Child & Adult Care Food Program
Nebraska sponsors work together
by Jeany Morton
Motivated by tiering and integrity issues as well as ongoing recruitment disputes, the Nebraska CACFP sponsors have spent the past year working together to turn the USDA Management Improvement Guidance into Management Standards.
The Nebraska Department of Education, Nutrition Services, supported this effort by supplying outside facilitators, satellite links and phone links, insights from state agency perspective and a compilation of agreed upon standards in readable form.
Nebraska has eight sponsoring organizations. All sponsors but one have overlapping service areas. This is a competitive group but also a group of sponsors who are on the whole dedicated to serving child care providers in order to facilitate the best care and feeding of children.
The group started this effort by:
1) Developing a mission statement: "To promote quality nutrition and child care through financial and educational support in family child care homes while maintaining Child and Adult Care Food Program integrity."
2) Agreeing on the following definitions:
Quality child care: Child care provided in an environment which promotes learning and growth. This includes a safe, nurturing, caring/loving environment, developmentally appropriate practices and promotes healthy eating and good nutrition."
Program Integrity: Ability to provide quality services to the customer while adhering to the group values and governing regulations.
3) Defining a workable set of values:
Genuine love for children
Conscientious adherence to CACFP regulations
Commitment to nutrition
The group openly shared individual sponsors' strengths as well as weaknesses. They strived to set standards that are reachable, measurable and focus strongly on program integrity. By sharing ideas, strategies, policies and procedures, the Nebraska sponsors have created a basis of standards which will serve to assist in developing a statewide quality assurance plan.
The process involved monthly meetings over a 10-month period. Each sponsor was represented by only one or two staff with the same staff attending whenever possible. The toughest issue, recruitment, was tackled first. This gave the group experience in agreeing to disagree, and in consensus building. After several months, the state recruitment policy was established. The group then moved on to other standards, such as monitoring (including the development of standard forms to be used on home visits), fiscal responsibility, governing board, training and application. Part I of our agreement was revamped. Other standards were reviewed by the group. Some of these standards were altered slightly or left as they were originally written.
Nebraska sponsors intend to meet quarterly as a peer review team with Quality Assurance as the goal. Working together, one standard at a time, the group intends to share knowledge to improve integrity, training and program quality overall. The children and their nutritional needs must remain the true motivation for sponsoring this program, with the realistic understanding that abuse of federal funds will cause the elimination of the program. With team work, the sponsors can assist one another in learning ways to detect and respond to problems promptly.
The Nebraska quarterly sponsors meetings can also become a forum for grievances should this become necessary. Sponsors must first show honest effort to discuss problems with the sponsor in question. If resolution is not possible between individual sponsors, a grievance procedure will be implemented.
Nebraska sponsors are proud of the effort given to this process. The experience has been both fulfilling and educational. The ongoing process promises to lead to the CACFP serving children in the best way possible in Nebraska.