Initially established in 1972 as the Federation of Community Controlled Centers of Alabama for Child Care, then becoming the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama, Inc. (FOCAL), and today, under the new name of Alabama Institute for Social Justice (AISJ), our organization has always understood the concept of change and its inevitability. For over 40 years, it positioned itself as a credible platform in leading change in communities across Alabama. Historically, our work focused on ensuring quality child care and improving the child care delivery system in Alabama, understanding that child care is vital to not only the education of children, but to the health of communities, and the economic development of the state.
Some of our accomplishments include:
- An appointment to the State Licensing Committee and serving as instrumental in the revision of the state minimum standards for child care.
- Guiding the passage of a bill providing $800,000 to continue the funding of day care in Alabama; organizing the Congress for Human Services, a coalition of 76 human services programs in Alabama.
- Organizing the Black Women’s Leadership and Economic Development Project; co-organizing the first statewide summit on unemployment; drafting the sliding fee scale for parents and lobbying for its acceptance.
- Forming the Alabama Alliance for Child Care, which advocated for implementation of the Governor’s Legislative Task Force recommendations.
- Organizing the Coalition for Development with the Alabama Council on Human Relations and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.
- Co-founding the Alabama Organizing Project (AOP), a groundbreaking coalition of six grassroots organizations in Alabama, which designed and implemented a leadership training program to address critical quality of life issues with low-income and minority populations.
- Securing $18 million in grants from the state to help 4,000 child care facilities meet the cost of new minimum standards.
- Educating voters on Alabama’s proposed tax reform plan and contributing to its passage; conducting a public awareness campaign on child medications and negotiating an amendment for a child care medication law.
- Halting the implementation of costly unfunded child care ratio changes; publishing Coming Undone: The State of Child Care in Alabama, which documents the unprecedented rise in the number of unlicensed child care facilities.
- Organizing town hall meetings to develop a national family platform for working families; and serving as an advisor for Applied Research Center’s report Under Protected, Under Supported, which documents the risk of unlicensed child care in Alabama.
- Publishing position papers on Child Care and Race: Why Race Matters and Child Care as an Economic Engine, as well as other articles printed in the Equal Voice News, Huffington Post, the Anniston Star, and AL.com.
- Advocating for the elimination of exempt status for child care programs before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, resulting in the issuance of regulations requiring inspection of unlicensed child care programs receiving subsidy reimbursements.
- Being instrumental in developing the strategy for an SOS sponsored (Save Ourselves Coalition for Justice and Democracy) petition campaign, demanding that the Governor of Alabama expand Medicaid; providing training for participants, collecting 7,000 signatures (17,000 total signatures collected), and organizing over 500 participants to rally on the steps of the Capitol.
- Conducting 150 town hall and small group meetings across the state of Alabama, reaching more than 5,000 community residents, leaders, and elected officials; facilitating discussions on Child Care, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid Expansion, Voting Rights/Voter ID Requirements, Retirement Security, and other issues.
- Surveying 123 center and family home providers across the state regarding the status of their businesses and the impact of new policies and regulations, compiling the data and relaying findings to the Director of the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR).
- Providing leadership to and facilitating meetings of the Alabama Child Care Alliance with the Director of DHR, and launching a public awareness campaign around unlicensed/unregulated child care facilities, as well as promoting awareness of the importance of early care and education for 0-3 year olds.
- Participating as a convener in the Governor’s Early Childhood Education Leadership Summit, and organizing the participation of 30 child care providers from various areas of the state.
- Organizing a race conference, “Raising the Curtain on Race,” from which emanated several smaller group and community discussions around the state.
- Advocating effectively for the retention of 28,000 children on the DHR child care subsidy roll.
- Advocating for reinstitution of the DHR Child Care Citizen’s Coordinating Committee.
Over the years, in serving the needs of child care providers, parents, and families in Alabama, the organization’s work dictated the need to advance a more comprehensive strategy to addressing issues that disproportionately impact Alabama’s most vulnerable and underserved populations.