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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Family Child Care Takes the Stage: Jessica Sager Represents All Our Kin at United State of Women Summit

USOW Panel Pic

Thousands gathered in Washington D.C. earlier this month for The United State of Women Summit, the first large-scale event of its kind, to celebrate gender equality achievements and to discuss solutions for the societal challenges that still exist. Presenters included First Lady Michelle Obama, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Oprah Winfrey, Amy Poehler, and our very own Executive Director, Jessica Sager. The Summit rallied professionals from across sectors to focus on six overarching topics, many of which All Our Kin supports through its mission. The topics of focus were: economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership and civic engagement.

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, and Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the White House Council of Women and Girls and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, gave a welcome address, calling for a celebration of the triumphs women have made around the world. Higher graduation rates and lower unplanned, teen pregnancy rates, they noted, are amazing strides, but the fight for equality and justice continues. Jarrett and Tchen embraced the Summit motto, “Today, we’ll change tomorrow,” evoking a spirit of ingenuity, ambition, and possibility.

One of the highlights of the day was when Mikaila Ulmer, Founder and CEO of Me & The Bees Lemonade, introduced President Barack Obama. Ulmer is a social entrepreneur, bee ambassador, advocate and student; she is also eleven years old. “What makes great entrepreneurs,” she started out,  “is what comes naturally for kids…. Entrepreneurs hold the American Dream. And the biggest dreamers are kids. We dream big. We dream about things that don’t even exist yet. We believe in our dreams.” Ulmer’s message reminds us that people of all ages have the power to transform their lives, communities, and the world, if they allow themselves to embrace creativity.

In addition to the inspirational keynote addresses, the Summit also included numerous panels of experts discussing pressing issues in gender equality. Jessica Sager’s session, “The Promise of Our Youngest Girls: Investing in Early Childhood Education,” was moderated by Rafael López, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, and included Alison Gopnik, Marcy Whitebrook, Nicole Mason, Tonia McMillian, and Sherrie Westin. Dr. Gopnik began the discussion with a shortened version of her TED talk on how babies think.  The panel went on to address such issues as: How do we increase wages and professional development for the women who care for and educate our youngest citizens? How do we ensure that working mothers have access to quality child care? And how do we provide equitable access to quality early learning environments for our youngest girls–and, indeed, all children?

The conversation about child care did not end with the panel, however. The final hour of the Summit featured a conversation between Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. During this interview, Ms. Obama told a story of how she brought her daughter, Sasha, to an interview because she lacked another option. “I had been mothering-part time and working full time…because the thing I found out about working half-time is you only get paid for half-time,” she said with a laugh. But with this new position, Ms. Obama would only settle for a position and a schedule that would allow her to give her daughters the care they needed. The crowd celebrated as she told Ms. Winfrey, “I got that job because I did not compromise.” Ms. Obama reminds us that working parents in all job sectors struggle with finding appropriate, affordable care for their children. We are glad that the universality of the child care climate received the attention it did at the Summit. If we are going to transform child care in this country, we need to continue having honest conversations about the state of child care, no matter how personal or difficult they may be.

The Summit was hosted by The White House Council of Women and Girls in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation. More information on the Summit, including video footage, can be found at the website: http://www.theunitedstateofwomen.org/

 

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Guest Post: Family Child Care Providers at the Yale University Art Gallery

Authors: Jessica Sack and Elizabeth Williams, Yale University Art Gallery

For almost three years, the Yale University Art Gallery and All Our Kin have collaborated to offer professional development sessions to family child care providers. We at the Gallery are so grateful for this partnership, which has led not only to new friendships and relationships in New Haven but has catalyzed new projects related to bilingual education and early childhood education.

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Experimentation has marked much of our work with All Our Kin. We have tried a number of different models for these workshops over the years, including multiple times, days of the week, meal options, and languages. We have also experimented a great deal with the focus of the sessions: topics have ranged from storytelling to special exhibitions to child development. Sessions take place at the Gallery and are led by both Gallery educators as well as by Wurtele Gallery Teachers, Yale graduate students whom the Gallery employs as museum educators. The Wurtele Gallery teachers who have been involved—Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, Tess Korobkin, Mary Kim, Tony Coleman, and Emmanuel Lachaud—continually reflect on the enormous impact their experience with All Our Kin  has had on their teaching practice and lives in New Haven. For instance, Tess noted that something wonderful happens when people share a meal and are able to talk about the experience of looking at art together. We have kept this in mind as we have planned our sessions.

As Ana Maria began to coordinate sessions, she also invited providers to return with their families, friends, and students. This resulted in a summer filled with tours in Spanish for families and friends.  Ana Maria helped us think about how we could work with Spanish-speaking groups more easily and helped us translate our self-guided family materials into Spanish. These include our Architecture Guide, Looking Closely with Felt and Yarn, and Exploring Art Together. At the same time, the museum created a task force to look at the needs of our Spanish-speaking audience. This task force, comprised of members of our business office, visitor services, and education, met with participants in the All Our Kin workshops to better understand their perspective. As a result of the meetings and the work the task force did, the museum now has all family materials, maps, and general museum information in English and Spanish.

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This past year we have been working to structure the workshops to focus on developmental skills of young children. We did a session on fine motor skills that modeled activities for providers to do in their own work. We looked at objects in the special exhibition and worked on a project that focused on the fine motor skills of cutting and sculpting. As the year went on, we incorporated more storytelling into our activities. For our workshop on emotional development, we read Our Many Colored Days in English and Spanish in front of a painting by Pierre Bonnard. Participants thought about the connection between the story and the painting and then focused on ideas of mood and emotion.  At another workshop on imagination, Emmanuel and Mary read Where the River Begins in English and Spanish in the American Landscape Room. Participants were asked to look around as they listened to the story and imagine which paintings would fit as illustrations. At the end of the story we had a lively discussion about which paintings fit best and why. The group agreed that this kind of activity could work with many different stories. Finally, in one project, providers made their own books in the studio to foster the imagination. The hope is that these books can be used with the children and also spark new ideas for projects with kids.

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As you can see, this collaboration has had quite an impact on the Gallery’s teaching. We now work with many more groups of young children as result of All Our Kin participants bringing children. We also do a lot more teaching in Spanish, which has helped us realize the importance of having multilingual staff members; we are keeping this in mind as we hire new Wurtele Gallery Teachers. The planning for the sessions has been truly collaborative and we have learned an enormous amount from our colleagues at All Our Kin.

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