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Providing grants to both private and public child care programs has a rich history in America. From the time of the massive Head Start grants in the 1960's (Berrenta-Clement et al., 1984), there have been public monies infused into the child care industry. Another form of public support has come from funding slots for low income or disadvantaged children in the Title XX programs (Kamerman and Kahn, 1981), or providing "vouchers" to parents to find child care on their own (Stoddard, 1978; Frankel, 1991). In addition, the federal tax incentive offers indirect support to child care programs in that it encourages some parents to utilize child care services (Lee and Campbell, 1991).
While the idea of offering seed money to child care professionals or programs in conjunction with their finding other funds is obviously not a new one, the purpose of the project discussed in this article was to demonstrate that using small grants and technical assistance systematically focused at the mini child care center segment would act as a sufficient incentive to motivate professionals to increase child care slots, and that the lack of such incentives would decrease the probability of creating new slots.
In the January, 1989 State of the State Message, the governor of New Jersey proposed a small grant program to increase child care slots in Mini Child Care Centers (MCCC). An MCCC in New Jersey is defined as a child care center that accommodates between 10 and 35 children. The Division of Human Services, Office of Community Relations, and the Office of Child Care Development were charged with the development and implementation of the project. The initiative offered technical assistance and cash grants of up to $7,500 to applicants who wanted to either start a mini child care center, or increase the licensed capacity of an existing one. The final budget for this MCCC project was $275,000, with $195,000 earmarked for successful applicants and $80,000 for the development of a Mini Child Care Consortium.
The Consortium consisted of seven selected child care agencies in different counties throughout New Jersey. One of these agencies was designated as the "lead" MCCC project agency and was the coordinating agency through which the grant was administered. The Consortium met monthly to develop the final plans for the project, decide who would receive the grants, monitor the progress of the project, and evaluate the outcome. Each Consortium member had one vote, and when any major decision had to be made, the majority ruled.
In addition to its function of involving community agencies in a state funded project, the Consortium was also responsible for offering technical assistance to grantees to successfully increase their licensed capacity and help them improve their quality of care in general. This assistance included help with zoning and building regulations, licensing procedures, and curriculum and other child care issues.
From the inception of the MCCC project, it was felt that $7,500 might not go a very long way in either opening a small center or increasing the capacities of existing ones. The cost per child per year differs geographically (GAO, 1991), with New Jersey being at the higher end of the range (Garland et al.,1991). While the cost of maintaining a child in a center may be different than the cost of creating a space for one, they are related. For an individual opening a medium-sized center in New Jersey, …