By Azuka Nzegwu (April 19, 2006)

Brief Summary of the Transformation of the Seattle Day Nursery Association

The Seattle Day Nursery (SDN) was created in 1909 to serve the childcare needs of parishioners of the First Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington. The shift of traditional roles and family imbalance caused women to become sole providers of their families, thereby increasing the need of childcare services. Meanwhile in 1921, SDN became a charter member of the United Way. During the 1960s, Mildred Reed, a social worker, became the first professional executive director and formed a strategic coalition with another organization to provide daycare services to low-income families. Plagued with problems with resource management and looting of the fund by a staff member, plus her involvements with other initiatives led to Reed’s resignation. In 1973, the Board of Trustees hired an executive director with twenty years of experience in nonprofit and welfare organization. Pat Gogerty stepped in to rescue the failing organization and created innovative programs that not only changed the organization but have sparked much-needed debate in the field.

Analyzing relationship and implication

As with any government-funding relationship, there are issues and concerns that will present itself depending on the source. Many not-for-profit organizations depend on the government, but there are restrictions to the money allocation and usage. This type of information will be useful to potential organizations that seek government funding to expand. For example, government funding might impose restrictions and even try to change the way services are rendered. At Seattle Day Nursery case, those issues are quite crucial to the organization given the experimental therapeutic child care (TCC) program. For example, the program places significant emphasis on infants and toddlers that are abused and neglected. The two issues I will examine are government guidelines or restriction placed on how services are provided, and management of a contracting relationship with government. Additionally, I will try to identify the implication for Carson City Day Nursery.

Tackling Government Restrictions

The Seattle Day Nursery is a privately-funded nonprofit organization. As the organization grew and stabilized, Gogerty had to choose whether to institute the innovative therapeutic child care program or remain private. Gogerty was very uneasy about seeking government funding for Seattle Day Nursery because he was aware of the problems. Part of his worry is that government funding would impose restrictions that might jeopardize the interest of the child. Essentially, instead of addressing the need of the child, more emphasis is placed on the sanctity of the family. Part of the beauty of remaining private is that it enabled the organization to develop and administer programs that will best serve their clients. Also, their status ensured that they are not influenced by outside forces, be forced to address the funders or worry about meeting the requirements of the funds instead of serving their clients needs. On the other hand, expanding to serve more clients is very enticing, but could lead to problems. The benefit of government funding is that it might enable SDN to develop more programs that affect the community needs.

SDN therapeutic child care program was created to focus on the need of abused young children. The program was developed to stray away from the normal child welfare norm. The norm is that in State and federal supported programs, parental consents are required in order to provide care. Gogerty’s research of child welfare informed his beliefs in creating a problem to the neediest population: abused infants and toddlers, who are too young to be serviced by child protection agencies. CPS case workers are not only overwhelmed with adequately addressing the needs of these children, but in most cases, the work to preserve the family unit instead of dealing with the problems. To compound the problem, the restriction on government funding includes parental consent and involvement. Since many of the parents will not recognize they have problem, they will not participate in the program, and their action ensures that the child remain in that abusive environment. If Seattle Day Nursery pursued government funding, the organization will have to address the restriction while supporting the needs of their clients. Fortunately, supporters of the TCC program at DSHS found a loophole that did not make parental consent or involvement a requirement.

Dependence on government or any other funding source

The Seattle Day Nursery depends on United Way and individual contributions to fund and sustain its operations. Pat Gogerty realized that his organization has grown and they needed reliable funding to ensure its future. He also realized that he needs to increase the number of people the organization serve, and document the success of their programs. The issue of survival is important since the emergence of non-profit organizations in the area that offers similar services and exploiting State and federal grant opportunities. Gogerty also took advantage of the political climate and saw it as an opportunity to institutionalize TCC program. He was able to align with influential individuals and organizations such as advocacy group, lobbyist, senators (both republican and democrats) including the Senator Majority Leader to get support for the TCC program. In 1980, the state legislature of Washington approved a 2 year study of the therapeutic program. Shortly after the study, a new legislation known as HB 120 was created in 1983. The legislation proposed that not-for-profit organizations should be contracted to administer the TCC program. To replicate the services statewide, Seattle Day Nursery developed a training manual to be used by all organizations. Essentially, this is the first step in institutionalizing the TCC program in Washington State without being hindered by restrictions and requirements. The Seattle Day Nursery became a contracting agent for the government. In 1985, the payment for the services went from $605,123 to 2,428,188 million in 1997. Also in 1987, about 45% of Seattle Day Nursery revenue came from contract with DSHS. Since 1921, the financial support from United Way increased from $5,872 to $822,778 in 1997, meanwhile, contributions started from $6,643 in 1973 and significantly increased to $1,003,314 million in 1997.

As a result of their program, the State government is dedicating $13 million to develop twenty therapeutic care in Washington. While the government is providing funding, the program is being run as Seattle Day Nursery had proposed. The increase in SDN’s TCC program occurred because the government sanctioned DSHS to contract with not-for-profit organizations to provide the specialized care. Essentially, this secured SDN funding stream because they created a program that allowed them to have a greater portion of the contract. In addition, competing organization would need to undergo formal training from Seattle Day Nursery on how to create and administer the care.

The implication of government relationship with Seattle Day Nursery hopefully illustrates some of issues organization such as Carson City Day Nursery might face. First, any alignment with government or any agency would require further scrutiny. Gogerty recognized that there are restrictions to government funding, but was been able to exploit it and align with key officials from both parties. Second, he reconstituted the board with influential business officials in the community. He has used his leverage, in ways that many not-for-profits could not to release withheld funds and pass legislations that would affect his organization positively. This represents Gogerty’s determination to provide services to children who need it most, and second, to illustrate how alignment with influential powers made his requests a reality. Depending on the type of services that CCDN is trying to develop, Seattle Day Nursery might be a case model of ways to address some of possible obstacles.

Determining the fit of the model to Carson City Day Nursery

A closer analysis of the Seattle Day Nursery seems that the same techniques might be employable for Carson City Day Nursery. The ability to accomplish the goals depend on these factors: objectives of the nursery, such as examining the changing needs of the community, and second, implementing programs that is focused on addressing the rapid population growth and social problems the county is facing. From my assessment of the Seattle Day Nursery, I would recommend that Carson City Day Nursery (CCDN) adopt the same model to address the ever-changing needs of their community. Before a successful adoption would happen, the organization would need to do some soul-searching by evaluating their current programs, assessing the needs of their community, and determining the most urgent program needed in the community. If Carson City Day Nursery is simply interested in reproducing the therapeutic child care (TCC), it would need to recruit high-powered board members (business owners, prominent and rich individuals, etc), and aggressively network and solicit support for child programs from both party representatives (democrats and republicans).

This kind of political support that Gogerty received made it possible to pass policy and legislation that is favorable to Seattle Day Nursery. As I have demonstrated, closer relationship with the government is not necessarily all bad or good, but it does present its own set of issues and problems that organizations must consider. A savvy and determined leader would be able to work around the rules and regulations, and come up with creative solutions that are acceptable to the organizations mode of operations. The most important aspect for Carson City Day Nursery to remember is that funding does not always mean dependency.