After first developing ChildcareMatters nearly a decade ago, Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee sold its innovative web-based substitute platform to Wonderschool, an all-in-one child care management system software company empowering early educators to build sustainable businesses that meet the unique needs of families.

The ChildcareMatters substitute platform (SubPool) allows child care providers to post substitute opportunities, notifying pre-screened educators via text message that a job is available. Substitute teachers then accept the job from their smartphone.

Wonderschool’s plan to integrate the ChildcareMatters technology into its comprehensive SubPool solution will help local and state governments match child care providers with qualified substitutes and reduce workforce burnout.

Innovating a Solution

The challenge of connecting quality substitutes with child care programs is a familiar problem. For many years, child care program directors would receive untimely news that a regular teacher was unable to be available for school hours. Directors would then spend their very early mornings navigating a list of substitute teachers to call and try to quickly fulfill the need of an educator in the classroom. This antiquated approach to ensuring a classroom can fulfill its teacher-to-child ratio oftentimes left child care programs in a bind.

CFMT’s child care initiative, ChildcareTennessee, worked alongside leaders in the child care and tech industries to create a solution. With an initial budget of $15,000, the ChildcareMatters substitute platform was developed.

In 2016, the SubPool platform launched in Nashville and served an average of 15 child care programs at any time.

As word of the platform spread, other states called inquiring if they too could access the service. At the time of the sale, CFMT was providing the service in eight other states, including Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Oregon and Mississippi.

“We are proud that the idea was created at CFMT,” said Hal Cato, CEO at Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. “Developing new solutions for pressing community issues represents the nonprofit sector at its best.”

Since 2023, Wonderschool has been licensing ChildcareMatters substitute platform, to launch a statewide SubPool in Mississippi. In the first five months of leveraging the technology, more than 20% of Mississippi’s registered child care providers joined the platform to find qualified, pre-screened substitutes. With the platform, Wonderschool has a provider-to-teacher match rate of almost 70%, well above the industry average of 40%. More than 3,500 individuals have applied to join Wonderschool’s Mississippi SubPool, and active substitute teachers have already worked more than 3,000 hours.

“Wonderschool is a natural fit for scaling the ChildcareMatters platform to even more child care providers around the country,” continued Cato. “This integration presents an opportunity to ensure child care providers have access to a vetted substitute teacher pool, which is critical to having a robust workforce and an accessible child care network.”

CFMT will continue its work in early childhood education with its ChildcareTennessee initiative, providing grants, administrative resources, and shared services to Tennessee’s licensed child care providers.

Learn More About ChildcareTennessee