Aw statewide community service organization is helping Kauai’s child care needs with support and service.
PATCH helps families with resources for choosing and paying for child care, child development, parenting, and becoming a child care provider. Statewide, the organization served more than 29,000 children last year.
“PATCH’s mission is to support and improve the quality and availability of care for the young people of Hawaii,” said Mary Lu Kelley, Kauai coordinator for PATCH.
“We have a free resource and referral service where parents, grandparents, families can call us and ask for child care referral,” Kelley said. “We maintain a data base of all the licensed child care providers and preschools on the state and here on Kauai.”
Last year on Kauai, the organization referred 41 family child care homes, 27 preschools and four before/after-school programs. Its staff of three serves as coordinators, career counselors and trainers, including Kelley alongside Natasha Perry and Lorraine Shimauchi,
One of the most important programs they offer is the Preschool Open Doors, which is funded by the Legislature to provide tuition assistance so more kids can attend preschool.
“Every year, we have usually three application periods, where parents and families can apply for this financial assistance to help pay for their child’s preschool,” Kelley said.
In 2017, PATCH helped low-to-mid income children attend school with Preschool Open Door subsidy totaling over $10 million. The agency provided more than 8,200 parents with referrals to access quality child care. It conducted over 3,200 hours of free education to parents and early education professionals. It also administered a food program to provide more than 470,00 healthy, nutritious meals to keiki, from primarily low- to moderate-income families.”
They also help people who want to get licensed to be a family child care provider, Kelley said.
These privately owned businesses set their own rates and hours after PATCH supports them with training to get licensed and continue their professional development.
“We have a severe shortage of child care providers on Kauai,” Kelley said. “PATCH, at no charge, can help them get trained and licensed to do this most important work of providing quality care for the keiki of Kauai.”
“There are just not enough licensed child care providers to take care of the children of all the working families on Kauai,” she said. “Kauai is not alone with this issue, it is statewide and nationwide.”
Another service, the federally funded USDA Food Program, is offered to licensed providers who are eligible for reimbursement of food for their child care. Providers get annual training about proper nutrition and portion size to make sure children are eating healthy meals.
“Taking care of children is not a business where anybody’s going to get rich,” Kelley said. “We do have almost 40 dedicated women on the island of Kauai who do provide child care in their own home.”
The organization offers scholarships to anyone who wants to study early childhood education at Kauai Community College or through the Child Development Associate Council. They have a registry database that tracks professional development and experience of all the practitioners who can work at preschools as aids, teachers and directors. They also offer free career counseling.
Its newest program funded by the Department of Health, the Home Visiting Training Institute, offers training to home visitors who have contracts with the Department of Health. The programs work with homes and families to help them with child developmental and teach them to communicate with young people.
Throughout the state, the organization has five sites, including Kauai, Maui, Kona, Hilo and Oahu, where the main office is. It was started there about 40 years ago by a group of mothers who were helping take care of each others kids.
Now their multitude of programs has expanded statewide with the addition of a grant-funded homeless coordinator, Kelley said.
“We want to make sure that children of homeless families are getting the help they need,” Kelley said. “It really makes a difference if kids get into preschool. It makes a difference for the rest of their lives.”