search icon

Tribal Nations and Communities

Partnering with Tribal Nations to Build the Supply and Sustainability of Culturally and Linguistically Relevant Child Care

The First Children’s Finance national team partners with Tribes that are sovereign nations located within the current boundaries of the United States. Tribes have a deep commitment to the well-being of children and use their sovereignty to enact policies that prioritize the needs of children, families, and future generations. Culturally and linguistically relevant child care can be an important piece of this commitment. It plays a critical role in preserving indigenous languages and cultures, helping to heal generational trauma from policies that separated children from their families, and enabling the economic self-determination of Tribal families and caregivers.

Yet, Tribes face child care shortages similar to the states that share their geography. As the child care sector unevenly recovers from disruptions sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tribal child care systems face unique obstacles to familiar child care system challenges. Many Tribes can benefit from innovative, locally designed strategies developed to respond to such challenges, including: recruiting and retaining staff; developing and maintaining quality facilities; and building an affordable and accessible child care supply for families.

Adaptive and Multifaceted Partnerships with Tribal Nations

First Children’s Finance is the only national nonprofit that addresses the business and finance needs of child care in three ways: we build the financial sustainability of child care entrepreneurs, partner with communities to grow their child care supply, and influence systems to provide supports and investments needed to sustain child care. Engaging on all three levels is especially critical to building the supply and sustainability of Tribal child care.

As sovereign nations, Tribes may simultaneously play many roles, including child care program operators, primary regional employers, and child care systems leaders or policymakers, through activities such as licensing, administration of federal programs, as well as Tribal investments.

Flexibility in federal funding to Tribes in conjunction with increased opportunities for collaboration among child care practitioners, elected Tribal leaders, and local economic drivers — can create a powerful potential for innovation and custom solutions. Nonetheless, there is no one right answer to building strong, sustainable, and sufficient Tribal child care systems. Therefore, First Children’s Finance provides a suite of services designed to support and honor the unique strengths and needs of Tribes and meet Tribes where they are in the maturity of their child care ecosystem.

Programs and Services Available

The First Children, First Nations Child Care Collaborative (FCFN), delivered in partnership with All Nations Rise, is a two-year planning and implementation process, which builds the capacity of Tribes to identify the scope and size of their child care challenges and develop local solutions to address these challenges. The FCFN process engages and informs community members and Tribal leadership about the link between quality child care, economic development, and healthy communities. The FCFN team accomplishes this by partnering with Tribes to conduct a thorough analysis of the current child care supply and demand and evaluation of community factors impacting the local child care supply. Solutions are generated by the community through a facilitated engagement process that identifies community resources and focuses efforts on innovations that make a difference in the supply of child care. The FCFN team further supports Tribes with CCDF planning, research, financial modeling, and links to other tribal communities working on similar issues to turn the community’s ideas into an actionable plan.

Building Child Care Supply

The two Tribes that completed their FCFN action plans in 2022 have since built new child care facilities. The Tribe completing their plan in 2023 is scanning Tribal properties for facilities that can be renovated and repurposed.

ECE Business Collaboratory of Tribal Nations

Designed to build the capacity of cross-sector Tribal leaders to think systemically about child care.  The Collaboratory breaks down the siloes around early learning and care programming and draws attention to the many sectors that impact child care business supply and sustainability, including economic development, workforce, and finance. In March 2024, FCF will convene Tribes for two days of learning and connection in Minneapolis, MN. Using FCF’s ECE Business Ecosystem tool, participants will map and analyze the many Tribal, state, and federal policies and programs that impact their child care supply and develop shared priorities for systems change.

 Find out more about the ECE Business Collaboratory of Tribal Nations

Targeted Support for Busy Leaders

Tribal child care systems leaders often have wide-ranging responsibilities. In an FCF survey of Tribal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) administrators, 80% were responsible for hiring direct service staff in early childhood programs. 80% were also responsible for managing other federally funded programs in addition to CCDF.  To meet the needs of leaders whose time and energy are spread across so many concerns, it is critical for technical assistance to be clear, actionable, and timely. To meet this need, FCF launched  Innovation in Tribal Child Care Convenings as a system of support and learning specifically for Tribal CCDF administrators. The six-month series hosted in 2022 focused on effectively and successfully using American Rescue Act (ARPA) funding to strengthen child care in Tribal communities. CCDF administrators from 10 Tribes participated in iterative, virtual working sessions with content and facilitated discussion guided by their questions and needs.

Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa: Community Solution Action Plan

The First Children First Nations Child Care Collaborative process is a community engagement
process designed to develop the right size and culturally specific solutions to address the needs
of early care and education in Native nations that share the same geography as the United

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa completed its Community Solution Action Plan in late 2022 and is now in implementation. You can read their plan to strengthen and expand supply in their community here.

Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa CSAP

Custom Constulation

Available to Tribes at the business, community, and systems level to support a range of child care supply-building goals. For Tribes seeking to develop new facilities or expand current Tribally operated child care facilities, FCF partners to develop feasibility studies, business and marketing plans, and financial projections. For owners and administrators of Tribally licensed programs, FCF offers financial capacity building in the form of training, coaching, and financial consultation.

For Tribes interested in growing and strengthening their child care system, FCF can assess supply-demand gaps and the current state of Tribally licensed child care businesses. FCF can study the cost of care and subsidy access barriers to inform Tribal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) policy and investments. FCF can also conduct landscape analysis of the local child care ecosystem to identify underutilized resources and opportunities for alignment and investment.

Want to learn more about our services for Tribes?

Contact Our Team

Jannan Cotto

Systems Coordinator

Robin Harjo

Business Development Specialist

Anne McSweeney

Director of National Initiatives