1998 Finalist
State of Washington
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In 1988, educational service directors in Southwestern Washington became aware that the lack of childcare programs was having an increasingly detrimental effect on local schools. Parents that had to get to work before the school day began were leaving their children on the steps of school buildings unsupervised. At the same time, local businesses were experiencing employee absenteeism because of childcare shortages.

The Southwest Washington Child Care Consortium (SWCCC) of Southwestern Washington is a public-private venture that provides affordable care for children with working parents. The consortium is composed of school districts, businesses affected by the lack of childcare, and other community resources. The extent of resources provided by this conglomerate allows for the provision of flexible, affordable childcare.

SWCCC offers a range of services for both children and working parents. It cares for children that are between four weeks and 12 years old. Its programs are located on, or near, work and school sites. The program's services range from comprehensive preschool services, to early learning programs that care for children with mild illnesses like colds or the chicken pox. And, the program accepts levels of payment based on family income. Several area companies also subsidize CCC programs for their employees with children.

In addition to offering care for the young, SWCCC offers programs that assist adults. These programs focus mostly on improved parenting by offering care for parents who are involved in drug and alcohol treatment programs, as well as parenting education classes. Employee training programs also help parents find jobs that are more accommodating.

The SWCCC cites its ability to be replicated as its single greatest achievement. It began with three care centers in 1989, and by 1998 it had grown to 22 centers across southwestern Washington. It attributes its innovative staff training program as the root of its ability to replicate. The training system begins with an apprenticeship where staff members attend local community colleges. After completing the required amount of early childhood education programs the apprentices achieve Journeyman status. From there they can pursue higher positions through additional education and training.

By bringing together such a wide range of private businesses and public resources, the SWCCC has effectively reduced the conflicts ailing single working parents and households in which both parents are employed.