weeks of the Mayor’s announcement. Most were youth workers, teachers, and other professionals adapting to uncertainty.

Many of these individuals needed flexible work to fit around family or studying commitments. Over 100 were eventually re-vetted and prepared for Covid era work in homes. Skills4Care a non-profit was the City’s partner in this. Each worker set hours they could work; today, tomorrow or recurring for the future. Their travel area could be specified.

Parents approved for the service were able to browse details of local carers to initially select those who would likely gel with their children. A short trial booking, with the parent present, was recommended. The city’s public workforce board, overseeing the operation, inducted a pool of the caregivers to run a socially distanced creche for customers attending training sessions on its premises.

CARES Act allowed an initial 127 essential workers to receive an initial allocation of 40 hours of publicly funded care. This incentivized each family to maximize informal care, accessing public funds only at times when no family member was available. The CEDAH monitored expenditure using its accounts functionality.

Families most in need were progressively awarded additional hours. Within two months, 3,765 hours of care for a child were booked in sessions ranging from one hour to 36 hours in one week. The value of this model was captured in interviews with families:

  • “I work nights. When my husband has double shifts we booked a provider so I could sleep. We used two caregivers, they turned our backyard into a play area to build dens and create chalk art on the walls.” (Nurse, booked 99 hours)
  • “My three boys all have Combined Type ADHT. I need care at odd hours, sometimes first thing in the morning; at other times up to 10PM. One of the providers was a CNA who had worked in a psychiatric facility. He encouraged me to come on a short ‘field trip’ with the boys and it gave us all confidence.” (Single mother, booked 63 hours)
  • “I made sure I stayed at home for the first hour with each of the providers, but they were soon playing with [my daughter] and helping with her hair. She just said “Go Mum!” I couldn’t have put in the hours I did at the end of the year without this scheme.” (Single mother, booked 35 hours)

 

Benefits of the flexible model

Reports claiming America’s childcare industry is collapsing because of the pandemic may be exaggerated. But daycare centers, the often unchallenged model of US provision, could evolve with new services. Responsive, at-home, care could be one cost-effective tool in that kit. Underpinned by a CEDAH, this granular, personalized, style of childcare offers:

  1. Expanded workforce: Many people who are natural childcarers aren’t blessed with 40 hours of availability each week for a daycare center job. They have their own fluctuating parenting or family caregiving needs around which they must work. Joining a pool of responsive individual providers allows these typically resourceful people to earn at times that fits their uncertain commitments.
  2. Multiple intermediaries: Choice of a daycare center will usually be dictated by location, proximity to place of work for example. A CEDAH can support countless intermediaries, big or small. Think of an intermediary as the virtual equivalent of a center. They maintain standards in their workforce while acting as employer of record and insurer. Entitles fulfilling this function could range from national daycare chains through non-profits and public agencies to local neighborhood centers. Each would need to be approved by the body running a local market, perhaps a workforce board. And each can profitably partner with any other intermediary on the system to widen coverage. Parents gain a menu of options of organizations to trust.
  3. Flexibility in provision: A child off school suddenly? Daycare center staff sick? A sudden change in plans? Having visibility of thousands of hours of local childcare providers and the ability to instantly book any of them, within their parameters, at times they want to work removes a lot of headaches.
  4. Levels of responsibility: In the WorkLB pilot (above) each worker was obliged to phone a client before leaving home for their booking to confirm that neither side had been exposed to any Covid symptoms. Either side could cancel, without penalty, if there was any concern. So, individuals were constantly deciding about their personal safety on top of blanket rules being followed. A pool of back-up providers is instantly available if cover is needed.
  5. Options for the workforce: Some childcare workers seek pathways into nursing, teaching, or even skills that have no formal connection to children such as retail management. A CEDAH that is plumbed into workforce board services, can start seeking crossover bookings that allows them to develop in other directions while continuing to have childcare bookings as long as they need.

 

Additional services

As a local childcare market deepens, perhaps with dozens of intermediaries utilizing the white-label CEDAH for their infrastructure, a range of additional services can easily be developed. They include:

  • Specific requirements: Some families need carers with experience of physical or mental disability. Others have specific needs such as caregivers who are comfortable with a large dog remaining in the house. A detailed profile of certification and aptitude requirements for that family can be assembled. The CEDAH then instantly identifies local qualified workers who match. A higher fixed payrate might be needed to attract caregivers for very demanding types of work.
  • Tutoring: The WorkLB pilot revealed a matrix of languages and formal and informal skills among people seeking flexible work as childcare providers. The system uncovered soccer players, math graduates, artists and bicycle enthusiasts. If an intermediary wishes, the CEDAH can turn these attributes of each worker into a menu of offerings. Additional charges may of course be imposed for these specific work-types if a family wants their kid taught a musical instrument, coached in English, or coaxed outdoors while being cared for.
  • Micropods: As vaccination spreads, if parents remain wary of congregant care, clusters of children from two or three families cared for in homes could become a halfway step back to normality. Again, the CEDAH can administer all regulations, split billing, back-up providers, flexible sessions plus possible specialist activities such as sports training.

Childcare is one example of a service that can usefully become more localized, responsive, and transparently audited in uncertain labor markets. It can provide new business opportunities for daycare centers and other bodies setting standards and supervision for childcare workers. Other sectors, where a CEDAH can enhance family life include Community Health workers, senior care and peer support.

 

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