“I know firsthand the joy one feels when your little one accomplishes something new. That joy is unparalleled! To know that I had a hand in that accomplishment warms me to my core.”

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Today is Early Childhood Advocacy Day. Soon, parents, child care providers, health care providers, and advocates from across Connecticut will gather at the Capitol in Hartford to urge increased investment in programs and services that support our youngest children.

At All Our Kin, we can think of no better way to celebrate this day than to share the important work of the family child care providers in our network with all of you. And the best way to honor this work is to share stories in providers’ own words.

Earlier this month, we had the privilege of hearing from an incredible duo at our annual Fairfield County Benefit: Emily Mingia-Lewis, owner of Mingalew Family Daycare in Bridgeport, and her mother, Jacquelyn Mingia, who works as a substitute for her daughter’s program. The pair had a powerful message for the audience about their love for their work, for children, and for each other. You can read their speeches, and enjoy photos from their family child care program, below.

Emily Mingia-Lewis

My name is Emily Mingia-Lewis and I am the owner of Mingalew Family Daycare here in Bridgeport. I am fairly new to the daycare scene, but a veteran when it comes to child care. I have four beautiful children of my own, the oldest of which, my son, will be nineteen this year…yikes! Sometimes I wonder where the time has gone. Additionally, I have 2 daughters and another son. Their ages are 16, 11, and 9. I am originally from the Bronx, New York. My family relocated to Bridgeport 10 years ago. When we first got here, I was 3 days off from having my last child, my daughter Elani Jael Lewis. That was a wild ride. In the midst of unpacking and getting the house situated, I went into labor and gave birth to my last princess.

“My husband and I could not afford daycare.”

I was excited to be able to stay home with my daughter, but as it happened each time I had a child, I yearned to be a part of the workforce again. It drove my husband crazy. “Just relax,” he would tell me. “You’ll find work when the time is right.” Now, you guys don’t know me, but I cannot sit still! I must be moving…doing something. I figured, let me check out daycare centers for he20170324_112016r and my then 2-year-old son. I checked out a location in Stratford and was heartbroken by the cost. It had been years since I had infants in daycare and apparently the price had doubled. My husband and I could not afford daycare for 2 children at 500 per week. What about vouchers? My husband and I were never eligible as he made above the salary limit for a family of six. I was devastated…but at the same time, I began to think…what if I opened a daycare? I had taught my oldest daughter at home, and she was reading by age 3. I knew this was something I could really get into and make a difference.

I brought the idea up to my Mom and best friend, Jacquelyn Mingia. At the time, she was still working in NYC and commuting every day. She was interested, but she wasn’t ready to leave her job. Retirement was only a few short years away. I, however, looked into what it would take and what was needed. It seemed like something I could really get my hands into. Then, life happened…cost of living for a family of six dictated that another income was necessary ASAP! So, I began to look for work outside of my home. Sadly, my daycare dreams would have to wait. I landed in more than a few places. I worked at Radio Shack in Derby…took a Medical Assistant course and worked for a while in a pediatrician’s office, then, I finally settled on customer service for Cablevision. It was decent pay and decent benefits, but my sanity disappeared daily when I walked into those doors. After 3 years of excruciating customer service, I decided that it was time to get serious about becoming a provider. By then, Mom was retired and was absolutely on board. She had been caring for my niece from the time she was an infant and was still doing so.

“Any training that was needed, they offered. Any training that was desired, they offered.” 

It was through [my mom] that I was introduced to All Our Kin and the wonderful things that they offer. From meeting with us to go over our paperwork (because trust me, the State is going to send it back 3 or 4 times before anything happens), to visiting our location to tell us what we needed to do for inspection, to making sure we understood that we were not alone. That last one has been invaluable to me and my Mom over the past few years. Whenever we have a question or are unsure how to proceed, there is always someone we can reach out to. Maria and Erica [All Our Kin staff members] essentially held our hands through it all. I think Maria was more excited than I was the day I got the call that my license had been approved. It was and still is that level of investment that makes All Our Kin a star in my book.

I have been given the opportunity to take advantage of some of the best programs and trainings with this group. After all, they are striving to make us better and more confident and proficient providers. Any training that was needed, they offered. Any training that was desired, they offered. There was and still is always something beneficial being offered by these amazing people. I had the opportunity to obtain my CDA credential through All Our Kin. That was a very big deal for me. The classes, taught by the lovely and charismatic Maureen, challenged my thought processes and my methods. It gave me a new way of thinking and interacting with the children. I even became more comfortable with big messes and nature, two of my Achilles heels. If you ask Maureen, she will tell you that this was a journey for me. But, the goal was and still is to broaden the horizons of the children and I am definitely on my way thanks to All Our Kin. In the end, I earned my CDA and developed a newfound love for messes.

I also had the opportunity to take advantage of the Read, Count, Grow series. This is a lovely program where the children are given the opportunity to learn about or learn more about a specific topic. My education consultant, Marina, always came in smiling and the children loved her to pieces. There was always a great storybook and a hands on lesson for the children. Together, we made learning fun and exciting for every child in my care. There were also reflection meetings where we discussed a myriad of topics pertinent to providing quality care. We discussed discipline, development, and ways to reach each child on his or her own level. Those conversations always provided a newfound respect for everything that All Our Kin does for us. One of the children’s favorite lessons was the beach. Marina walked the children through making sand. It was very, very, messy, but they thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. And there was a giant cleanup afterwards…but believe it or not, that did not discourage me from making more messes with the little ones. I actually witnessed just how important it is for them to get their hands dirty. The things they learn and the connections they make are indelible.

20170125_110433“All in the name of quality. All in the name of the children.”

I am currently working towards accreditation. My program is very important to me and I want to make sure I am giving my all. I do have some sleepless nights where I agonize over the best ways to teach a lesson. There are plenty of ways, but I am always after the one that will provide the most learning for the children and for me. It is through these lessons that I learn how each child relates to his or her surroundings and friends, as well as how they learn best. I have tweaked and re-tweaked our learning environment, our materials, and our schedule. All in the name of quality. All in the name of the children. I want the children to love the program. I want the children to be successful with the program. I want to help their families with this program. I want the parents to be comfortable with me and impressed with their children and how they are growing. I know firsthand the joy one feels when your little one accomplishes something new. That joy is unparalleled! To know that I had a hand in that accomplishment warms me to my core.

These are some of the wonderful memories and memories in motion that I have made and continue to make with All Our Kin. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by such dedicated people who will go out of their way to ensure that providers succeed. I have made great friends, colleagues, and mentors who have similar goals, different ideas, and different levels of experience. I couldn’t be prouder of this organization and its members. They are truly an asset to me and the community. We see so many different types of families and it is heart-warming to know that because of All Our Kin, we can make a difference in the lives of all children; especially those who are more vulnerable than others.

“Working hand in hand with my substitute, my Mom.”

One of the best things I have experienced has been working hand in hand with my substitute, my Mom. We are two very different people, but the same in many ways. We have laughed, speculated, and grown together over the past year and a half. She has truly been my rock throughout this venture. Not to mention, I love when she calls me Boss. We learn from each other daily. Her 50 years of experiences with children collides with my almost 20 years of experiences and together we choose the best methods for this program. We have seen tremendous growth in each other and that is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I love my Mom to the moon and back and this venture has given me not only a newfound love for all she taught me and my siblings, but also for the opportunity to actually be able to say, I taught her something too! I hope she is as proud of our program as I am. As a matter of fact, why don’t I let her have the floor and share her experiences with you guys…Mommy?

Jacquelyn Mingia

Good evening! My name is Jacquelyn Mingia. I’m the substitute and mother of Emily Mingia-Lewis, the director of Mingalew Family Daycare. I’m feeling very special to have been chosen to say a few words for this occasion. Since Emily has already covered how we began, I’ll briefly tell you a little bit about our daycare relationship.

Our day starts at 6:25 a.m. in my kitchen. The kettle is on and I make sure I have cold ginger ale, Emily’s choice in the morning. As we sit at the table we go over our lesson plan and meals for the day. We also use that time to prep for whatever projects we have going on that day so we can jump right in when breakfast is over. We also discuss non business related matters such as what is going to happen to Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds or Olivia Benson on Law and Order SVU. These are two shows we both enjoy. Oddly enough, our tastes concerning television, books, and music are very different.

“A loving family is very important for a child’s development.”

Emily and I have always had a good relationship. She is, after all, my only girl out of five children. I’ve always believed that a loving family is very important for a child’s developm20170327_101320ent. Also, instilling self- confidence at a young age goes a long way in preparing the child for life’s challenges. This daycare has shown me that I did an excellent job with my daughter. When Emily decided to start this business, even her brothers (who have always tried to appear indifferent) were proud.

Emily knows I will have her back at all times and she certainly will have mine. Because I am from another era, it sometimes takes me a little time to grasp some of the concepts being used today. Saying “feet belong on the floor” instead of “don’t put your feet on the couch” or “Running is for outside” instead of “don’t run.” Emily grasped this right away and worked with me to help me understand the benefits of this language; and I have to admit, it makes a big difference.

I believe we work well together because of the respect we have for one another and because we have now become of one mind for the daycare. Everything we do is for the benefit of the children in our care.

“What I love most about my daughter/boss is that her mind is always thinking of ways to teach the children various lessons through play.”

Emily is my boss but she gives me the freedom and encouragement to plan and execute activities my own way. Even when we don’t agree, the respect never leaves. It is through this that we have been able to successfully run our program. As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.”

What I love most about my daughter/boss is that her mind is always thinking of ways to teach the children various lessons through play, a concept cemented in our heads during CDA [Child Development Associate] class with Maureen.

Yes, I also earned my CDA credential through All Our Kin. It was a rough road, but Emily always encouraged me, sometimes a little harder than I would have liked. In the end, it was definitely worth it.

I have thought a lot about why this mother/daughter working relationship is successful. It is because with all of our differences, we are the same where it counts the most. The children in our care are a testament to that. Thank you.

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We thank Emily and Jacquelyn for their beautiful words and their dedication to supporting children and families with quality early care and education.

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An Evening with All Our Kin and C. Nicole Mason

CNicoleMasonWe are very excited to hold an event with trailblazing author and speaker C. Nicole Mason on Wednesday, April 5 from 5:30-8 pm at the Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport. Executive Director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest (CR2PI) at the New York Women’s Foundation, Dr. Mason’s tireless advocacy for social, economic, and racial justice powerfully resonates with All Our Kin’s mission and values.

For over two decades, Dr. Mason has worked to highlight and break down systemic barriers that stand in the way of equitable outcomes for low-income women and children of color. As the Executive Director of the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Dr. Mason brought the Network to the forefront of the national dialogue around policies impacting women of color, low-income families, and communities of color. And in her new memoir, Born Bright: A Young Girl’s Journey from Nothing to Something in America, Dr. Mason sheds light on how our society fails so many children, especially children of color and children in low-income communities.

Born Bright chronicles Dr. Mason’s childhood in Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised by a single mother and experienced poverty and its ramifications firsthand. Describing her formative years, Dr. Mason not only illustrates how growing up in a low-income household impacted her socially and emotionally but also how it shaped her understanding of the world and her place in it:

The expectations for my life were carved out before I could have ever begun to imagine what I might want for myself. I suppose this is true for all children, including those born into privilege. Our environment – our homes, schools, and communities, along with our primary caregivers and daily interactions with the outside world – signals to us what we can expect to become or how far we can go. For those of us born at the bottom of the economic and social ladder, messages of success, opportunity, and fairness in the larger society are often in conflict with the harsh and uneven realities of our daily lives. From the beginning, we internalize the idea that we are less than others are and that to strive for more is to chase an out-of-reach dream, like the one-in-a-million chance of becoming a world-class basketball player or famous politician. And we believe there is very little we can do about it.

Even in the face of conflicting messages and systemic barriers that prevent equitable access to opportunity and support, Dr. Mason, a precocious and driven child, excelled in school and became the first in her family to go to college. At the same time, however, Dr. Mason watched as many of her bright childhood peers struggled to break from the cycle of poverty, working toward but never fully reaching economic security.

While Dr. Mason credits part of her pathway out of poverty to hard work and determination, she describes these qualities as “only part of the equation.” What ultimately shapes our ability to succeed, Dr. Mason demonstrates, are “the conditions under which individuals are able to pursue success and opportunity, the social capital gained through personal connections, and the mastery of institutional and structural rules of engagement.”

These important conditions and opportunities are not accessible or available to many members of our society, and will not be without drastic shifts in our communities. In the words of Dr. Mason,

In order to build a more equitable society, begin to alleviate poverty, and chip away at the damage done by historical and cumulative disadvantage, we will need to create more connected communities throughout the country. Connected communities are those that provide the necessary preconditions for individuals and families to achieve full economic opportunity from early childhood on.

As All Our Kin works toward the realization of a society that supports all children in reaching their full potential, Dr. Mason’s lifelong commitment to creating the conditions children and families need to successfully grow, learn, and thrive resounds deeply with our efforts. These conditions must begin in early childhood, when the brain is literally being built, and family child care providers, who step up to build these conditions in communities across the country, are among the leaders in transforming opportunities for children and families.

We hope you can join All Our Kin and Dr. Mason for this special event! For more details and to reserve tickets, please visit www.aokbridgeport2017.brownpapertickets.com or contact Nicole Allman at nicole@allourkin.org or 203-772-2294.

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Exciting News: Erica Phillips Will Be All Our Kin’s First Chief Operating Officer!

We are excited to announce that we will expand our high-impact model for transforming early care and education through family child care with the help of our first Chief Operating Officer—our very own Erica Phillips!

erica-phillips-aokOver the years, we have proven that we can transform the quality and accessibility of child care while building small businesses and increasing equity in early childhood education. Now, thanks to the generous support of Barbara Dalio and the Dalio Foundation, we have the opportunity to expand our capacity to impact the lives of children in Connecticut and beyond with the addition of a Chief Operating Officer. And we are lucky that Erica Phillips, who has led our work at our Bridgeport and Stamford/Norwalk sites since 2014, has agreed to take on this new role.

As Chief Operating Officer, Erica will work closely with All Our Kin’s Site Directors in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford/Norwalk, enabling strong program implementation and ensuring fidelity to All Our Kin’s nationally-recognized model for improving availability and quality of family child care. In addition, Erica will strengthen systems for cross-site communication, support data and evaluation efforts, coordinate All Our Kin’s growth plan, and oversee back-office functions, including human resources, finance, and IT.

“We are thrilled to have someone as familiar with and passionate about All Our Kin as Erica to fill this position,” says Jessica Sager, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of All Our Kin. “We know that having a Chief Operating Officer is critical to ensuring that our organization is running smoothly, so that we can focus on creating quality early learning opportunities for all children through family child care.”

Erica brings a diverse set of business and education experiences to her new role as Chief Operating Officer. “Since starting with All Our Kin, I have been continually impressed and inspired by the dedication, creativity, and love with which the family child care providers in our network approach their work of caring for children and supporting families,” Erica reflects. “I am excited to strengthen the systems that will allow All Our Kin to better serve family child care providers and expand its reach in the future.”

In preparation for Erica’s transition to the Chief Operating Officer role, All Our Kin will hire two new Site Directors: one for Bridgeport, and one for Stamford/Norwalk. All Our Kin is also hiring for a number of other positions at this time. We encourage anyone who is interested in joining our team to visit www.allourkin.org/job-opportunities for more information and to apply.

As All Our Kin grows and develops, we look forward to continuing to support our incredible network of family child care providers, and the children and families they serve. We know you will join us in congratulating Erica, and in welcoming new staff members to the All Our Kin family!

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As We Look To the New Year, We Reflect On a Story of Hope

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This has been a hard year. Across our country, we’ve seen violence and tragedy; anger and hate; and misunderstandings, suspicions and distrust. Here in Connecticut, we’re facing a budget crisis. We have watched working families struggle to get the subsidies that could help them pay for child care, and helped our family child care providers figure out how to keep their businesses going in the face of economic challenges.

Nonetheless, every day we are re-inspired by the extraordinary work that our family child care providers are doing. We get to see how they are giving children warm, enriching, and loving places to spend their crucial early years. And in turn, we get to see parents go to work, knowing their children are in safe, nurturing hands. Family child care providers are changing the lives of children and families, and their achievements give us hope.

So, as the year draws to a close, we’re sharing a story of three people—a family child care provider, a parent, and a child—with you.
ana-ramosOur story begins with a woman named Ana Ramos. In 2014, Ana was laid off from her long-time position working at a factory. It did not take her long to dedicate her professional life to educating young children. She had worked with children many years earlier in her home country of Cape Verde. Unemployed, and with a young son of her own, Ana reached out to All Our Kin. With our help, Ana successfully obtained her family child care license, but she struggled to enroll children. While she waited, Ana took part in every training All Our Kin had to offer, making sure that she’d be ready to provide the best possible care to children once they walked through her door. All Our Kin business coach Janmarie Peña helped Ana to put a marketing plan in place; on the day that a parent finally knocked on Ana’s door, Janmarie happened to be on site. She helped Ana manage that critical first interview. The family enrolled, and Ana has never looked back.

Two years later, Isabel and her son Justin (names changed) were living in a homeless shelter. Isabel had lost her home and her sense of security as a result of domestic violence. She couldn’t begin to move forward and rebuild her life until she found child care for Justin, a lively two-year-old with a dazzling smile who exhibited some social-emotional and communication delays.

Ana’s family child care program was just what Isabel and Justin needed. Through All Our
Kin’s Early Head Start program, we were able to make the connection, and enroll Justin in Ana’s program, where he improved his communication and language, learned to manage his emotions, and built essential skills, such as sharing with others.

Since the family was enrolled in our Early Head Start program, we were able to support Isabel as well. Our family advocate, Carmen Roman-Gonzalez, helped Isabel find a better job, which enabled her to buy a car and then to find a new home for herself and her son.

This year, Justin turned three; he graduated from Ana’s program, and transitioned to one of the highest quality preschools in New Haven. Isabel has become a passionate advocate for early childhood education, sharing her story with other parents struggling to make ends meet. Ana’s program is continuing to thrive: she currently has four children enrolled and works closely with Early Head Start staff to uplift children and families.

Isabel recently sent us a letter to express her thanks. Here’s an excerpt:

“I’m truly grateful for All Our Kin. This program changed my life. They are the real deal! I’m just one mom that has had a life change because of All Our Kin, I can only imagine the changes for others. The staff at All Our Kin are the most compassionate beings I ever met.”

We often describe our model as a win-win-win: child care professionals succeed as business owners; working parents find stable, high-quality care for their children; and children gain an educational foundation that lays the groundwork for achievement in school and beyond. This story helps illustrate how the triple win works, and how our investment in family child care providers translates into greater well-being for both parents and children.

All Our Kin currently reaches 400 caregivers each year, touching the lives of over 2,000 children. In the coming year, we plan to work even harder on behalf of children, families, and caregivers. We will help our mighty Family Child Care Network to weather Connecticut’s difficult economic climate, and we will reach more communities than ever before, sharing our work across the state.

Our sincerest thanks to the incredible providers we work with each day, and to our dedicated supporters who make it all possible. Best wishes for a joyful and restful holiday season.

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All Our Kin Provider Natasha Auguste-Williams Speaks about the Importance of Child Care Subsidies: “Care4Kids not only impacts children and families, but also the businesses like mine that support them”

Earlier today, our partners at the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance and the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors hosted a forum on Care4Kids at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Parents, providers, advocates, and legislators joined together to discuss the impact of changes to Care4Kids program eligibility on Connecticut’s economic infrastructure. All Our Kin provider Natasha Auguste-Williams, who runs Sweetpea Home Daycare in Bridgeport, spoke at the forum to share the importance of Care4Kids on her ability to provide quality care to children in her community.

natasha-and-babyYou can watch Natasha’s speech here (starts at 57:20), or read it below:

“Good morning. My name is Natasha Auguste-Williams. I have been a Bridgeport family child care provider for six years. I wanted to open a home daycare because I wanted to start a family, make a difference in a child’s life, and to offer quality care to children in my community, serving single-parent families and low-income families. I wanted my program to be different because a lot of people think that when you have a home daycare the kids just come and sit inside and watch TV, you feed them and change their diaper. I wanted to change that. I wanted to start a program where books are within every child’s reach, and where there are hands-on opportunities to learn and explore. Prepare them for kindergarten and their future, nurture them, offer nutritious healthy meals, field trips, a fruits and vegetables garden, and give them a safe and healthy environment to play, explore, grow and have fun while learning. Although most of the children in my program are English speaking, I teach them basic Spanish and Sign Language as well. I serve a community where there is a great need for quality affordable care. As a mom and a provider who lives in Bridgeport I know finding quality affordable care is a challenge.

I currently care for 6 full time children and 3 children before/after school. All of the families receive Care4Kids. Some of the parents travel as far as New York City for work. I could not provide the type of high quality care that I do now without support from Care4Kids. Without Care4Kids, the parents I serve would have an even harder time finding affordable, quality care, and would possibly have to quit their jobs or leave their children with an unlicensed caregiver, with someone who does not offer quality care, or leave them home alone.

Without Care4Kids, low-income families often have to jump around from child care to child care to make things work. When this happens, children regress in their development. Moving a child from a provider they have been with since they were a baby can create anxiety, stress, and impact the child’s development, trust, and ability to feel secure.

Without income from Care4Kids, my business would not survive and a lot of other family child care providers would lose their businesses as well. Some of us have been working in early childhood for decades, and would have a difficult time finding another job. If new families continue to be shut out from the Care4Kids program, this is a real possibility that many others and I will face. We will face not only losing our business but also our homes, and our families will suffer. Care4Kids not only impacts children and families, but also the businesses like mine that support them and that are now worried about having to close their doors. I urge you to do whatever you can do to restore full funding to Care4Kids so that new families can access this important program. I love my job and I want to continue providing high quality care to children.”

We thank Natasha for taking the time to share her perspective, and we thank all the family child care providers in our network for the work they do to support children and families in these challenging economic times.

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All Our Kin Attends Care4Kids Rally on the Heels of a Victory for CT’s Working Families

Good news! Child care providers, parents, advocates, and community partners joined our advocacy efforts to save Care4Kids, and it paid off: working families who are currently receiving Care4Kids, and who remain eligible at redetermination, will stay on the program!

img_6183Over the past month, there has been much anxiety among Connecticut’s working families, child care providers, and early childhood advocates about a funding deficiency in the Care4Kids program—the program that provides child care subsidies to low-income families in Connecticut. With the Care4Kids program already closed to new applicants from the working family group, the fear was that families currently on the program would be removed at redetermination to cut program costs.

Yesterday, the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood announced that working families will be able to stay on the program at redetermination. Instead, eligibility cuts will be made in a different area. Effective December 31, the Care4Kids program will be closed to new applicants who have received TANF in the past 5 years, and to 18 and 19 year old teen parents who attend high school or the equivalent. These eligibility changes are expected to impact 1,800 families who would have applied to the program between now and the end of the fiscal year in June. For more information, see the official announcement from the Office of Early Childhood here. You can also read coverage from the Hartford Courant here.

img_1126This is a huge victory for low-income parents who rely on Care4Kids to help pay for child care so that they can go to work. Yesterday, we joined many of those parents, their children, their child care providers, and advocates at the Capitol in Hartford. What began as a rally to save Care4kids for working families turned into a celebration as news of the Office of Early Childhood announcement spread. This is a testament to the incredible advocacy efforts of so many, which included hundreds of phone calls to Governor Malloy and state legislators, an online petition from the CT Early Childhood Alliance, public testimony in front of the state Appropriations Committee (see testimony from All Our Kin beginning at 2:40:35), media coverage, and countless stakeholder meetings to organize and strategize. We are so grateful to everyone who partnered with us over the past few weeks.

Even as we celebrate this victory, we know that our work around Care4Kids is not done. With the Care4Kids program now closed to all new applicants except families currently receiving TANF, there are many families who need access to child care who will be waitlisted for the foreseeable future. If you are a parent who can no longer access the Care4Kids program, and you are willing to share your story with media and legislators, please contact All Our Kin’s Policy Fellow, Natalie, at 203-772-2294 x. 21 or natalie@allourkin.org.

Our fight now is to secure more funding for Care4Kids so that the program can reopen to new applicants. More broadly, we need to advocate for a child care system that is comprehensive, equitable, affordable, accessible, sustainable, and of the highest quality for all children, so that families are not continually faced with the possibility of losing their child care. At All Our Kin, we will continue to work to ensure that the Care4Kids program reaches all children and families who need it.

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All Our Kin Goes to New York: Jessica Sager Shares Best Practices in Family Child Care with Stakeholders in NYC

 

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In New York City alone, almost 16,000 children who are under the age of three and receive government-subsidized child care spend their early years in home-based programs.  That is why NYC has undertaken ambitious initiatives such as EarlyLearn NYC, which recognized the importance of ensuring quality in family child care programs by setting standards that focus on social and intellectual development in a safe environment.  In May, The Center for New York City Affairs at The New School hosted a forum to discuss its latest report: Bringing It All Home: Problems and Possibilities Facing NYC’s Family Child Care.   The forum highlighted the important progress of the EarlyLearn NYC initiative, but also illuminated many of the challenges facing NYC’s family child care landscape.

On October 11, All Our Kin was honored to participate in a panel discussion that offered some solutions to support quality in NYC’s family child care programs.  Jessica Sager represented All Our Kin as a member of the panel, which focused on sharing best practices for effectively and sustainably raising the quality of family child care programs in New York City and beyond.  The event drew a packed house that included family child care network staff, child care providers, industry representatives, policymakers, NYC Administration for Children’s Services administrators, and philanthropists, all united in the same goal: to learn about and share strategies for improving quality in family child care, so that all children and families have the foundation they need to succeed in life.

In addition to Jessica, the panelists included:

  • Lorelei Atalie Vargas, Deputy Commissioner of Early Care and Education, City of New York Administration for Children’s Services
  • Toni Porter, Senior Principal, Early Care and Education Consulting
  • Diana Perez, Vice-President, Home-based Childcare Services, WHEDco
  • Catherine Barnett, Executive Director, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York

Kendra Hurley from The Center for New York City Affairs at The New School was the moderator, and provided some helpful context by summarizing the forum in May and laying the groundwork for this follow up discussion.

Lorelei Atalie Vargas started the discussion by sharing her vision for a comprehensive family child care network in NYC.  Although it can be daunting to imagine widespread change in a place as large as New York City, Lorelei reminded the group: “Change is possible in a child care system this size.  And family child care is a big part of that change.”

Next, Jessica discussed All Our Kin’s model, focusing on our strength-based approach that views providers as partners.  She noted that our model has been highly successful, increasing the supply of child care in southern Connecticut, yielding greater earnings for providers, and providing significant macroeconomic benefits to the wider community.

Toni Porter followed Jessica’s presentation to share the findings of her study: Examining Quality in Family Child Care: An Evaluation of All Our Kin.  The results of her evaluation were clear: our model has a significant impact on quality in family child care. All Our Kin image4providers scored on average 50% better on indicators of quality in family child care than non-All Our Kin providers.

Following Toni, Diana Perez explained the ways in which WHEDco is already supporting family child care providers in New York City, working with both licensed and legally exempt home-based providers to create child care programs that are safe and nurturing for children.  She also highlighted an aspect of home-based care that is often overlooked: provider wellbeing.  At WHEDco, they know that when providers thrive, the children in their programs will thrive too.

Finally, Catherine Barnett wrapped up the conversation by reminding us that family child care is critical to the sustainability of the restaurant workforce.  Why?  Because as discussed in ROC’s latest report Nightcare: The Growing Challenge For Parents On The Late Shift, the majority of restaurant workers are women with nontraditional hours, and they need to access child care too.  Unlike center-based care, family child care providers tend to be more flexible in their hours, making them a valuable resource for parents working in industries like food, retail, and health.  To learn more about the challenges faced by parents with nontraditional hours, check out Jessica’s TIME op-ed: How Irregular Hours Hurt Low-Wage Parents.

All Our Kin staff members had a great time learning about family child care in NYC!  We look forward to future opportunities for collaboration in support of NYC’s children, families, and child care providers, and thank all those who brought their enthusiasm and ideas to the event to make it such as success.

image5A special thank you to Philanthropy New York for hosting the event, and to the event sponsors: Viking Global Foundation, the Child Care and Early Education Fund, and the Grossman Family Foundation.  Thanks, as well, to the Grossman Family Foundation, for funding the above-mentioned report, “Examining Quality in Family Child Care: An Evaluation of All Our Kin.”

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Daniela is Preparing the Children in Her Program for Kindergarten with the Help of Read, Count, Grow

“It’s a very welcoming place to be”

When Tanya Smith, an Educational Consultant with All Our Kin, walks into Daniela’s child care program on a pleasant Friday morning in September, the children immediately gravitate towards her. They come bright-eyed and smiling, bringing along whatever toy they happen to be holding at the moment, all eager to involve their guest in their morning playtime. This isn’t new to Tanya—this is how she is always received when she visits Daniela. “The warmth from the children is a reflection of Daniela and the way she runs her program. It’s a very welcoming place to be,” Tanya explains.

blog-picDaniela is the vibrant family child care provider who owns ABC Kid’z Home Daycare in Hamden. Right now, she has five children in her program.  The oldest is almost four years old, and proud of it! The youngest is a year and a half. They keep Daniela on her toes, but she doesn’t mind. She has an endless supply of energy, and her love for and commitment to her job as an early childhood educator is evident in every move and interaction.

A Dedication to Continuous Learning

As part of the Read, Count, Grow program, Daniela receives monthly educational coaching and mentoring from Tanya that is centered on quality in early childhood learning and the age-appropriate introduction of math and literacy skills.  Daniela began the 10-month program back in March.  Before Read, Count, Grow, Daniela was already actively involved in All Our Kin’s professional development events, but she wanted more.  “I know there is so much to learn and I always want to bring new activities and ways of learning to the children in my program.  I want them to be kindergarten-ready.  I know that Read, Count, Grow will help me get them there,” Daniela says.

During her visits, Tanya coaches and models activities, experiences, and interactions
based on research around how young children learn best, often bringing new materials for the children to engage with.  On this particular visit, Tanya brings a book, beads, string, and color boards.  Daniela is constantly looking for ways to ensure that all the children in her program are actively engaged in an activity.  In response to this, Tanya is careful to demonstrate strategies around how to include the youngest children while challenging the older ones. 443.JPG

So, while the youngest children are busy rolling the beads across the table, occasionally putting a bead on the corresponding color board, the oldest girl is placing the beads on a string, following a pattern provided by Tanya.  When she is done, Tanya asks her: “How many beads do you have on the string?  Can you count them for me?  What is the pattern?”  Daniela follows suit, asking, “What colors are the beads? Can you name the shapes?  What do you think comes next?”  Already, Daniela is putting into practice strategies that Tanya has just modeled.  She is a pro at applying what she learns through Read, Count, Grow to her program.

Maximizing Teachable Moments

The learning doesn’t stop when Tanya is done with the Read, Count, Grow activity.  It continues as Daniela proceeds with her morning routine.  During circle time, Daniela reads an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, during which she points to a picture of the Wolf and asks, “How do you think he is feeling right now?” “Sad! He’s sad!” One girl 459exclaims, running up to the wall and pointing to the “sad face” on the feeling chart that is hanging there.  The feeling chart is just one way in which Daniela has very purposefully designed her child care space to facilitate learning.

After circle time, it’s snack time!  Before the visit, Tanya described some of the ways Daniela uses snack time to support school readiness.  On this day, Daniela builds on the experiences modeled earlier by Tanya.  Each child has a plate and cup set of a different color.  They know which set is theirs, and call out the colors as they take their plates.  This may seem subtle, but it is the small ways in which Daniela so seamlessly integrates learning experiences into daily activities and playtime that make her program a space for continuous early learning.

Building Support in Family Child Care

While the kids munch away on their cheese and crackers, Daniela takes advantage of the quiet moment to debrief with Tanya.  She asks for copies of Read, Count, Grow materials and discusses needs and behaviors she has observed in the children.  The providers and educational consultants in the Read, Count, Grow program build strong relationships that truly improve the quality of work on both ends.  While Daniela names the support she gets from Tanya as one of her favorite aspects of the program, Tanya also draws on her conversations with Daniela to take her work to the next level.  “The tremendous responsibility that Daniela places on herself rubs off on me too—because she is so committed to her role as an early childhood educator, I am driven to constantly find new and better ways to support her work,” Tanya reflects.

Ending on a Joyful Note

475Before the visit comes to an end, it is time for some outdoor play.  Daniela has a beautiful outdoor space with plenty of room to explore and a playground fit for hours of fun.  This is clearly a highlight for the children; their excitement is tangible.  As they run, jump, skip, swing, climb, and play, it is easy to forget that the learning never stops.  But then one girl points out shapes in the clouds, and another starts counting her jumps on the trampoline, and everything comes full circle.

Daniela looks on and smiles.  “One thing I’ve realized through Read, Count, Grow is that there are many different ways to introduce an idea or learn a concept.  Math is not just numbers on a paper, it is everywhere.  Even while playing outside, they are learning.”  Her pride in her program and in the children’s progress is evident and well-deserved.  Through her compassion and dedication, and with some help from Tanya and Read, Count, Grow, Daniela’s children won’t just be ready for kindergarten—they will be ready to succeed in life.

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For more information about Read, Count, Grow, visit www.allourkin.org/read-count-grow

 

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Kiana Hernandez, Liman Fellow: “I realized there is no better feeling than being a helping hand to those who truly need it.”

This past summer, All Our Kin had the pleasure of hosting Kiana Hernandez, a Liman Fellow from Yale College. The prestigious Liman Summer Fellowship is awarded by the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program to undergraduate students passionate about addressing inequality and improving access to justice by working with organizations that support public interest.

This is not All Our Kin’s first experience with a Liman Fellow—it was the Liman Fellowship for Yale Law School graduates, which funds work on public interest legal projects, that funded All Our Kin’s Executive Director Jessica Sager during her first year building the organization. As such, the support of the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program through the Liman Fellowship has been instrumental in All Our Kin’s success.

During her time with All Our Kin, Kiana worked most closely with the Early Head Start program, through which she was able to form valued connections with children, families, and providers. Read below to learn more about Kiana’s experiences working with All Our Kin, and how these experiences transformed her personal and professional goals as she furthered her commitment to serving children and families.

kh-blog-2Read Kiana’s Story:

For my summer fellowship, I was placed with a New Haven-based nonprofit called All Our Kin.  The primary focus of All Our Kin is to improve the quality of early childhood education and care in underserved populations through direct work with the community and advocacy.

Over the course of my time with All Our Kin, I had many projects relating to different aspects of the mission.  My primary project was the creation of a policy memo, with the help of some of the data available in the office, for a state program that provides childcare subsidies to low-income families.  Other projects were based largely in the Early Head Start office, and included translation, – from interviews with childcare providers to a handbook for parents enrolling in All Our Kin’s New Haven-based Early Head Start program – workshop planning, creating a video to promote the program, and helping set up a study on the efficacy of the All Our Kin Early Head Start program to be conducted in the near future.  At times, I even met with families interested in the Early Head Start program to help them apply and enroll.

It is important to note, however, that I did not spend all of my time in the office.  On certain occasions – say, when a newly enrolled family was starting their first day at a provider’s home – we would go out and visit the Early Head Start sites.  During these visits, I got to see the smiling faces of the kids’ whose names I had already seen a number of times in the office.  My first visit to a particular site meant that the children would always start off shy around me, but would ultimately warm up and even try to pull me along into their games.

I cannot say there is one specific memorable moment in the entirety of my summer, but there are definitely a couple dozen small ones.  Watching the children sing a morning song or sitting with them as they finger-painted and blurted out the names of the colors.  Hearing the joy in a mother’s voice as she was notified by phone that we were able to offer her child a spot in the program.  Working with parents on their resumes and interview skills during a job skills workshop.  All of these small moments have left me with an image of my summer imprinted in my mind that still gives me a sense of warmth whenever I look back on it.

My summer was filled with many families and many, many children.  It did not take long for me to realize that it is impossible to focus solely on one or the other, because in practice, they are so connected.  To make sure our support system has a strong effect on children, we must also ensure that the adults in their lives outside of their childcare program are also being supported.  We held many workshops for parents and providers alike, as a result.  It was in those workshops that my resolve to go on to law school was solidified.   When I first applied to the Liman fellowship, I was a (struggling) Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry major, trying to decide whether I would ultimately go into research or law.  Through my experiences this summer, I realized that there is no better feeling than being a helping hand to those who truly need it.

As I enter my junior year, I enter “undeclared”.  I have no major and feel like a freshman again shopping so many classes.  Sometimes, I even get lost trying to find all of these Humanities buildings that I have never before had reason to find.  But I am so much surer of what I will do in the long run, and I have this summer to thank for that.

 

To learn more about the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program and the other fellowship awards it supports, click here.

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Meet Natalie: All Our Kin’s New Policy Fellow

Hello! My name is Natalie, and I just started working at All Our Kin as the new Policy Fellow. I am so excited to engage with the All Our Kin community, especially the incredible family child care professionals who dedicate themselves to providing quality, affordable child care for Connecticut families. As a Connecticut native and a graduate of the University of Connecticut, I look forward to supporting the people who are transforming early childhood experiences in my home state.

The Policy Fellowship is a dream position for 13669380_10207086066614006_466063884063282846_o
me, because it allows me to combine my passion for empowering communities with my belief in policy as a critical tool for effecting widespread change. My journey to All Our Kin began in January 2013, when I moved to Washington D.C. for a semester-long internship with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). There, I was spurred to action by the reality of poverty in our nation’s capital. I was also in regular communication with Connecticut constituents, who often voiced concerns related to employment, education, and the welfare of children and families.

With this in mind, I organized and led twelve university students on an immersive learning and volunteer experience to D.C. in the spring of 2015.  During this trip, we had the opportunity to work with and learn from a variety of organizations addressing issues related to urban poverty and political action. Across all the organizations, it was evident to me that a person’s path in life is often largely determined by their early childhood experiences.

Most recently, I spent a year in the beautiful town of Pravets, Bulgaria, where I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant for students in grades eight through twelve. Seeing the outcomes of educational inequality in the classroom every day, I grew passionate about becoming an advocate for the time when it all begins: early childhood. That is why I am at All Our Kin, and that is why I am so inspired by the work of our providers.

I have already jumped right in, attending meetings, coordinating site visits, reviewing upcoming policy issues, managing social media, and working on presentations. I am most looking forward to meeting the family child care professionals in All Our Kin’s network, and seeing their work in action. And of course, I am excited to work with our providers, partners, and policy-makers to ensure that Connecticut makes family child care a policy priority!

I will maintain regular outreach via this blog during my time here, so check back often! If you are a family child care provider, I’d love to hear from you if you would like to share your story, write a blog post, get involved in advocacy work, or touch base about your experience as an early childhood professional and how I can best support your mission. Please feel free to contact me at natalie@allourkin.org at any time. Thanks for reading!

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