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Getting Started

Why should a community consider applying to be considered to participate?

Child care shortages can affect economic development and have a broad impact beyond the family, and communities need to address these issues with right-sized solutions that meet the unique aspects of the community. Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (Nebraska Children) can offer expertise and resources to a community that may not otherwise have access.

If my community is chosen, how will the C4K process work?

The initiative is a community-based engagement process designed to assist in the development of customized solutions for communities selected to participate in the program. Over a three-year period, selected communities will increase the focus on opportunities and challenges they are facing with enhanced and expanded childcare opportunities. Limited advisement may be available for communities not selected for full C4K implementation.

Nebraska Children staff helps facilitate the conversation and provide expertise, tools, and resources to the community to support the creation and implementation of solutions to support and strengthen the current early childhood workforce and address quality childcare shortages in communities. Nebraska Children uses a collective impact approach to:

ENGAGE stakeholders in identifying the strengths and gaps of the current whole-child, early care, and education resources in the community by completing a thorough data study and community assessment/survey.

UTILIZE informed decision-making to determine strategies and desired outcomes most relevant to meeting the priority needs identified in the community assessment and detail a community action plan. Whenever possible, this will be completed in coordination with existing planning efforts and groups to maximize local resources.

CONNECT communities through peer learning networks regarding research, best practice, program implementation, quality measurements, financing, use of government/public resources, and physical environmental designs to implement and sustain the identified strategies.

What can a community expect when participating in the C4K Initiative?

Nebraska Children provides technical assistance, information, and resources regarding the childcare industry. C4K staff help center the conversation around early childhood capacity and quality and the importance of high-quality programming and brain development in children. Detailed demographic information regarding the early childhood landscape, including highlights of the strengths and gaps of the community, is part of the resources offered.  The community identifies innovative solutions to address challenges, and these strategies, combined with local research and assessment, are included in a customized Community Work Plan. The community receives technical support around community facilitation, business planning, leadership and policy development, connection to other communities, and ongoing project implementation supports. Planning is community-driven with support from C4K and other resources identified to provide guidance and connections for success.

What’s the timeline for implementing Communities for Kids?

The community engagement process typically spans an 18- to 36-month period and requires community members to be actively involved. Nebraska Children will work with selected communities to fully develop the final timeline for their individual community. There are several steps in a standard timeline:

Application phase: The first phase includes Nebraska Children opening the field for community applications, selecting communities, and setting up the program, including scheduling an initial meeting with the selected community’s Core Team.

Planning phase: The planning phase includes the initial meeting and orientation of the community’s Core Team as well as additional Core Team planning meetings. During this phase, the group will participate in community engagement activities, including a community assessment and engagement event designed to identify and develop community project activities. The group will also create a Community Solutions Action Plan detailing community data, types of solutions and community-identified projects, and community priorities.

Implementation phase: With a plan in place, the implementation phase is where things come to fruition, with regular project team meetings, Core Team meetings, and cohort convenings. This phase includes ongoing technical assistance support. At the completion of this phase, a final report will be created and the Core Team will meet with Nebraska Children to review it and determine the next steps.

Communities that are invited to participate in the C4K can expect the following:

  • Be able to Identify and secure a fiscal backbone entity that will enter into a contract with Nebraska Children to manage limited funds to support activities and events that support the planning process
  • Ideas and presenter contacts for possible events that educate community members about the link between quality childcare, economic development, and viable communities
  • The Core Community Leadership Team (Core Team) will increase their capacity to drive change by identifying resources and focusing their efforts on innovations that make a difference in the quality and supply of childcare
  • A needs assessment and analysis of the current childcare supply and demand as well as evaluation of community factors impacting the local childcare supply
  • Connection to early childhood experts and tools in a wide range of topics, including evidence-based practices, business planning, etc.
  • Development of a Community Plan that includes innovative solutions generated by the community through a facilitated needs assessment process
  • Access to resources to engage and support existing childcare providers
  • Aligned priorities into established Community Well Being workgroups or community committees

Will my community have opportunities to engage and network?

C4K provides communities with additional opportunities for networking, learning, and growth. Community core team members and workgroups are encouraged to be involved in opportunities as they become available. These opportunities assist communities in increasing their capacity to engage the community, local, and state leaders around early childhood needs. Current opportunities are listed below with new opportunities being identified based on community needs and plans.

Thriving Children, Families, and Communities Conference occurs annually in the fall. Day one is open to all members of the community and the state of Nebraska. Day two consists of members of the core team that network with other C4K communities and participate in targeted learning sessions. Communities can designate a limited amount of funds from the C4K community budget to attend.

Elevate Conference, which occurs annually, is specific to early childhood professionals and providers operating a childcare business.  Early Childhood professionals in your community will be encouraged to attend with the limited financial support of funds from the C4K community budget.

Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy is a non-partisan project focused on helping citizen-leaders better understand and inform early childhood policy in Nebraska. Communities will be asked to have at least two individuals apply when the academy is accepting applications. Selected participants will be expected to complete six in-person classes. The academy will reimburse participants for costs to attend classes.

Fist Five Nebraska (FFN) is a partner of NC and C4K that engages the community to help make policy changes at the state level. First Five staff may attend meetings with C4K staff to learn about the community, its challenges, strengths, and needs. Upon request, FFN may potentially be available during the planning phase to engage key members of the community around the economic impact of quality early childhood care, and learning opportunities have on the community and more.

Consultants to work one on one with communities are available via referral from C4K staff.  Topic areas include; educational programming/learning environment, fundraising, business development, grants, loans, budgeting, and school and childcare partnerships.

Nebraska Early Childhood Exchange is a resource for early childhood providers and professionals who provide direct care and support to children. A one-year membership to the service is available to those individuals in communities participating in C4K.

What and who make up the Core Team? And what should participants expect in the process?

The C4K initiative's fundamental idea is that thriving communities are greater than their current challenges. By mobilizing and coming together around a current issue, analyzing data and understanding the community’s needs, a community action plan can steer the Core Team to community-specific solutions. The Core Team, identified in the community’s application, is a core group of local leaders who become champions of childcare as an economic development strategy. These community leaders will receive specific training and technical assistance throughout the process from NC. The Core Team will provide leadership to identify solutions to childcare challenges.

Identifying Leaders

The Core Team is a critical part of the success of the project, from the application step to executing key goals. The Core Team will be asked to take on a leadership role in the community by convening stakeholder groups, analyzing data and research, creating a community solution plan, and implementing the strategies of this plan.

It is recommended that each community have at least six Core Team members, more if possible, including representatives from existing community collaboratives, elected officials, public and private schools, higher education, parents, local business leaders, chamber/economic development, health care, faith-based programs, civic groups, childcare licensing, human service organizations, early childhood programs, and current childcare providers. Please consult the list below as a reference to use for who should be on the team. Consider the following when establishing a core team:

People with intersecting or overlapping roles or interests (e.g., basic/emergency needs and business leaders)

Influencers: Think about these people both in terms of what the group is trying to accomplish, but also in

the community in general. Influencers are not necessarily always people with a formal position in the community.

Connectors: These are people in the local community who can connect you to important resources, including people, that you might otherwise have difficulty connecting with. Connectors are not necessarily leaders with formal positions in the local community.

Content Experts: These are people with content expertise you need to achieve the work of the collaborative group successfully, not just about birth to five issues (e.g., media representatives, community organizers, childcare licensing)

Core Team Roles

Each Core Team will be different based on the unique dynamics of the community if the existing structure does not exist. Core teams will be asked to elect or appoint a lead person; this person will act as the meeting facilitator and primary contact for the initiative. It is important to establish a co-lead or secondary leader to act in the absence of the lead. It is also encouraged to assign roles to members such as taking notes, scheduling meetings, event planning, research and data, business contact, grant writing, etc. It is encouraged that the Core Team know and utilize each other’s specific strengths and interests when assigning roles. NC staff will assist in determining what roles need to be filled and helping members understand what those roles require.


How does the greater community participate in the process?

Through demonstration and guided support, NC prepares the Core Team to talk about the early childhood needs in the community through crafted presentations tailored for different audiences such as with businesses and in the greater community. One of the keystone activities of the overall effort is a community needs assessment and meetings to discuss the identified needs for early childhood in the community and lead the discussion on specific action outcomes that the community chooses to pursue.

Through a prioritization process, workgroups are established to complete the strategies identified. Community members participation in workgroups provides an opportunity for a larger community role and encourages involvement on a greater level.

How can communities partner with existing child care providers?

Current early childhood providers are key participants in the process. As a primary focal point of the initiative, work with providers on quality enhancement and understanding the early childhood landscape is an essential part of the planning, strategy development, and implementation of solutions.   All providers, including; Family, Center, Public, Private, and unlicensed, are encouraged to have a strong voice throughout the process.

C4K staff and the Core Team provide opportunities to support and engage these existing early childhood experts in priority development meetings. During these meetings, a focus on professionalizing the field, enhancing quality, creating sustainable, supportive networks, and making connections with local leaders and businesses is a priority. A free one-year subscription to Nebraska Early Childhood Exchange, a web-based resource and consultation to identify needs to help support long-term sustainability efforts and profitability of their programs is offered to providers in C4K communities.

Is there a cost to participate in the initiative?

Due to generous funding from philanthropic partners, C4K does not require payment to participate. Limited funding is available to assist communities in activities and events that support the planning process through a signed contract. Implementation funding is not a component of the initiative. A budget template will be provided to select communities to plan for costs associated with meetings, travel, convenings, community events, surveys, and incentives.  Communities are encouraged to seek local funding to support the activities of the initiative and to secure sustainable funds to continue the work by the core team.

Will we have to submit reports?

Each community will select a fiscal backbone agency that will enter into a contract with the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (NC) to retain funds provided to support the implementation of the community plans. The fiscal backbone agency will be responsible for providing monthly expenditure reports along with a bi-annual community work plan and updated budget/budget justification reports during the contract time frame. Community work plans and updated budget/budget justification documents are due on Jan 30th and June 30th.   

How does my community get started?

The first step to becoming part of the C4K initiative is to work with your community and complete an application. This application process assesses readiness and needs factors related to young children and their families.

  • Community readiness
  • Leadership, Passion, Active Early Childhood group/programming/steering committee
  • Commitment to a long-term project
  • Local infrastructure/funding possibilities in place
  • Need is articulated and initial data gathered
  • Core Team development and commitment
  • Needs of the community (poverty, early childhood capacity/need, school test scores)
  • Local economic factors
  • History of community work/achievement of past goal


Any interested communities should contact the Communities for Kids team at to discuss readiness and request an application.