Early Childhood Education Programs: The Spotlight Shines on Auburn, Nebraska

Our Mission 

Here at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, we envision a state where we create positive change through community engagement. The Sixpence Early Learning Fund, one of our early childhood programs, supports vulnerable infants and toddlers on their path to success. Sixpence leverages private and public funds at federal, state, and local levels to promote high-quality child development and early childhood education.  

Today, we’re showcasing some recent early childhood programs’ success stories. Amanda Ackley, director of Kids of HIS Kingdom Childcare Center, a licensed childcare provider, and one of Sixpence Early Learning Fund’s Child Care Partners told us about the program’s benefits and key takeaways. But first, here’s a bit of background on Sixpence Early Learning Fund and its Childcare Partnerships.  

Background on Sixpence Early Learning Fund  

Sixpence was established in 2006 when major state agencies and private philanthropy came together to create a public and a private endowment that created sustainable funding for school districts to provide or partner on behalf of high-quality home-based or center-based early learning opportunities targeting Nebraska’s youngest children.  

A governor-appointed Board of Trustees represents public and private sector interests. The Board awards the endowment’s investment earnings and appropriated state and federal funds to community-based early learning partnerships through a competitive grant process. The grant process is managed by Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, which also provides guidance to promote program quality. 

Created in 2015, Sixpence Child Care Partnerships (CCP) are a collaboration between school districts and early childhood programs serving infants and toddlers up to age 3. This effort utilizes federal Child Care Development Funds and seeks to raise the bar for community-based early childhood programs.  

Benefits that CCP provides include trainings, coaching, and financial support for childcare providers to advance in Step Up to Quality, Nebraska’s quality rating and improvement system, which assists early childhood providers and educators to implement high-quality childcare.  

In this case, for example, Auburn Public Schools employs the “Coach,” who is a certified teacher that works with childcare providers to achieve progressive ratings in Step Up to Quality. Housed out of the Auburn Public Schools Central Offices, the coach provides trainings and networking opportunities, purchases equipment and supplies to increase program quality scores, and regularly coached to improving the local provider’s quality.  

Here is Amanda Ackley, director of Kids of HIS Kingdom, attending training sessions.

Of course, when it comes to early childhood programs, data is important. According to the recent research (pictured below), Sixpence Childcare Partnerships has helped create success throughout our communities. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like sharing success stories like that of Amanda Ackley of Auburn, Nebraska.  

From offering classes to helping with facility-transforming funding, Auburn Public Schools’ Sixpence program has proven to be valuable. According to Amanda, a licensed childcare provider who works with Sixpence, this Childcare Partnership Program has assisted her with everything from funds to increased interior quality, to a new playground!

Kids of HIS Kingdom’s playground “before” photo…

Read on for the full interview, in Amanda’s own words.  

How has Sixpence supported you?  

Our Sixpence program has been a lot of help from offering the classes we need, close to us, to helping with funds to transform our facility. All of my staff have been able to enjoy classes with no cost to us. We have taken classes [ranging from] the required Early Learning Guidelines to [sessions with] Anne Meeker and Fire Prevention. Our Sixpence coaches have also helped us with getting grant money. We had to redo our playground and the coaches help us make that happen. Sixpence’s Childcare Partnership Program has also helped us get age-appropriate toys and books for our children. Anne has helped coach us through so many things we are very grateful for the Sixpence Childcare Partnership support.  

Staff members attended sessions with Anne Meeker.

What do you like about the CCP program? What are the benefits you have seen for your program?  

This program is amazing. I love that my coach is always looking for ways to help from making sure we have classes, to helping me prepare for the next step in Step Up to Quality. If we didn’t have this program in our area, we would have to travel at least 1 hour to attend a class. I love that the program is helping better our facilities. We have a completely new, age-appropriate playground thanks mostly to our coaches. 

Kids of HIS Kingdom’s new playground!

My staff have attended a lot of classes, and they all love going to them since they are mostly in Auburn. My staff have learned the importance of schedules for the children and have done a great job with keeping the children on a schedule. Since we have been in the program, I have also noticed our enrollment has gone up. We now have a waiting list. The program has been great with offering education to our parents, also. I wish more would partake in the classes, but it is great to be able to offer them the classes.   

Staff still attend these dynamic sessions!

What are your key takeaways from your involvement with Sixpence?  

My number one takeaway would be all the help I have received. Anne and Deb [our coaches] have been amazing help for me. It is always nice to have someone so willing to help. Second takeaway has been all of the education. I love to better myself, and now I am noticing my staff has really enjoyed going to the classes. Third takeaway for Kids of HIS Kingdom has been all the improvements. We have had a chance to completely redo our playground. We are in the process of getting new flooring and a divider for our baby room.    

Amanda Ackley (far right) said she and her staff have really enjoyed going to classes!

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Nebraska Children's mission is to maximize the potential of Nebraska’s children, youth, and families through collaboration and community-centered impact.

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Posted in Early Childhood, News and Events

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