National Adoption Month: Family Child Care Providers Support All Families

November is National Adoption Month, when child welfare agencies across the country work to increase national awareness and bring attention to the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system.

Like foster families, family child care providers offer a surrogate family for children when their parents are not able to care for them. These providers support families in a multitude of ways and ensure that children are in safe and nurturing environments throughout the day. They are community resources, both caring for children and referring families to programs and opportunities that meet their needs.

When it comes to finding child care, family child care providers are often the first choice for socially and economically marginalized families. These providers’ programs are typically located nearby, reflect the diversity of their communities, cost less and are more likely to offer flexible hours. They give families opportunities to pursue gainful employment, higher education and more, knowing their children are in familiar homes. This relationship can keep children safe and families strong.

Economic and social factors impact the risk of child maltreatment and neglect. Family child care providers can mitigate this risk by connecting families to resources, from economic resources to services for children with delays or disabilities. The work of family child care providers, and the work of All Our Kin in supporting these valuable community resources, helps children and families thrive by promoting economic opportunity and social engagement.

What if all parents had access to quality, affordable child care programs?

What if every community were empowered and supported to ensure that every child begins their life with all the advantages, tools, and experiences that we, as a society, are capable of giving them?

As I reflect on the needs of all types of families, policies and programs that support their success, like those of All Our Kin, help me imagine these possibilities.

Ana Elisa is the Research, Evaluation, and Data Specialist at All Our Kin. She is an adoptee who spent several years studying adoption and child welfare policy. Earlier this year, she led a workshop at the American Adoption Congress Annual Conference on the role of institutional policy in minimizing secrecy and promoting respect for all family members.

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Child Care in Crisis: Connecticut’s Cautionary Tale

The following is the text of a blog written by All Our Kin CEO Jessica Sager as part of the National Women’s Law Center’s Child Care NOW guest blog series. The original blog post can be viewed here

CCN_1-295x295At the National Women’s Law Center gala last week, Elizabeth Warren spoke from the heart about the critical importance of child care and its impact on her own life.  As a child care advocate, I was both moved and saddened by her speech, as I reflected on the challenges children and families face in my own state of Connecticut.

I am the founder and CEO of All Our Kin, an organization that works to create and sustain high-quality home-based child care programs for families that desperately need access to care. These families rely on vouchers to help them pay for the care that we create. However, recent changes to the federal Child Care Development Block Grant, combined with our state’s budget deficit, have led to a crisis in funding that severely limits families’ access to vouchers. The consequences are devastating: child care programs are closing, working parents are making impossible choices between their job and their children’s healthy growth and development, and thousands of children are missing out on important early learning opportunities.

Connecticut’s is a cautionary tale; as an early adopter of new federal regulations, we are already seeing the impact of inadequate funding on our early childhood ecosystem. By 2018, most states in the country will face the same harsh realities. We must act quickly to ensure that families nationwide are not stripped of the critical support they need to access early care and education.

In Connecticut, two full-time working parents earning state minimum wage will make a gross salary of $42,016 per year; the average cost of child care for an infant and a preschooler is more than $20,000 per year. Child care vouchers make it possible for thousands of children in these low-income families to attend licensed child care programs that meet safety and quality standards, thereby allowing thousands of parents to participate in the workforce.

However, since August of last year, Care4Kids, Connecticut’s voucher program, has been closed to new working families. Without Care4Kids, many parents find themselves choosing between leaving the workforce or placing their children in unlicensed, unregulated care. Child care providers are struggling to stay open in the face of dwindling enrollment. And, of course, those most affected are our youngest children, who, at a critical time in their development, are losing access to safe, high-quality early care and learning experiences.

Care4Kids has been closed to the majority of new families for more than a year. Over that time, Connecticut lost 11,914 Care4Kids slots—that means that 11,914 less children are currently being served by the voucher program than were being served before the program closure. This is more than a 50 percent decrease in the number of children being served. For our youngest children, the impact is most severe: 52 percent of the slots lost since August 2016 are infant and toddler slots.

Soon after Care4Kids closed to new working families, we surveyed our network of home-based child care providers to assess the impact. Just months after the program closed, 69 percent of our family child care providers reported having to cut back on household expenses as their income declined. Fifty-five percent of child care providers knew parents who had to turn down a job offer because they could not afford care, while 56 percent knew families who chose to enroll their children in unlicensed care.

“Parents and providers can’t survive like this,” Jacqueline Almanzar, a family child care provider with nineteen years of experience in early childhood education, told us. While Jacqueline’s program typically operates at full capacity, she is now down to two full-time children. “This is the worst I’ve seen things since starting my child care business. Every week, I get calls from parents who need care, but they can’t afford it without Care4Kids.”

Many child care providers are doing everything they can to help parents access care, even significantly lowering their rates or caring for children for free. But it’s not sustainable. Child care providers need to be able to support themselves and their families, and providing high-quality early care and education is expensive. Connecticut’s child cares—both centers and home-based programs—are closing; child care center closures increased by 55 percent in 2016-2017, compared to the previous year.

The damage that we are doing to our state’s economy, its infrastructure, and its residents will not quickly be undone. Child care programs that took years to build will disappear. Parents will lose jobs. And children’s health, safety, and development will suffer.

We know the solution to this crisis: a fully funded Child Care and Development Block Grant. This is not a Connecticut problem—lack of investment in an early childhood system that meets the needs of all working families is a national problem that requires national leadership. In Connecticut, we’ve seen the results of doing nothing. The good news is that we have the opportunity to turn things around. It’s time for Congress to take immediate action to fully fund the Child Care and Development Block Grant so that parents can work, children can learn, and child care providers can support families with high-quality care.

Jessica Sager, Esq., is the co-founder and chief executive officer of All Our Kin, and a lecturer in education studies at Yale University. She is a Pahara Aspen Fellow, a Public Voices Fellow, and an Ashoka Fellow.

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For Years, She’s Inspired All Our Kin’s Providers and Staff. Now, Nilda Aponte is Inspiring Women Across the Country.

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When Catherines, a women’s clothing brand, released its fall collection earlier this month, All Our Kin’s very own Nilda Aponte was among the models featured. Through their national campaign, “Living an Inspired Life,” Catherines seeks to highlight real women making a difference in their communities and inspiring others to do the same.

And as a fervent advocate for women and children in New Haven, who approaches her work transforming the lives of All Our Kin’s family child care providers and the children and families they serve with an incredible passion for justice and a genuine love for others, it is no surprise that Nilda was one of the five women chosen.

“I was so honored to be selected; it’s something I never imagined in my wildest dreams,” says Nilda, reflecting on the experience. In May, Catherines sent Nilda and her daughter Sarah down to Cape May, New Jersey for three days of pampering and photo shoots at Willow Creek Winery and Farm. “It was a whirlwind few days,” Nilda recalls. “The best part was the opportunity to connect with the other women who were chosen: laughing, sharing stories, and celebrating the incredible work that is being done in the community. It was really powerful.”

As part of the campaign, Catherines interviewed each of the women about what drives them in their work. “I’m most proud of my service to others when I see parents speak up and advocate for their children and their rights,” says Nilda. That statement exemplifies the type of leader Nilda is—she uses her voice to encourage, empower, and motivate others to reach their full potential and see themselves as leaders.

This is the approach Nilda uses in her work with family child care providers at All Our Kin. And the story of how she got here is truly special. “I came to Connecticut on vacation, and I stayed because of All Our Kin,” Nilda remembers, smiling. “Somehow everything fell into place to allow me to stay and grow with this organization and in this community, and I’m so grateful.”

In 2003, Nilda was living in Puerto Rico, raising her five children and working towards her Master’s degree. She boarded a plane to Connecticut to visit her brother, who lived in Stratford. She made it a point to spend some time in New Haven to see Yale University. As she was walking around the city, she spotted the Spanish newspaper La Voz. In the corner was a tiny advertisement that indicated that All Our Kin was looking for part-time help. Something about the advertisement stuck with Nilda; she called the number and made a decision: if she got the job, she was going to stay in Connecticut.

“My mother thought I was crazy!” Nilda laughs. “She tried so hard to convince me to come back to Puerto Rico. I was leaving my whole life behind. But it felt right. I was at a point in my life when I knew I was ready for a change.” And as if in response, the stars aligned: Nilda got the job with All Our Kin, she got a house nearby, and she got subsidized slots for her two youngest children at Creating Kids Childcare Center, a high-quality local preschool program that is also a longtime partner of All Our Kin. It was meant to be.

When Nilda joined All Our Kin in August of 2003, she was the fourth staff member and the first Tool Kit Licensing Coordinator. Since then, she has taken on a variety of roles and has been pivotal to All Our Kin’s growth, launching the Tool Kit Licensing Program in Hartford and Norwalk and heading expansion to Bridgeport. In 2015, Nilda returned full-time to All Our Kin’s New Haven office as the Provider Showcase Program Director. In this role, she heads an innovative new initiative aimed at raising the quality of child care and giving parents and employers easy-to-understand information, all in one place, about high-quality local family child care options.

“Coming to New Haven has really shown me that I have a voice, that I can speak up for my children, and that I am part of a community. When I lived in Puerto Rico, everything centered on the family; I never felt a broader sense of community. But since moving to New Haven, my community has become an extension of my family, and I have raised my kids to be engaged as well,” Nilda says.

Throughout her time in Connecticut, Nilda has received numerous awards and recognition for her service, dedication, and leadership. She attributes her success to her ability to approach all things from a place of love: “I think with love, you can accomplish so many things and really get to people’s hearts.” We could not agree more—Nilda touches the hearts of so many in the All Our Kin community every day, and we are so excited to see her honored through the Catherines campaign!

 

Nilda.PNGTo learn more about Catherines’ “Living an Inspired Life” campaign, see photos of Nilda in the fall collection, and read Nilda’s interview, click HERE.

 

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Back to Basics: Ten Years Later, Flora Soto Brushes Up On Her Business Skills

Flora (Lolly) Soto has been working with children for her entire adult life, both as a family child care provider and as a parent. Together with her husband of 41 years, she has raised nine children, seven of whom she adopted through Connecticut’s foster care system. She has long been the owner of Lolly’s Daycare in West Haven, where she takes great pride in facilitating the healthy growth and development, and the early learning experiences, of her own and other’s children.

“I do it for the smiles, and for the little moments that bring such joy to the lives of caregivers and parents. Last night, my youngest foster child took three steps and called me ‘Mama’ for the first time. These are the things that melt my heart. Whether the children in my program are laughing, crying, smiling, or pouting, I feel lucky to be a part of their growing experience,” Flora reflects.

Flora first came to All Our Kin 10 years ago, when she went through the Tool Kit Licensing Program and took the 10-week entrepreneurship series. Over the years, the demands of owning a business and raising a family led Flora to lose touch with All Our Kin’s Family Child Care Network. That is, until she got a call from All Our Kin Business Consultant Jane Lee. Jane was looking to reengage former All Our Kin providers in the organization’s business supports and services. Flora was looking to brush up on her business skills after her daughter, who had handled all of the accounting for her child care business, moved away. It was a perfect match.

Over the course of six months, Jane visited Flora’s program every other week for one-on-one Business Consulting sessions. These sessions covered everything from accounting and record keeping to parent contracts and Flora’s handbook. Jane and Flora carefully reviewed and revised every document that is part of the enrollment packet for Flora’s program, focusing on updating content and creating brand recognition by adding the logo for Flora’s program to everything. In addition, Jane brought Flora resources to share with the families in her program.

“Family child care providers are often a trusted source of information for the families in their programs and the members of their communities,“ Jane says. “Flora takes that role very seriously. Not only was she quick to apply every business-related suggestion that I shared with her, but she was also hungry for ways to better connect the children and families in her program to community resources and services. She truly approaches her work with families in a holistic way.”

For Flora, All Our Kin’s Business Consulting program has transformed the way she manages her family child care business. She credits Jane with helping her organize every aspect of her business, which in turn has freed her to focus more on her role as an early childhood educator. Flora’s reintroduction to All Our Kin enforced the skills she had learned through the entrepreneurship series many years prior, empowered her to master new business and marketing strategies, and ignited a desire to deepen her knowledge of early childhood curriculum and development through All Our Kin. She hopes to join All Our Kin’s Educational Consulting program in the fall.

“It’s hard to put into words all the ways that Jane’s Business Consulting sessions have helped me. Just this morning, I told her about how things seemed to be breaking around the house left and right, and she reminded me that I can write off some of these unforeseen expenses for the business. She is always finding ways to help me run my business more effectively, and the knowledge she has shared with me will stay with me forever!” Flora says.

Thank you to The Community Fund for Women and Girls for supporting All Our Kin’s Business Consulting work in the Greater New Haven region. For more information about All Our Kin’s business supports and services for family child care providers, please contact Jane Lee (New Haven) at 203-892-9696 or Katie Stenclik (Bridgeport & Stamford/Norwalk) at 203-491-6727.

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All Our Kin Presents at UNCF Student Leadership Conference

In June, All Our Kin’s Chief Operating Officer Erica Phillips, and Research, Evaluation and Data Specialist Ana Elisa Franco-Labarga had the honor of presenting at United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) 2017 Student Leadership Conference at Gallaudet University’s Kellogg Conference Center in Washington, DC. This conference launches a cohort of over seventy exceptional undergraduate scholars into their summer internships in industries as diverse as health care, education and finance, preparing them to make the most of their summer experiences.

Erica and Ana Elisa were charged with leading a workshop on Critical Thinking, in which they presented approaches and tips for the scholars to use when asked to complete an ambitious project. The scholars were encouraged to look at these experiences as opportunities rather than obstacles and learned strategies for successful communication between supervisors and supervisees.

Presented with an approach to project-planning, these scholars engaged with a real-world example of a big question: To what city should All Our Kin expand?

All Our Kin had previously tackled this question of expansion from New Haven to Bridgeport, Stamford/Norwalk, and most recently to New York City. Scholars worked collaboratively to break down the question into approachable sections and create a plan for research and analysis. When presenting their work to the larger cohort, the scholars successfully identified every major question All Our Kin had posed when exploring options for expansion.

In addition to learning a new approach to tackling challenges, scholars learned about All Our Kin’s mission and work. For some scholars, this was their first interaction with a family child care network. Some shared memories of women serving their communities, caring for and educating young children. These scholars were excited about All Our Kin’s mission and eager to engage around the work.

Though they were asked to describe a research plan, not complete the research necessary to select a city, one scholar told us all the answer from the start: New York City. Just as they guessed, All Our Kin will be focusing on New York City, for now. We hope that some of these scholars will work with All Our Kin in the future, helping make our vision for growth a reality!

The young people selected to participate in the United Negro College Fund’s Student Leadership Conference left poised to turn their summer challenges into opportunities to shine. They now carry knowledge of the work of family child care providers to their internships and beyond.

United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. They provide student scholarships, financial support to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and serve as the nation’s leading advocate for the importance of minority education and community engagement.

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“I haven’t seen any organization do anything as important as this, as well as this, anywhere”: Emmy Award-winning Filmmaker Greg Jacobs Speaks at All Our Kin Annual Conference

043All Our Kin’s 12th Annual Conference was the largest yet, bringing together over 200 family child care providers from across Connecticut for a day of networking, learning, reflection, and celebration. The conference was held on Saturday, June 3, at the University of Bridgeport, where providers began arriving at 8 AM for the event that is, for many, a highlight of the year. That’s because All Our Kin’s conference gives family child care providers an opportunity that they do not get anywhere else: a day of high-quality workshops, tailored specifically to home-based child care, offered in both English and Spanish.

The theme of this year’s Conference, Welcoming Our Stories, Lifting Our Voices, called on providers to recognize the power of their lived experiences and the potential of their collective actions. In line with this theme, the morning began with a keynote speech from Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Greg Jacobs, co-founder of Chicago-based Siskel/Jacobs Productions, and co-director of No Small Matter, a documentary about the campaign for high-quality early care and education for all children in the United States. Reflecting on the work of All Our Kin, Jacobs told the audience, “You can’t have high quality child care NSM Natashawithout the providers who do the important work of caring for young children. I haven’t seen any organization do anything as important as this, as well as this, anywhere.”

In addition to framing the conversation around the critical importance of investments in early care and education, Jacobs shared video clips from No Small Matter with the audience. One clip stood out: it featured All Our Kin’s own family child care provider Natasha Auguste-Williams, owner of Sweetpea Home Daycare in Bridgeport. In the video, Natasha’s love for her work and love for children was tangible, drawing huge applause from her fellow providers. The message was clear: a national child care system cannot exist if it does not include the incredible family child care providers like Natasha who are going above and beyond for our communities’ youngest children.

120Following the keynote, family child care providers participated in a variety of interactive workshops, from  “Mindfulness for Stress Reduction” to “Veggies and Sweets- Getting Children to Love One and not Overdue the Other.” The workshops were led by instructors with expertise in both early childhood education and adult learning. Several of these instructors were All Our Kin staff members, while others were family child care providers in the All Our Kin network, bringing their firsthand experience creating exciting learning opportunities for children in home-based settings. Providers in attendance left each workshop feeling empowered to implement new strategies and activities in their programs.

During lunch, providers heard from a very special guest speaker: David Wilkinson,DW and providers Commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood. Commissioner Wilkinson, who most recently served as Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation under President Barack Obama, told providers that he knows the value of the work they do for families and for their communities. He shared his experience growing up poor, with a superhero single mom whose hard work and nurturing care facilitated his success—all the while knowing that one small mishap could have completely changed his life trajectory. “Intervening in early childhood is the best opportunity we have to set someone on the path to success. Children depend on those around them. Supporting the child means supporting parents and caregivers. And if the whole country had All Our Kin, we would be doing a much better job of that,” Wilkinson said.

1445.2At the end of the day, it was clear that the conference was about much more than professional development; it was a recognition that family child care providers do some of the most important work there is—caring for and educating our youngest children—and they deserve to be honored for that work. They are leaders in their families and in their communities; they are strong women full of compassion, creativity, and courage. And that is why, year after year, All Our Kin’s Annual Conference will continue to celebrate them by welcoming their stories and lifting their voices.

A special thank you to All Our Kin’s Dana Holahan and Kim Braun, without whom the conference would not have been possible. Their endless hard work and commitment to creating an experience that was of the highest quality for providers made the day a great success. Thank you as well to the University of Bridgeport for hosting the conference, and to the many volunteers who helped along the way.181.JPG

 

 

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“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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