Success stories

How Indiana FSSA Kept Crucial Connections With Childcare Providers, Families During COVID

Automated Drip Campaigns
Unique Messages
Average Sub Monthly Growth
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Connect Families with Childcare
Access to early childhood and out-of-school learning, such as childcare, Head Start and preschool, is a vital social service in the best of times. During the COVID pandemic, providing those opportunities for working families – especially families of first responders, health care and other essential workers – became crucial.
We’re getting the right data set up at the right times and understanding which audience to hit and win. With the help of Granicus, we’ve had a good line of communication. We can get things set up on the fly.
Carrie Gray

This was no different for Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), the agency that connects funding and regulations for families and childcare providers. Having consistent messaging to both providers and families who could be difficult to reach consistently required a focused strategy. Using Granicus technology and services from the Granicus Experience Group (GXG), FSSA developed a unified family experience even during a time of crisis. With GXG as a partner, FSSA created maps to detail customer journeys and processes, then built sophisticated, automated digital campaigns to enable communications around enrollment.

As a result, FSSA provided necessary information to childcare providers and a lifeline to families in a time of need through a process that is helping build additional communications avenues with constituents even after the pandemic ends.


Finding Connections Through Technology

As one of many divisions within Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning (OECOSL) focuses on providing a strong network of early care and education, as well as out-of-school time programs that support children, families, and local schools. With an eye to maintaining high-quality, affordable and accessible programs, the department relies on providing timely information both to the families they serve and the providers of services in their network.

But with an audience of families that might not update their current residence information in a timely manner, consistently reaching families via mail or landline telephone could be a challenge.

That need for coordinated messaging extended to the network of providers around the state of Indiana, for both awareness of changes to policy and licensing information.

When the COVID pandemic hit, OECOSL was left to deal with two major issues: Finding a way to continue getting regular information to front-line childcare providers and increasing awareness of FSSA’s services that were now all the more necessary for families impacted by the pandemic. Information about ongoing programs such as “On My Way Pre-K” and changes to the CCDF eligibility process meant an even greater attention to communications was needed.

“COVID changed everything for everyone, especially for social services,” said Marni Lemons, Deputy Director of Communications for Indiana FSSA. “And we were determined to not shut down childcare services. There were too many essential workers that would be impacted by not having that available.”

Armed with new supports related to COVID—both for families and in provider licensing—the department needed to make sure that the word was getting out and to the right people.

“We needed them to know that the office that regulates and reimburses providers is a partner,” said Carrie Gray, Child Care Development Fund Operations Manager. “We wanted them to feel our support. We really needed to implement a more personalized and agile solution.”


Adapting to Meeting People Where They Are

Armed with a U.S. Department of Education preschool development grant, OECOSL sought to create a unified experience across departments to improve the parental experience while implementing technology that would make it easier to directly connect with families.

“FSSA had been using GovDelivery in other divisions for years as an email tool, but we were only beginning to explore texting options, and the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning had not used the tool before,” said Lemons. “It was great to have the team come in and show us what was possible.”

Implementing govDelivery, OECOSL was able to create a collection of email topics and communications that reflected the breadth of their services, while managing consistent messaging to families and providers. This also allowed more flexibility in segmenting their audiences by needs or location to make sure that the most relevant information was being delivered.

“Having direct communication from the office to let families and providers know what’s going on is so important,” said Sue McKinney, Director of Operations for OECOSL. “It not only makes them more knowledgeable about what’s available, but it also allows them to remain up-to-date on the latest changes.”

She added that while there are numerous changes around school-age vouchers normally, COVID brought even more timely information that needed to be distributed, such as school closures. With GXG as a partner, OECOSL had additional strategic resources that allowed them to send timely information in a rapidly-changing environment.

“We had one county that decided to change their in-person learning plan at the last minute,” said McKinney. “Being able to target just the families in that one county was very important.”

While govDelivery provided a tool for better engagement with families and providers, working with GXG helped to create the means to build a more consistent user experience. By bringing the various programs within OECOSL together and strengthening the overall communications to align with agency goals, Gray said that she hopes that an increased level of trust will grow toward the agency.

“Providers are our voice in the community with our families. That’s who they trust with their children and information,” she said. “We know communicating directly with the providers ensures that the information will trickle down to the families.”

Through meeting the increased demand of COVID communications by implementing the right digital tools alongside the series of sophisticated digital campaigns, FSSA looks forward to establishing a framework for future agile communications.


A Focused Approach to an Integrated Future

In FSSA’s first year working with Granicus, GXG designed 28 automated drip campaigns, each containing multiple messages with personalized information sending each week. These sophisticated, automated digital campaigns enable additional communications around CCDF and On My Way Pre-K enrollment. The proof of their immediate impact came in one of the most old-fashioned metrics around: word of mouth.

“We knew it was working right away,” said Gray, “because as soon as the first messages went out, my phone started ringing off the hook. It’s a huge communications piece that we’ve never had before, and it helped us directly respond and connect with our providers and families.”

Interactive engagement has also shown success early on, including one notable success from a survey the agency sent to essential workers. Essential workers would apply for childcare vouchers, then receive a survey to complete which would schedule their children for enrollment. Digitally engaging families about these surveys, according to McKinney, helped expedite the process greatly.

“There have been hundreds of families who have been able to access these services as a result,” she said.

The new framework, said Lemons, will provide the basis for effective communications strategy even after the COVID pandemic has ended.

“It’s made the OECOSL team more agile and allows them to break down the silos between programs and departments to make more unified message,” said Lemons. “But even more importantly, it’s made it easier for the team to communicate important and timely messages.”

“We’re able to meet the concerns and needs of families with ability to focus on messaging that is personalized to them.”
Sue McKinney
Director of Operations, Indiana OECOSL

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