A new study released last week shows the quality of child care programs in Vermont improved and expanded in instances where there has been increased funding and assistance from the Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF). The study, developed by an independent researcher, was presented at Mud City Kids Child Care, a Morrisville child care facility and VCLF borrower.
Additionally, VCLF, a non-profit, community development financial institution (CDFI) alternative lender in Vermont, announced a new funding opportunity to further benefit Vermont’s children and child care programs: the Next Generation Fund. The report and the new Fund were unveiled at an event on May 22nd, hosted by Mud City Kids Child Care in Morrisville, a child care facility that has expanded following various loans from VCLF.
The Vermont Community Loan Fund has been making loans to Vermont child care programs since 2000, providing loans, grants and technical assistance including business planning, marketing and other services. Since 2000, VCLF’s Child Care Lending Program has loaned over $7 million to over 100 child care programs throughout Vermont, leveraging another $3 million in project funding from other sources, creating or retaining quality care for 2,600 children and families and jobs for 530 Vermonters.The study, conducted by independent researcher K.C. Whiteley, compared VCLF-assisted programs to statewide averages, finding program improvements across a number of criteria. Whiteley commented on her own reaction to the findings, saying “I suspected the impact of VCLF funding on these important programs was going to have been positive, but little did I know that on every count, quality was improved so significantly through the many types of assistance the Loan Fund provides.”
“The report assesses child care programs in Vermont that have received additional funding through loans and grants from the Vermont Community Loan Fund for facility improvements, upgrades, and more,” said the Loan Fund’s executive director Will Belongia. “Child care program directors who borrowed from the Loan Fund showed higher ratings from the state’s STARS quality rating system for child care programs. They also pay higher wages to employees, leading to lower turnover, which makes an enormous difference for the kids, along with a host of other quality indicators,” he added.
Based on the study’s findings, Belongia and the staff and Board of Directors at the Loan Fund created the Next Generation Fund, a new funding opportunity that will make loan capital, technical assistance and education more widely available to Vermont child care providers. “Most of the money we lend comes from socially responsible investors who care about the next generation of Vermonters. With a new infusion of investments through the Next Generation Fund, we know Vermont can lead in this sector,” he said. Belongia said he hopes to capitalize the fund with $5 million dollars of total investments to benefit Vermont’s children. The Fund will provide financing to Vermont child care programs for purposes such as enhancing program quality, creating and expanding child care facilities and more.
The Loan Fund’s Director of Child Care Programs, Hope Campbell, commented on the significance of both the study and the Next Generation Fund. “We know that those early years from birth to preschool have important ramifications in a child’s development. Quality child care makes all the difference in a child’s ability to succeed. And, Vermont’s hard working parents need the assurance that they’re children are well cared for in a quality and reliable program if they’re going to be able to retain their own jobs,” she said. “Now, with the study and the creation of the new Next Generation Fund, we have both the data and the funding mechanism to continue working for Vermont’s children and child care providers.”
Mud City Kids Child Care program director Tracy Patnoe agreed with the report’s assessments, saying “With financing from VCLF, I’ve been able to expand my program, increase the number of kids and families I serve. I’ve been able to make quality improvements, increase my STARS rating and pay a higher wage. They’ve helped me to run a business that is sustainable. I believe that providing quality care for Vermont’s kids is among the most important work to be done in our state. Thanks to the Loan Fund, I’m able to do just that.”