“Family child care is more than just caring for the children, we care for the parents and families also.”

By Ambata Kazi-Nance, Communications Fellow

All Our Kin Early Head Start Family Child Care Specialist Debra Kelly and All Our Kin Early Head Start Ambassador Parent Lakeia Moore Discuss the Importance of Parents and Caregivers Working Together

A few months ago, All Our Kin had an opportunity to feature an amazing parent-educator partnership at The Bipartisan Policy Center’s national forum, “Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships: Spotlighting Early Successes Across America” in Washington D.C. The vignette featured Debra Kelly, formerly an Early Head Start (EHS) family child care educator and most recently an All Our Kin EHS Family Child Care Support Specialist, with EHS ambassador parent, Lakeia Moore. The event provided an excellent opportunity to amplify the importance of family child care in improving educational outcomes for children and its larger impact on families and communities.

We recently sat down with Debra and Lakeia to learn more about their relationship and to hear their reflections on having their stories captured in the video vignette and shown to a national audience. Read on to learn about their partnership and how the filming experience has inspired and deepened their work in service to families and children.

How long have you known and worked with each other?

Debra:  [Lakeia’s] daughter [Nevaeh] started with me when she was about one. I met her because her sister had a child in my program a couple of years earlier and she recommended me to [Lakeia]. And that’s how we became partners in working with her child.

Lakeia: I enrolled my daughter in Debra’s program through [the] All Our Kin [Early Head Start program].  [Nevaeh] was at another program before that, but the transportation was hard for me, and I wanted something that was in my community. When I visited Debra’s program, I really wanted my daughter to go there. She’s been there since she was 16 months old.

Debra K 19

What were your first impressions of each other?

Debra: That she really cared about her child and her child’s development.

Lakeia: She was very warm and nice, and she explained things if I didn’t understand them. I liked how she treated the children and how everything was decorated with the pictures on the walls and the science area. The different parts of the room were like different adventures for the children.

Why did you choose family child care? How do you think family child care differs from child care centers?

Debra: I chose family child care in the beginning because I had a new baby at an older age. I call my daughter my “surprise package.” [When she started school,] I wanted to be more available to her. I was working in the school system and I could see where she was going to become a latchkey kid, and I didn’t want that. So I spoke with my husband about changing my career and doing family child care, and he said, “Alright, if you can do it, do it.” So I was able to be there for my daughter, who was about 7 years old at the time, and I loved it. It was a transition from preschool, because that’s what I taught for 16 years, and it gave me an opportunity to have more control of how I help children in their development outside of a formal setting. I enjoyed it and kept doing it. And my surprise package is now 20.

Debra K 18

With family child care, you get to be able to spend more personal, quality time with the children. It’s such a smaller group of children. I think that’s one of the most important parts. When I was in the center I had 20 to 21 children, with an assistant. With family child care, you can alter your schedule to meet the needs of the child.

Lakeia: This was the first time I ever did a child care program. I usually send my children straight to preschool, but my niece was going [to Debra’s family child care program] and she really liked it so I thought, ‘why not?’ and gave it a try. I love it, it’s a big difference. The classrooms are smaller, and [the providers] can tend to each child.

How has your life and work been impacted by working with each other?

Debra: Her impact on me was knowing that she trusted me enough to be there for her child to nurture her, enhance her development, and be a trustworthy person, where she could go to work or wherever she had to go and trust that her child was safe. That trusting relationship is everything, feeling trusted makes a provider feel they are really of value to this family.

Lakeia: A very big deal, she’s more like family. I just love her, she’s wonderful.

What quality do you value most in each other?

Debra: Her strength as a parent. It takes strength to say, ‘I’m going to go forward and make things better for my family,’ and trust that [your children] can be somewhere away from you and get what they need while you provide for your family, and that’s a quality I see in her, that love, that caring, and that strength to separate and do what you need to do.

Lakeia: She really cares, it’s not just a job for her. She takes the time, with the child and with the parents also. She’s just a caring person, and you can see it and feel it. She’s all about family.

Debra K 11 (2)

Why is it important for you to work together?

Debra: Because mom is the first teacher, and I want to have that continuity between the two of us that helps make Nevaeh feel secure and growing and developing and knowing that there’s a partnership. Being able to partner with a parent, I get to understand more of what it’s like in their family and their values for their child, and I can keep that flow going so that when the child comes in, I’m not so different. I’m what mom values. I’m what dad values. I’m a continuation.

Lakeia: Because even though Debra is the teacher, Nevaeh should be taught at home as well. It shouldn’t be you just send your child off to daycare or school and say, ‘your teacher will do it’ and that’s it. The parents have to do it also. If you work together, it will create a good outcome for the child. That’s what I believe.

 What message did you hope to get across through the video?

Debra: What I hope to come out of the interviews is that it gives a deeper perspective of what family child care providers do: the care, the love, and the expertise they put into the work they do for young children, especially infants and toddlers. It’s more than just caring for the children, we care for the parents and families also. And the uniqueness is that we’re right in the same neighborhoods as the families we service, and so we have a perspective on where they’re coming from and what their needs are and what they experience on a daily basis. That’s what I would like people to understand. It’s a lot more that we experience that people don’t see.

Lakeia: That it’s okay to send your child to daycare. A lot of people are skeptical about sending their child to daycare but I tell them, no it’s a great program, you should try it. It’s not just daycare, it’s an educational environment. With my daughter, I was having trouble potty training her, and she’s fully toilet trained now. She knows her ABCs, she knows her days of the week, her months, and her birthday. She’s more alert than my other kids at that age. She has adult conversations.

How did you feel about the video being broadcast to a live national audience at the Bipartisan Policy Center event?

Debra: It pretty much highlighted what it was like for me and [Lakeia]. Her daughter was always excited to come, and she was always excited to bring her and drop her off, and yes, [Nevaeh] does call me auntie.

Lakeia: It was wonderful, I was very happy. All Our Kin called me, and everybody told me I did great.

How has being in the video inspired your work and advocacy?

Debra K 54

Debra: It gave me an opportunity to be on the outside and look in, because you don’t really think about the impact you’re having, you just do the best you can for the families. Seeing the vignette made me say ‘wow, I’m doing something,’ I’m doing something that I take for granted and I never had the opportunity to be on the outside and see it from that perspective. Since then, I’ve met a lot of awesome providers through All Our Kin and learned that I’m not unique in that way of caring, I’m just the one that was selected.

Lakeia: Last year, my daughter and her father, we went to Washington and talked to Congress about putting children first, putting babies first. It was so scary. We went to each floor and each office and talked to members of Congress, and I was telling them to “think babies” and one of [them] thanked me and said “I believe everything you say.” It was an amazing experience. I met people from all over, from Hawaii to Louisiana. I’m now an ambassador for All Our Kin’s Early Head Start program. I call parents to invite them to meetings or do a survey, I help clean up and decorate, or if [Early Head Start] has an event I’ll be there, sometimes babysitting or participating in the program. I’m just there to help out.

Lakeia at Strolling Thunder 2018



All Our Kin is honored to partner with Zero to Three in a shared mission to ensure all babies reach their full educational and developmental potential in their early years. An exciting part of our relationship with Zero to Three has been engaging with families enrolled in Early Head Start’s family child care program to participate in Strolling Thunder, an event that brings families across the nation to Washington D.C. to encourage congress members to advocate for policies that prioritize the needs of children and families. We were delighted to support Lakeia and her family’s involvement in Strolling Thunder last year.

Navaeh at Congress

We would like to thank Debra and Lakeia for taking time to speak with us. We thank the Bipartisan Policy Center for sharing Debra and Lakeia’s story with their audiences and for amplifying the voices of families and educators in overburdened, under-resourced communities. We also acknowledge Early Head Start and United Way of Greater New Haven for their dedication to transforming opportunities for children and families through expanding families’ access to high-quality, affordable, and sustainable child care and early education.


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All Our Kin Honors Family Child Care Providers and the Important Work They Do for Children and Families on National Provider Appreciation Day

By Ambata Kazi-Nance, Communications Fellow

Woman and baby

It’s not a coincidence that National Provider Appreciation Day falls the Friday before Mother’s Day. In fact, that was the intention of National Provider Appreciation Day’s organizers: to honor and celebrate child care providers, teachers, and other educators of young children. Young children’s first teachers and caregivers, after their parents and guardians, are often child care providers, trusted by families to look after their children while they work.

Copy of Tane 1115The best child care providers understand the importance of their role as an extension of the child’s family. They seek to provide nurturing, compassionate, loving care that mimics that of the child’s own primary caregiver. They build meaningful relationships with children and their families to ensure children feel safe and loved, and create fun and engaging child care environments that spark curiosity and allow them space to explore and thrive into early childhood.

This is the type of care we witness every day in the programs of family child care providers we support. Providers like Doris Lopez, who runs Doris Lopez Daycare in Stamford, and sees her work as a family child care provider as the fulfillment of her lifelong dream to be a teacher. Doris promotes social-emotional learning in her program, seeking to understand the complex emotions of her young learners, and talking to them to help them understand and communicate their feelings. Of early childhood education, she recognizes, “It has a lot to do with knowing how to connect with a child’s feelings. The emotions—they’re a very important factor.”

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The family child care providers with whom we work embrace their role as educators of the next generation of leaders and professionals, and as such, they work together with children’s families to empower children to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams. “We have to be partners,” family child care provider Bernadette Ngoh who runs Trusted Care in West Haven notes. “I take time to listen to my parents and understand what they are dealing with,” she says. This insistence on building long-lasting relationships with parents and guardians hearkens back to Bernadette’s upbringing in Cameroon, where she says, “The children were raised by the community.”

img_0073Many family child care providers go above and beyond in the services they provide for working families by being flexible and understanding to their unique needs, such as extending their hours to earlier in the morning, or later in the evening into the night. Family child care provider Deneen Brown, owner of Mommy’s Day Care in Stamford, even arranges to pick up and drop off children in her program to assist parents dealing with lengthy work commutes. “I know they have other options for child care,” she says, “but they choose my program for their children, so I try to accommodate them.” Deneen’s compassion and understanding for the challenges working families face allows her to foster meaningful connections with families that continue on long after their children leave her program. She notes, “One of the children I used to care for is now fourteen, going into high school, and his family still talks about the care he received in my program.”

52987316_756328771434096_1418813687132585984_nFamily child care professionals provide a critically important educational need for young children, especially in Connecticut and New York City, which have some of the highest rates of educational disparities in the nation. Many families struggle to find affordable, sustainable, and high-quality child care that offers the early education young children need before entering school. By opening their homes to young children and giving them key learning experiences in the crucial early childhood years, family child care providers are improving children’s chances for success in school and life. As one family child care provider, Yanerys Aziz expressed, “For me, everything is about preparing the children. That’s golden.”


We at All Our Kin are inspired every day by the family child care providers we have the pleasure to work with. Despite the long hours they work every day, family child care providers come to our programming with enthusiasm and a joy for the work they do. We see firsthand how they love and care for the children in their programs, and bring a wealth of knowledge and wisdom into their family child care programs. Today and every day, we thank family child care providers for the incredibly valuable, necessary work they do for our youngest citizens. We applaud their passion and persistence to lay the educational foundation all children need to thrive in life.

To all family child care educators: We celebrate you!

Jessica and Janna Provider Appreciation message

Posted in All Our Kin, early childhood education, family child care, Family child care providers, Provider appreciation day | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Lifelong Dream Comes to Fruition: Family Child Care Provider Deneen Brown’s Journey to Supporting Our Youngest Learners

By Ambata Kazi-Nance, Communications Fellow


Deneen Brown owns and operates Mommy’s Day Care, a family child care program she opened in 2007, in Norwalk, Connecticut. Deneen is the recipient of a grant from Care@Work, Care.com’s enterprise arm that provides employees of corporate clients with access to the world’s largest network of care providers for backup child and adult care and ongoing care for children, seniors, pets, and the home. Deneen was randomly selected from among the members of All Our Kin’s family child care network through a lottery program to receive $10,000 to use towards enhancing her family child care program. Deneen shares her story of how she came to family child care and how she plans to use the Care@Work grant for her program.

“My mother’s home was always a home to many, and it’s the same for me. The kids become family.”

From as early as she can remember, Deneen wanted to be a teacher. “I was always playing school with my friends,” she says, “I enjoyed applying what I learned. And that’s what I do now as a family child care educator, teaching the children what I learned.” Her introduction to family child care came from her mother, who ran her own home-based child care program. Deneen assisted her mother, and her oldest child later attended. “I loved the work,” she said. “I loved the environment, the way the children came in and took their shoes and coats off and felt so at home. My mother’s home was always a home to many, and it’s the same for me. The kids become family. After becoming a mother, family child care became a passion.” Deneen wanted to pursue child care work professionally, but began working for the UPS Corporate Office in Greenwich, Connecticut, building a career there and moving to Atlanta, Georgia in 1991 when the company relocated its headquarters.

Deneen credits the birth of her youngest child in 2004, who was born thirteen weeks premature, as the impetus to launch her own family child care program. She had returned to Connecticut in 2002 to care for her mother. While on maternity leave after giving birth to her son, Deneen cared for children in her home to supplement her income. Faced with returning to work with a newborn with special care needs, she was hesitant to enroll him in a child care center. Reflecting on the safe, loving early care and education the children in her mother’s program had received, Deneen recalled thinking, “You know what? That’s what I want to do.” Family and friends urged her to start her own business. With their support and encouragement, Deneen took the leap and began building her own family child care program.

A few years after launching Mommy’s Day Care, Deneen learned about All Our Kin’s work to support and sustain family child care professionals. At the time Deneen learned of All Our Kin, the organization had recently opened a new office serving the Stamford/Norwalk region. Eager to continue growing her knowledge and practice as an early childhood educator, Deneen enrolled in All Our Kin’s Child Development Associate (CDA) courses, taking the first step in an ongoing journey with All Our Kin.

I feel such a sense of pride in what I do after attending All Our Kin classesThe facilitators go above and beyond to teach us and support us in our work.”

D6Since achieving her CDA credential, Deneen has participated in All Our Kin’s educational coaching program, through which she received one-on-one mentorship and support from an All Our Kin Education Coach to set and work towards fulfilling goals for quality enhancement. She has attended All Our Kin’s educational workshops and trainings, digging in on a wide range of topics such as: the emotional lives of toddlers; exploring nature with children; girls in books; introducing children to art and museums; and celebrating diversity through books, songs, play and the environment. Deneen says the resources and classes All Our Kin offers have had a great impact on her as a family child care educator. “I feel such a sense of pride in what I do after attending the classes,” she says. “The facilitators go above and beyond to teach us and support us in our work.” And she has engaged with peers in the All Our Kin community, coming together for a provider banquet focused on brain development and music, a spa night, and, most recently, a holiday celebration that brought together providers and kindergarten teachers, bridging the divide between the early childhood and K-12 landscapes.

Currently, Deneen and her assistant care for six children, all under the age of two. Focusing her care on younger children serves a critical need, as infant and toddler care is often in greatest demand but hardest to obtain due to high costs and limited supply. Family child care programs like Deneen’s help close this gap; they are often more affordable than center-based programs, and the intimate home-based setting allows Deneen to offer individualized care that more closely aligns with families and children’s needs. For example, Deneen works hard to accommodate families’ diverse schedules by adjusting her work hours, opening earlier or staying open later, and sometimes even meeting a parent halfway to pick up their child. It is a pleasure to help families, she says, because she knows they have other options for care, but they choose her program for their children.

“It’s a joy. The children come in the morning, and they reach for me, and their mom or dad are saying goodbye, and they say, ‘Okay, I’m alright.’”

D4When asked what she enjoys most about the work she does, Deneen exclaims, “Everything! The nurturing, the care, the hugs.” She also mentions the trust she builds with the children and families. “It’s a joy,” she says, “The children come in the morning, and they reach for me, and their mom or dad are saying goodbye, and they say, ‘Okay, I’m alright.’” Children in Deneen’s program know that they are safe and loved, and their parents go to work confident that their children are receiving quality early care and education in an environment that offers all the comforts of home.

The work does not come without challenges, of course, and Deneen notes that it is important for families to understand that while she is offering a service and is there to help, she is also running a business. To counter this challenge, Deneen says, “I have my program policies and procedures set, and this helps avoid conflict down the road.” Starting out, Deneen found the administrative aspect of running her own business to be tedious, but attending business classes through All Our Kin helped her develop a more professional approach. “I was winging it,” she says of her early business management, “I didn’t have a solid structure. All Our Kin helped me scale it down and streamline the process, making it more practical.”

Speaking on her goals for the children at Mommy’s Day Care, Deneen shares, “I want to make sure they are properly cared for and learning, that each child knows they are special, loved, and they can do anything, and that whatever challenges they come in with, we support them through those challenges.” Deneen prides herself on maintaining close relationships with the families she serves well beyond the years the children are in her program: “One of the children I used to care for is now fourteen, going into high school, and his family still talks about the care he received in my program.” She is not just in the business of child care; she is in the business of transforming opportunities and outcomes for young children and families.

At All Our Kin, Deneen joins peers who share this same commitment as well as a passion for lifelong learning and professional growth. Building their capacity as early childhood educators and small business owners through All Our Kin’s programming, family child care providers also form a community that reflects and empowers the warmth, support, and strength providers give to children and families every day.

“I want it to be a learning wonderland.”

With the grant from Care@Work, Deneen has plans that are both practical and enriching. Child 1She purchased her current home in Norwalk in 2017 and specifically chose one with an unfinished basement so that she could convert it into a separate space for her child care program. Thanks to Care@Work, Deneen will be able to add a half bathroom for the children’s use, which will allow for better supervision and fewer group trips upstairs to the bathroom. She is also working with a designer to renovate her educational space to personalize it for the children in her care. Deneen is eager to enhance the children’s physical environment to make it more fun and accessible, while also being intellectually and developmentally stimulating. “I want it to be a learning wonderland,” she says, “There will be mirrors on the walls, reading materials, shelves that children can reach with toys. The space will be open, so that children can roam freely and learn.”

Deneen is excited about the ways in which the Care@Work grant will allow her to run her program more efficiently and better serve the children in her care. Opening Mommy’s Day Care in 2007 was the fulfillment of Deneen’s lifelong dream, one that thanks to Care@Work and the support and encouragement she receives personally and professionally, will continue to grow in service to children and families in her community.

Care@Work by Care.com is committed to working with the most forwardthinking companies to support the diverse family care needs of all employees.  We are excited for Deneen to have this opportunity to enhance her family child care program through Care@Work’s generous grant and look forward to sharing the results of her renovation project. Stay tuned!

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Love, Friendship & Black Girl Magic: All Our Kin Family Child Care Providers Celebrate Diversity and Culture in Black History Month and Beyond

By Ambata Kazi-Nance, Communications Fellow


February is Black History Month. Historian and writer Carter G. Woodson created Black History Month to celebrate African American achievements and promote intellectual curiosity of African American life and history.

At All Our Kin, equity and justice are at the heart of the work we do. Current studies show that children can distinguish racial differences as early as six months old, and begin to develop racial biases in their toddler years. Our family child care professionals strive to work against these biases and positively affirm the identities of each of their children by providing early childhood education that is culturally sensitive and inclusive.

He had a dream, we are the dream!

Family child care provider Shanee Wilson, who owns and operates Sunflower Family Daycare in Stratford, focuses on love and friendship during Black History Month. Shanee read All The Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger to the children and encouraged them to point out what they saw while she read. “We talked about how the children in the book looked different from each other, but they were all still friends.”

sunflower family daycare-black history 3 (1)Shanee extended the lessons from the book reading and discussion in a special Valentine’s Day art experience. The children made handprints using black paint on white paper, and white paint on black paper. Shanee encouraged the children to see how the colors blended as they added their handprints to the paper. The children then decorated their art with paper hearts. When asked what she hopes to inspire in her young learners through their Black History Month activities, Shanee says, “I want them to love one another. I want them to know that they may have different skin colors, but they are all the same where it counts.”

Every culture, every race, matters.

Family child care provider Danaisha Lawrence introduced the concepts of segregation and inequality to the children in her program, Pieces of the Puzzle Daycare, with a sensory experiment using eggs. She showed the children two eggs, one white and one she had dyed green. “I told them the green egg wasn’t treated the same as the other egg, simply because it was green,” she says. “Then we cracked the eggs and I asked the children what was different about the eggs on the inside. They all said, ‘Nothing, they’re the same.’ I told them it’s the same with people.”

Danaisha focused her Black History Month lessons on highlighting African American Civil Rights pioneers. After learning about Rosa Parks through a storytelling and short YouTube documentary, Danaisha facilitated an art activity incorporating the lessons they had learned about inequality. Using magazines, the children cut out people they found in the pages. Danaisha encouraged the children to look for pictures of people who were different colors and genders. They then took the pictures they had cut out and glued them onto the windows of paper buses they had made.


Danaisha hopes the lessons and activities will inspire the children to dream big and never give up. “I want them to know that no matter what, you can be what you want to be,” she says.

We are Black history, too.

For Tané Trimble, who runs Tané’s Little World Day Care in New Haven, creating memorable moments with the children in her family child care program is important to her work. To teach them about Black inventor Garret A. Morgan, she led them in a sensory activity to make their own stoplights. Tané gave each of them a small picture of Morgan to glue on the back of their stoplights. “I repeated his name and had them say it 20190214_113702back to me. I told them a Black man had made this stoplight. I wanted them to understand what it represents and be able to share what they learned with their families,” she says. Tané has fond memories of what she herself learned from her teachers as a child, and she hopes when the children grow up and hear Morgan’s name or read about him in school, they will remember that they learned about him in her program. “I want it to be remembered as something I gave them,” she says.

In addition to honoring important Black historical figures, Tané also likes to spotlight the unique qualities of African American contemporary culture in her program. Inspired by the many creative ways educators highlight Black culture during Black History Month, Tané facilitated a “Black girl magic” art activity. The children painted uncooked pasta in different shapes with black paint and glued them to faces of various shades of brown; they then made dresses for the children. Tané chose the activity to highlight the beauty of African American hair textures and styles, and the joyfulness of Black life.


Carter G. Woodson envisioned Black History Month as the beginning of a year-long celebration of Black life. Our family child care providers honor Woodson’s dream by incorporating racial and cultural diversity in all aspects of their family child care programs.

Shanee makes sure the dolls and toys she uses in her program, and the books she reads to the children, reflect different races and ethnicities. She enjoys creating activities that increase the children’s understandings of diverse cultural practices.

Danaisha, who is from Jamaica and has children in her program from parts of Africa and South America, keeps a world map prominently displayed in her program and uses it to teach the children about different parts of the world. “I want them to know every culture matters,” she says.

Tané keeps the reading area in her program stocked with books by Black authors and books with pictures of Black people. In December, she recognizes Kwanzaa and teaches 20190220_224940the children about the origins and rituals of the holiday. She also makes keepsake books with photos of her and the children, which she gives to the children when they complete her program and transition to school. She does this to “let them know they are special,” and also to remember their early childhood teacher, a Black woman. Celebrating Black History Month with the children in her program reminds Tané, “We (their Black teachers) are a part of Black history, too.”

All Our Kin was created with the belief that all children, regardless of their racial and ethnic background, deserve an educational foundation that allows them to thrive in school and in life. They deserve to feel valued as citizens who contribute to society, and Black History Month is one way to encourage and celebrate that value. And as this article reminds us, Black History Month is not just for Black people, it is for all of us who inhabit this world together.

As we strive to create a more just, equitable society, we hope people of all races will recognize and celebrate Black History Month and carry the lessons it teaches of Black life and culture beyond February. Young children see color and are capable of recognizing and forming preferences based on the differences they see. Learning about the many ways African Americans impact American society and culture is one powerful way early childhood educators make a difference in how our youngest learners see the world and themselves and others within it.


If you are interested in learning more about anti-bias and anti-racist early childhood curriculum, this link provides excellent book lists, articles, and other great resources to get you started. 

Posted in All Our Kin, Black History Month, early childhood education, family child care, Family child care providers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“I consider myself an advocate for providers and families. I am here to be the voice from the field.” Family child care provider Lottie Brown speaks to policymakers at a national conference.

114“I live for the lightbulb moments”

Lottie Brown, a nationally accredited family child care provider and owner of Krayola Park in New Haven, has worked in the field of education for more than twenty years. She was inspired to start Krayola Park while working for the New Haven Board of Education as a preschool teacher. During that time, she realized that many children in the community were experiencing trauma before the age of three. Determined to intervene, Lottie decided to become a family child care provider, working with infants, toddlers, and their families in a more intimate way in order to combat early childhood trauma and facilitate healthy development.

Ask Lottie about Krayola Park, and her passion is evident: “I live for the light bulb moments—the moments when I see a child connect something they have heard before with something new. It’s a beautiful process and it is one of the many joys of this work.” Like many family child care providers, Lottie knows that the work of early childhood education is a holistic process. Her mission extends beyond the learning that happens within the walls of Krayola Park. It is about the wellbeing of the child, the family, and the community. It is this approach to her work that makes Lottie a gifted educator and a natural leader; she goes above and beyond for those around her, lifting up children, families, and fellow providers as a result. With extensive early childhood experience, a knack for public speaking, and a passion for advocacy and storytelling, Lottie is well-positioned to elevate the field.

“I am here to be the voice from the field”

41394980_376016009601784_1023187438996029440_n (1)That’s how on Thursday, August 9, Lottie became a panelist at the federal Office of Child Care’s annual State and Territory Administrators Meeting (STAM) in Arlington, Virginia. STAM brings together child care subsidy administrators from across the country to network, participate in peer discussions, share best practices, and attend presentations, all with the goal of improving child care systems and supporting the success of young children, their caregivers, and their families. And this year, administrators were eager to hear directly from child care providers themselves.

The plenary session, “A Peek Inside the Private Business of Child Care,” was designed to help child care subsidy administrators understand the impact of subsidy decisions on child care businesses. Lottie was invited to share the family child care perspective. “I consider myself an advocate for children, providers, and families. My home is their home away from home. I am here to be the voice from field,” Lottie opened. Along with fellow panelists she made the case that instability in child care subsidy programs destabilizes child care businesses; and in family child care, the provider often absorbs the resulting financial loss herself. “I took another job when Connecticut’s subsidy program shut down for 15 months. Even though it meant long hours and late nights, I wanted to make sure that families who relied on subsidy assistance could still access my program,” Lottie shared.

“Invest in organizations, like All Our Kin, that are in a supporting role”39813934_956724481195966_1400750961651089408_n (2)

The plenary session touched on many important topics, from the impact of the new federal requirements to reimbursement rates to parent education. One question centered on ways that states can invest subsidy money for maximum impact. Lottie’s answer resonated strongly with the audience. “Invest in organizations, like All Our Kin, that are in a supporting role and can bridge the gap between providers and state regulators. These support systems are critical for making family child care providers feel comfortable in allowing someone into their home, knowing that person is there to partner with them in their success, rather than monitor them.” Attendees saw this as a concrete strategy to take back to their home states.

In all, the plenary session was a huge success. One attendee remarked that it was the best plenary session throughout his years attending STAM. Reflecting on the event, Lottie said, “After the National Association for Family Child Care conference earlier this year, I set a goal for myself to talk to more people in power about how to support family child care. At STAM, I had the opportunity to do that, and to make sure that the voice of family child care was heard. I’m honored to have been included in the conversation.”

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All Our Kin celebrates community building, social justice, and self-care at our largest conference yet!

By Liam Arnade-Colwill, All Our Kin intern

“One hour, once a month, for one year, ask yourself: what can I do to help myself and my community?” -Alika Hope, founder of the Ray of Hope Project

AOK Photo 2Our 13th Annual Conference marked the largest gathering in All Our Kin’s history, bringing together over 250 family child care providers and forty staff members for a day of networking, learning, reflection, and celebration. The conference was held on Saturday, June 2nd at the University of Bridgeport, where family child care professionals from across Connecticut were joined, for the first time, by providers from our newest network in New York City!

dixonThe theme of this year’s conference, The Power of Community, encouraged providers, who are leaders in their programs and their communities, to create change through collective action. In line with this theme, the morning began with a keynote speech from T. Morgan Dixon, a social justice activist and co-founder of GirlTrek: a national health movement that “activates thousands of black women to be change makers in their lives and communities” through daily exercise. Reflecting on the importance of mental and physical wellbeing to sustained investment in the wellbeing of others, Dixon asked providers to support each other in their efforts to lead healthier lives. “I’m here to talk about radical self-care,” she said, “because I want you all to be here for a very long time. Because the kids need you.”

t. morgan dixonIn addition to underscoring how Girltrek brings communities together to spotlight Black women’s health, Dixon built on the energy, approach, and legacy of the civil rights movement to demonstrate how community is a driving force in advancing social justice. Drawing on the example of nineteenth-century abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who led thousands of African-Americans to freedom on the Underground Railroad, Dixon reminded the audience that “when Black women walk, things change.” Furthermore, Dixon highlighted how Tubman not only had to “save herself first,” but also “rally her allies” in the fight for freedom from slavery. The message was clear: we must rely not just on our own strength, but also the collective strength of many if we hope to better our health, our country, and our global community.

AOK Photo 4Following the keynote, Constance Segovia, the owner and creative director of VEO VEO –  a bilingual design and visual note-taking practice – and Alike Hope, the founder and primary vocalist of the Ray of Hope Project – a performance group that incorporates African-American spirituals and songs with live music into their participatory programs in schools, museums, and libraries across the US – facilitated roundtable discussions. The discussions opened space for providers to reflect on the meaning of community and to connect with each other in new and exciting ways. Providers were asked to communicate without words, creating visual demonstrations of the diversity and power of our family child care network while sharing moments of laughter, friendship, and understanding.

AOK workshopAfter lunch, family child care providers participated in a variety of interactive workshops, from Why Culture Matters: Strengthening Early Development Through Culturally Responsive Practice to A Community within a Community: Strategies for Successful and Supportive Parent-Provider Relationships. 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 high-quality learning opportunities for children in home-based settings.

end AOKAt the end of the day, conference participants left with much more than professional development; they departed with a vision of caregiving centered in balance, wellness, community, and love. As All Our Kin continues to grow, the power of our family child care community will grow in turn. We look forward to seeing the continued impact of our family child care providers as they work, year after year, to create equitable opportunities for all children and families. As All Our Kin CEO, Jessica Sager, said in her morning address, “Thank you for changing the world of today and the world of tomorrow.”  

Our sincerest gratitude to All Our Kin’s Dana Holahan and Kim Braun, without whom the conference would not have been possible. Thank you as well to the University of Bridgeport for hosting the conference, family child care providers Pauline Robinson-Brown (Laila’s Lighthouse Daycare), Maria Carrillo (Pili’s Day Care), Gamila Elbashir (WeEduCare Academy), and Hansi Ortiz (Shalom Family Day Care) for their workshop leadership, and to the volunteers, stakeholders, and friends who helped along the way.

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Outdoor play isn’t just fun–it’s important to children’s growth and development!

By Monica Edgerton and Angela Engborg, All Our Kin Garden Consultants

Spring is finally here, and it’s a great time to get children outside! At All Our Kin, we know that nature plays an important role in a child’s physical, social/emotional, and cognitive development. We also know that nature-based education can be a powerful tool to connect children and families to fresh, nutritious foods. That’s why we established the Garden Project, a two-year enrichment opportunity designed to enhance family child care programs’ outdoor curriculum, promote healthy eating, and encourage outdoor exercise.

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Through the Garden Project, family child care providers work with All Our Kin staff to build raised vegetable garden beds in their own backyards. Providers also receive regular visits from an educational consultant, who helps them learn how to garden and coaches around using the outdoors as an educational tool. As a result, children, from a very young age, gain valuable nature-based learning experiences and are introduced to fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. And the impact on family child care programs, and the children and families they serve, is long-lasting.

Years after participation in the Garden Project, Gamila, a family child care educator in West Haven, continues to incorporate a strong garden curriculum in her program. Every year, she engages the families in her program, assigning them a garden plot and allowing them to choose the types of seeds they would like to plant. Parents and their children 133.JPGgarden together, doing the watering and harvesting during drop-off and pick-up times. For Gamila’s program, the importance of the garden extends beyond the experience for the children: the garden builds community, it facilitates a two-generation learning experience, and it provides an additional food source for families.

Garden Project participants like Gamila know what journalist and author Richard Louv writes about at length–that allowing children to learn about, grow in, and explore nature is imperative to their wellbeing. In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Louv compiles research on children who are allowed to play freely in nature, noting that “Children used more fantasy play, and their social standing became based less on physical abilities and more on language skills, creativity, and inventiveness.” In other publications, he explores the often missing “vitamin N” as he calls it, referring to exposure to nature. The overarching theme of his work resonates with the mission of our Garden Project: that time spent in nature has broad implications for the wellbeing of children, communities, and humanity.

With all that said, spring is a great time to get children outside to enjoy the warmer8-29-2014 014 weather and explore nature. Here are a few of our go-to tips for successful outdoor play:

  • Bring plenty of water and delicious, healthy snacks!
  • Use sunblock and natural bug spray.
  • Always do a tick check after coming back from wooded areas or a thick meadow.

For ideas on how to engage children outside, check out the Living Schoolyard Activity Guide. The Guide includes 30 activities to do outside with children of any age, and features two activities for infants, toddlers, and young children led by All Our Kin family child care providers Felicitas Castellanos and Maria (Pili) Carrillo.

Enjoy exploring the great outdoors and discovering the endless possibilities for nature-based play and learning with the children in your life!

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Celebrating early childhood educators during Women’s History Month: “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

By Michelle Peng, All Our Kin intern

March is Women’s History Month, dedicated to the phenomenal women who have broken barriers and created opportunities for those who have followed. At All Our Kin, we have been reflecting on women’s narratives of excellence, solidarity, and strength–narratives that often remain untold. One such narrative is the long history of child care advocacy in the United States–a history that has always been driven by and centered around women. We honor the legacies of child care advocates, and look to their leadership in shaping our work to elevate family child care today.

undervalued-227x295The work of nurturing and educating our youngest children has historically been considered “women’s work,” taken on by mothers who cared for their own children without compensation, and enslaved or employed women caring for other people’s children. Unsurprisingly, child care work often fell to women of color. Even today, the demographics of the child care workforce continue to reflect patterns of power and privilege. Ninety-four percent of child care workers are female, and nearly half are women of color. As a result of the traditional devaluing of women’s work, particularly the work of women of color, the profession of early childhood education is often overlooked in both policy and practice. The average wage for child care workers is $9.62 per hour, despite what we know about the critical importance of early care and education to the vitality of children, families, and communities.

And yet, as long as these trends have existed, there have been women–child care providers, parents, advocates–who have resisted. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, women demanded support for the hard work of raising children. Progressive Era reformers like Jane Addams and Julia Anthrop fought for Mother’s Pensions that supported widowed mothers raising children. Decades later, poor, black women like Ruby Duncan pushed for programs that supported women and children nationwide in what became the Welfare Mothers’ Movement. Beyond these examples, there have been countless leaders who have fought for families and children, whether during the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Women’s Rights Movement and the Welfare Mothers Movement of the 1960s, or the advocacy in the wake of welfare reform in the 90s, which led to the founding of All Our Kin. The actions of these activists brought national attention to the work of child care and often resulted in policies that better supported mothers and children.

29513120_1686583771364049_7481515075637272868_n (1)In 2018, women continue to make history in the field of early childhood. Just last week, Congress passed the largest increase to child care funding in history, a bipartisan deal that included an additional $2.37 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and $610 million for Head Start (including a $115 million increase for Early Head Start). The credit for these unprecedented investments in child care goes to the early childhood professionals, mothers, and advocates across the country who have been relentless in pursuit of the supports that our educators, children, and families need and deserve.

Even as we celebrate these victories, we know that there is still work to be done. At All Our Kin, we will continue to partner with the family child care providers in our network, and the families they serve, to keep the momentum going and secure big wins for our youngest children and the educators who care for and love them. And while we look towards the future, we will continue to honor the advocates, the women, who have brought us to this point. During Women’s History Month, and every day, we know that our work would not be possible without the narratives they shared, the changes they catalyzed, and the women they empowered.

For more information about the history of child care work in the United States, check out the National Women’s Law Center report: Undervalued: A Brief History of Women’s Care Work and Child Care Policy in the United States

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What’s a Revolution without Dancing? Coming Together to Build a Better World for Our Children.

Social justice is at the heart of All Our Kin’s work; we believe that we change the future by changing what we teach the next generation. And at a time when racism, violence, and intimidation have a national platform, our work to foster empathy, compassion, and justice in our youngest children, and to inoculate against hate and fear, is more critical than ever. In recognition of this, we have embarked on a new equity initiative with the support of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund: Building a Better World for Our Children. This project brings family child care providers and All Our Kin staff together to dream the reality we want for our children, our communities, and ourselves, and then co-create strategies to carry out this vision. Because we know that if we want change for our children, then the change must start with us.

001That is why the first phase of the Building a Better World project focused on All Our Kin staff. During a two-day, deep-dive retreat, staff learned about the history of racism and its impact today, analyzed who we are as an organization and who we want to be, and reflected on our own individual biases and stories, all with the goal of better supporting each other and the providers, children, and families we serve. As a next step, we engaged forty family child care providers in anti-bias workshops with an emphasis on changing practice—embedding equity into every aspect of child care programs from interactions to curriculum. And finally, we created five short films to highlight the important work happening in family child care and elevate the diverse voices of our provider community.

In these short films, providers share, in their own words, what their work means to them. We knew that we needed a special way to share these powerful videos with our community, and honor the broader Building a Better World work. On Friday, January 26, we brought providers, staff, and stakeholders together for a celebration at the Bijou Theatre to culminate year one of Building a Better World for Our Children. We shared food and laughter with friends new and old, we danced the night away on the Bijou stage, and above all, we basked in an incredible sense of strength, hope, and community.



The evening included a short program, during which we premiered the five provider videos, and each featured provider spoke about the experience of being filmed and reflected on the critical importance of their work with children and families. Now, we are excited to share these videos with you:

Maria Carrillo • Pili’s Day Care, New Haven • Maria grew up in Peru

“My personal goal for each child is that they are happy. Preparing material so that they explore, so that they smile all day, so that they discover new things—this is my motivation.”


Doris Lopez • Doris Lopez Day Care, Stamford • Doris grew up in Colombia

“Home daycare is so much more than a babysitter. The children are learning just like they were going to school. I give all the best of me, all my love.”


Gilda Mecca • Teddy Bear Child Care, Fairfield • Gilda grew up in Stamford

“The person could make things whole, could make the person who was offended whole again by letting that person decide what they need to feel better. That’s what I use for my conflict resolution.”  


Emily Mingia-Lewis • Mingalew Family Daycare, Bridgeport • Emily grew up in the Bronx

“It’s a chance to forget what’s going on in the world and focus on the natural life. Discovering new things, even though they’re things I already know, just looking at things through different eyes.”


Bernadette Ngoh • Trusted Care, West Haven • Bernadette grew up in Cameroon

“I try to understand what needs to be covered within this age period, and I follow the kids’ lead on what they are prepared to learn.”


As is evident in the films, there is so much to celebrate when it comes to the work happening in family child care and the superhero early childhood educators who make it all possible. Still, we know that this is only part of a long journey towards justice for all children, families, and providers. With continued support from the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, we are planning for year two of Building a Better World. During this next phase, we will dig even deeper into issues of bias, racism and injustice, reflecting on our practices as an organization, developing new programming for staff and providers, and continuing to elevate the voices of our community through another round of video vignettes. We look forward to sharing this ongoing work with you, and thank our many partners who join us in creating a more just and equitable world for this and the next generation.


Thank you to our many partners and friends who made year one of Building a Better World possible:

  • Cornelius Lee and Portia Newman from Education Pioneers, for facilitating All Our Kin’s staff retreat
  • Wendy Simmons and Ingrid Canady from CT SERC for facilitating the provider workshops
  • Travis Carbonella, the videographer behind the video vignettes
  • The Bijou Theatre for hosting our celebration
  • Trattoria ‘A Vucchella for catering the event
  • Tom Ficklin for photographing the event
  • William Casper Graustein Memorial Fund for funding the project




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Black History Month: Join Us in Celebrating Black Women Educators!

By Elise Lieberman, All Our Kin intern

During Black History Month, we celebrate the work of our amazing family child care providers, many of them women of color doing one of the most important jobs there is: educating our youngest children. At All Our Kin, we know that these caregivers often don’t get the respect they deserve; we seek to honor the work of these unsung heroes who touch thousands of children and families every day, laying the foundations for a more just and equitable society.

Black women have been and continue to be instrumental in building and shaping our country. Among the diverse contributions made by black women to history, this Black History Month we particularly want to highlight black women educators whose work has transformed the lives of women and children. Join us in celebrating these phenomenal women.  

Ida B. WellsIda_B._Wells

Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist, suffragist, and civil-rights campaigner. Born into slavery in 1862, Wells was not only an influential activist – a leader in the early Civil Rights Movement and an instrumental anti-lynching pioneer whose writings spread across the globe – but a teacher in a black elementary school. Wells – educating audiences worldwide through journalism and activism as well as black children at a local level – was a true model of All Our Kin’s mission: that children, regardless of where they live, their racial or ethnic background, or how much money their parents earn, will begin their lives with all the advantages, tools, and experiences that we, as a society, are capable of giving them.

Shirley-Ann-JacksonShirley Ann Jackson

Born in 1946, Shirley Ann Jackson enrolled in MIT after excelling in science and mathematics in high school. One of only 20 black undergrads at MIT, and the only black student studying theoretical physics, she soon became the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate from MIT and the second African-American woman to have earned a doctorate in physics in the United States. Jackson’s commitment to education lead to a distinguished and multifaceted career of “firsts” in academia, government, industry, and research. She was named one of the 50 most important women in science in 2002, and would become the first woman and the first African-American to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the first African-American woman to lead a national research university. Along the way, Jackson, like Wells, has pushed for educational equity, leading efforts to increase the numbers of minorities and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Pauli MurrayPauli M

Born in in 1910, Pauli Murray was a scholar, lawyer, and activist. Upon moving to New York to attend Hunter College in 1926, Murray became involved in the civil rights movement. In addition to leading campaigns to end segregation on public transportation, Murray, like Wells and Jackson, fought for educational equity – beginning with herself. Her 1938 campaign to enroll in the all white University of North Carolina rose to national prominence and led to a lifelong friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Murray then enrolled in law school, where she was both the only woman and first in her class. Upon graduation, Murray’s extensive activism and prominent essays and poems lead to appointments to serve on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and John F. Kennedy’s Committee on Civil and Political Rights. Murray also became the first African American to earn a doctorate of jurisprudence at Yale, where a residential college now holds her name. Murray never stopped learning; after a lifetime of activism, she entered General Theological seminary and became the first African American woman Episcopal priest at the age of 67. While most famous for her work in the public sphere, Murray also worked as a literacy teacher for adults who had never learned to read. Murray’s life of activism and education are an example for All Our Kin’s work at the local, state, and national levels.

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RAshleyJaffeAwards15AOK-HiRes20-2605So often, the stories and contributions of black women remain untold and unsung. The life and work of Wells, Jackson, and Murray are three examples among many. At All Our Kin, we want to both recognize the achievements of these incredible women and inspire a new generation of black girls to follow in their footsteps or, like so many before them, to blaze their own path.

That is why this Black History Month, our focus is on not just the past, but the future: how do we ensure that today’s children of color, beginning in their earliest years, have the tools they need to thrive? One way is to ensure that black and brown children see themselves represented in literature, in positive and inspiring ways. We want to share this book list from “A Mighty Girl,” which recommends 50 books about extraordinary black girls and women. The stories of these girls and women – activists, poets, singers, doctors, teachers, painters, chefs, astronauts, mothers – span hundreds of years. All, however, share one thing: black girls and women who followed their own dreams in the face of everything society told them they could not be and do.

And, of course, among these trailblazing women belong our own providers, who are working to change the life chances of our youngest children, creating a more equitable future for the next generation. We celebrate these women during Black History month and every day.


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