Creating Opportunities for Quality Care

What if preschool children had the foundation to thrive in life and learning with quality teachers in the classroom every day, all day long?

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

The basis of the shared services work of ChildcareTennessee, an initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, began with one defining concept: save preschool program administrators time and money in order to increase quality. Opportunities for increasing quality have included building enrollment websites and job posting websites, negotiating vendor discounts, creating ready to use templates for policies and handbooks, parent education materials, and designing licensure regulation helps. One additional need has continued to resonate in our surveys, phone calls, emails, and conference conversations. How can we find quality substitutes when our staff is away? Can we define the quality and provide the training? Can we work together and make this happen? Can we give the best to our children every day, all day long? These nagging questions became the driver for our innovative project; the creation of a director driven, shared services website answer to the overwhelming need for quality substitute staff.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Tennessee

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Tennessee

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

The 40 Counties in Middle Tennessee

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Meeting the need for quality childcare by permanent and temporary staff is a foundational agent in the quest for a child's wellbeing. Preschool children need consistency of care. They need familiar faces and quality activities. Preschool program directors are in need of substitute staff that is available, well trained, and have opportunities for supervision and growth. Other staff members need to feel respected by not being overworked and having dependable team mates who are trained for the experience. Parents need assurance that staff is well prepared and regularly available.

Preschool children’s well-being in the classroom setting thrives on awareness of children’s needs, classroom needs, and director’s needs, professional development resources that empower those who work with young children, and opportunities for directors to personally train staff and supervise their growth.

ChildcareTennessee sought out a group of eight dedicated leaders and asked them to mentor the creation of a new substitute process for childcare centers in Tennessee. This group has become a shared services team with the goal of providing trained temporary staffing, making them available through a newly created innovative online website, ChildcareMatters Substitute Service, and providing staff documentation for licensure records. As each member does their part, it saves all participants time and money, allowing opportunities to create higher quality at each childcare site.

The organic focus of this group allows it to be open and growing. The directors each do what they excel in by conducting interviews and overseeing training. The directors keep control of the employment by choosing the sub they desire through a text alert, pay for the time through their own payroll system which allows them to budget their use, and has the assurance of staff that they themselves have trained. The Community Foundation supports their work by providing staff to advertise for substitutes, phone screen applicants, and facilitate the interaction between each mentor director and new substitute. The website,, is used for the posting of jobs and text message interaction between applicants for the job. Personnel documents are securely stored by The Community Foundation and shared through a password protected website of resources managed by ChildcareTennessee.

As directors become less stressed by having temporary but trained staff available, they are able to turn their attention to the important work of providing quality experiences in the preschool setting. As teachers are relieved of the stress of working in classrooms that are short staffed or staffed with inadequate substitutes, they focus on the children’s day and a quality experience. As parents come to expect to arrive at the preschool without apprehension about the safety and security of their child, they enter with enthusiasm and leave with appreciation. And the children, for who we do it all, have a happy day of learning and play.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Scenario 1: Ms. Susie, preschool director, gets a call from Ms. Jane, expert teacher, two hours before the start of preschool. There is no way she can be there today. Ms. Susie frantically calls a few subs and finally connects with her husband's sister's college daughter, who arrives unprepared and hours late. Scenario 2: With the ChildcareTennessee substitute program, Ms. Susie immediately enters a job request into on her cell phone. In a few moments, she receives texts with two applicants for the day. She happily recognizes Ms. Greta who attended the mentor training with Susie a few months ago. Susie hits accept and her crisis is passed. Greta arrives to the school with enough time to review lesson plans for the day.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

ChildcareTennessee serves 280 preschool programs in the Middle Tennessee area with a variety of resources. was created to assist families looking for childcare and childcare programs looking for students. Providers update their open enrollment availability on a regular basis so that families can see real time openings as they search. Parents can then schedule a tour directly from the website to the preschool provider. is also a free job posting site for directors searching for staff., part of a national shared services platform, is a membership website designed to help administrators of childcare programs. With over 1000 resources, directors can decrease their paperwork load. It includes policies, handbooks, parent information, vendor discounts, online training, employment orientation toolkits, and other resources.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $50k - $100k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

ChildcareTennessee is an initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Our funding comes from private donors, community leaders, and corporate partners and foundations. The creation of the substitute pool website has been funded through a gift from Nashville SEES, a former nonprofit substitute pool in the Middle Tennessee area. Two of the former board members are now part of the mentor group for ChildcareMatters Substitute Service.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Small childcare programs are continually going out of business, many serving our most needy families and children. Our goal is to create a new model that is financially stable and uses the talents of the directors to administer their own resources while giving them a backbone of shared services. The Mentor Directors continue to give their expertise to guide the creation of this substitute program. They are deciding together each step of the implementation. They maintain control of the process in every aspect.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The importance of early childhood is being recognized. Long term data is now receiving new reflection. The work in the field of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) is now experiencing interest and study. The concept of a public health crisis with roots in the experiences of young children is leading to funding, study, and change. The awareness that this is a multi-generational problem that includes the need for intervention with all those involved in a child’s life is the basis for new hope for our children.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael Auerbach

Great project to effect systemic change. On-demand technology, if financially viable, is a great tool for meeting sudden needs. In this case, on-demand technology could prevent an unqualified substitute from leading a classroom. I love the application of on-demand innovation in the substitute teaching space.

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