The Women’s Fund of the Capital Region believes in the power of women — a case in point is Heather Prince, a small business owner in Schenectady. Heather now operates her own New York state registered family day care, a step she never could have imagined taking without the help of the St. Patrick’s Home-Based Child Care Partnership. St. Patrick’s was one of the first nonprofits to receive a Women’s Fund grant this year. The Fund gave $20,000 to support the Partnership’s work with women who wish to set up and operate family day care businesses in their own homes.

The Partnership’s training and support program is a collaboration between Catholic Charities, SEFCU, and the Child Care Coordinating Council. Women participating in the program receive training in how to open and operate a NYS-licensed family day care in their homes. By doing so, they overcome one of the greatest barriers to employment in low-income communities: affordable child care. They care for their own children at home while generating income as a small business.

The St. Patrick’s Partnership helped Heather through the complex and time-consuming process of becoming a NYS registered child care provider. She had long dreamed of operating her own business, but was overwhelmed by the prospect of doing it alone. Heather knew that she had the passion and experience to open a family day care (she previously had worked as a teacher at a child care center), but needed help navigating through the state licensing process and understanding the marketing and financial management aspects of owning a business. She heard about the St. Patrick’s Partnership through a friend, and began attending programs and classes in 2006. She obtained her license in April 2007 and now operates her own family day care business.

"My biggest challenge was getting through the paperwork and inspections," Heather said. "The staff of St. Patrick’s Partnership was very, very helpful in working through that process." She worked hand-in-hand with the staff at the Partnership to complete the NYS application form, make the required home safety modifications, and develop a business operating plan.

Women’s Fund Grants Committee Chair Debbie Kopp emphasized the importance of making grants to organizations like the St. Patrick’s Partnership. "This program helps women become financially independent in several ways: it increases the number of available child care options for working women in poor communities, improves the quality of child care for their children, and creates opportunities for women to run their own businesses," she said.

Kopp also noted the value of collaboration in St. Patrick’s program. "Our grants committee encouraged applicants to collaborate because we believe that by working together we can better address the many challenges that women face. Similarly, when women pool their resources together through the Women’s Fund, they can make grants that really make a difference."