G. CLARK SMITH
The quality of care a young child receives has been shown to dramatically impact his or her social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. Ultimately it affects the child’s success in school and life. Parents often seek childcare with little information about quality and the predictors of quality childcare.
The Durham Child Care Council is an accredited childcare resource and referral agency. The Council’s mission is to provide support services to families and child care programs that enhance the care and education of children. They also want to aid in expanding the availability and affordability of quality childcare. Some services they offer are consumer education and referrals, childcare quality improvement initiatives, the USDA Child Care Food Program, a qualified substitute caregiver pool, professional development, and technical assistance for childcare providers and community planning.
The consumer education and referral department provides support, childcare referrals, publications, and information for families about quality childcare, childcare regulations, childcare financial assistance, and child development. The staff also maintains a database of more than 850 programs that is the most complete and accurate listing in Durham. Information was initially available to families during office hours, through written correspondence, by telephone, or in person. The community needed more.
G. Clark Smith was aware that the citizens could benefit by having this information available around the clock via the Internet. During a little more than a year and working for more than 1,000 volunteer hours, Clark created and programmed an interactive Web page. This service outlines 10 steps to take when seeking childcare and it links users to additional information that will assist them throughout the selection process. The Web site consists of hundreds of pages of linked information along with a sidebar menu to aid users. Some topics covered are options and regulations, quality checklist, compliance history information, and the on-line referral directory. Many families visit the directory, which allows a search and then presents the user with a customized list of facilities that meet their needs.
Clark was the initiator, motivator, and key player in creating and developing the Web page. His vision, skill, and volunteer hours were essential to the project. The service would not be provided today without Clark as the volunteer programmer because the Council did not have the staff or financial resources to undertake the project. Clark discovered the difficulties of searching for child care fist hand. He saw a need, and then he decided to create a solution. As the actual project took shape, Clark continued to initiate activities, use innovative methods to solve problems, and promote collaboration between organizations aiding in the project – Duke University and the Durham Child Care Council.
Clark accomplished more than the Council ever imagined possible. What began as a simple listing of childcare facilities on the Web grew into a comprehensive information center for families seeking childcare. The site has been active since August 15, 1998, and they have received both local and national feedback praising it as one of the best Web sites available for parents seeking childcare.