Graphic with the title "our work with the child care field." below the heading there is an image with five children smiling. There is a purple background.

We all know families with young children. In addition to all the joys of raising a child, families are facing more and more difficulties finding accessible, affordable, and high-quality child care—an issue many Improve Group clients have been working to address. We pair our growing knowledge of this topic with the creative, tailored approach we take in every project to support clients working to improve the quality and accessibility of child care across Minnesota. Here are a few lessons we have learned from our work reaching and engaging with various stakeholders.


Our work with the Minnesota Department of Human Services on the Inclusive Family Child Care Provider Pilot sought to understand and test ways to make child care more inclusive for families of children with disabilities. One element of this work was the development of a communications plan to connect families and providers with the resources they need to best support children with disabilities. We created an online resource library of articles, people, and events for people to access specific resources related to caring for children with disabilities. We also developed a guide for Licensed Child Care and Early Education Providers working to create more inclusive child care spaces. One major learning while empowering and informing providers and families? Don’t underestimate the power of communicating about resources and getting information to the people who need it.


We also stepped up when the State of Minnesota sought to better understand the experiences of informal child care providers, such as grandparents, friends, and neighbors, through a statewide survey. Because these caregivers are not licensed or associated with a professional organization like formal child care providers are, we had to engage them differently. To ensure a diverse group of these so-called family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) caregivers and families took the surveys, IG collaborated with five people and one organization to serve as Community Survey Navigators. The Navigators, who were from different geographical regions, spread the word about the surveys and encouraged people in their communities to participate by going to libraries, playgrounds, family-focused community events, and other places where caregivers and families naturally gathered. We were able to hear about people’s diverse experiences providing child care because of the knowledge and connections that the Navigators had with the communities they surveyed. After all data was collected, the Navigators participated in interviews with IG team members to reflect on their experiences and share what worked best for communicating about FFN child care.


We partnered with community members to evaluate Minnesota’s Preschool Development Grant (PDG) goals and provide a structure to advance and share best practices for early childhood development. We convened an advisory committee who recommended that we host virtual and in-person focus groups to ask parents and child care providers about programs funded by PDG. However, both of these groups are extremely busy and face barriers to being available to participate in an evaluation. To overcome this, we provided monetary incentives, offered multiple times of day and weekend options, and made it easy to register for a focus group session. We also advertised the focus groups via trusted networks and provided materials in five different languages.  

In all of our projects, we strive to notice and learn lessons that go beyond the results of the study, including the ones listed here. By being aware of our communication strategies, valuing community members, and lowering the barrier to participation, we’re able to create environments where people can share their experiences comfortably. We seek to remain curious, open, and responsive to the needs and experiences of the people we work with, and are grateful for opportunities to support families and children across the state!

If you work in this space and are looking for support connecting with families and providers, we’d love to connect! You can reach out to us at