Testimony on Connecticut’s Race to the Top Application

Good morning. I’m Jessica Sager, the executive director of All Our Kin. Thank you for this opportunity.
I want to speak to the Race to the Top competitive preference priority of including all early learning and development programs in the state’s quality rating and improvement system and, by extension, in the full array of quality enhancement initiatives and supports that we choose to offer to early childhood professionals.
Home-based child care providers, both licensed and unlicensed, play a crucial role as the teachers of our youngest and most vulnerable children. The majority of infants and toddlers are cared for in home-based settings, and children with socioeconomic risk factors are most likely to be in home-based child care arrangements.
We at All Our Kin have invested significantly and with tremendous success in supporting unlicensed caregivers to meet state standards and become licensed family child care providers, with significant effects on the health, safety, and professionalism of their programs. However, we believe it is even more essential for Connecticut to invest in already-licensed family child care programs, ensuring that these programs meet the highest possible levels of quality.
In the words of Dr. Ed Zigler, family child care will never go away, nor should it. Family child care offers an intimate setting for infants and toddlers, and permits siblings of multiple ages to attend the same program. It is often more affordable and convenient than center-based care, and meets the needs of parents working second shift jobs or irregular hours. But family child care varies wildly in quality, from programs meeting the highest possible standards to programs that do regrettably little to support children’s development.
We know how to improve early care and education programs. The School Readiness program is a proven model for creating quality care. But that program, and the funding and technical support that accompanies it, has not been available to family child care programs, and we offer very little to encourage our family child cares to meet quality standards above and beyond the licensing minimum.
Recent research from Mathematica and the Erickson Institute demonstrates that the best way to improve family child care quality is through creating staffed family child care networks with specially-trained coordinators and strong, relationship-based models for training and professional development. Staffed networks can also provide a centralized mechanism for assessing and ensuring quality in family child care programs. All Our Kin is one such nationally-recognized model; our work has been recognized as a model by Zero to Three and the National Infant Toddler Child Care Initiative, among others, and other privately-funded initiatives, such as Homelinks, exist in our state as well. But we have yet to invest as a state in this proven model for raising quality in the programs where so many of our most vulnerable children are cared for each day. I hope we will seize the opportunity before us now, with or without Race to the Top funding. Thank you.

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