Bridgeport Network Kickoff was full of surprises, learning, and fun!

Hi everyone!

Let me introduce myself.  My name is Ana and I’m the new Child Care Policy Fellow at All Our Kin.  I am absolutely thrilled to be working here!  I am inspired by the way All Our Kin enables people to empower their own communities and I’m honored to be a part of this change-making process.

In my first few weeks here, I’ve hit the ground running–learning, doing, and participating as much as possible.  I’ve been getting to know the wonderful staff here. They lead by example, showing me the passion and commitment that goes into All Our Kin.  Between the familiar faces I’ve begun to see at meetings and the close-knit feel of the AOK office, this Margaret Mead quote has been ringing in my head:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

At the kickoff event for our brand-new Bridgeport Network, I had the privilege of meeting a group of especially committed citizens: nearly fifty family child care providers seeking ways to better serve the children they care for.  Within minutes the room was abuzz with conversation.  The women in attendance were not strangers for long as they began sharing advice and words of encouragement with each other. With All Our Kin’s Network now in Bridgeport, one woman explained, she could realize her dream of becoming a true professional in the field of early child care.  Others echoed this sentiment, speaking with fervor about the plans they had for increasing the quality of their programs and their gratitude for All Our Kin’s support.

The level of enthusiasm each woman showed for each new activity was far beyond what I anticipated from adults who had just completed a full day’s work caring for children.  A zealous curiosity saturated the room as Maureen, an educational consultant at All Our Kin, demonstrated how to make enticing and stimulating toys from household items. Then, “Tooty-ta,” a do-as-I-do song and dance to a hip-hop beat, got everyone out of their seats.  A story whose surprise ending involved an unconventional use of an apple was made even better by the fact that everyone in attendance got to take home not only a copy of the story, but an apple as well.  When I saw one woman help another woman’s son complete the vinegar-paint craft project while his mother ate dinner, I understood just how committed these women are to supporting not only children, but also each other.

The Bridgeport Network is off to a promising start.

Of course, the ultimate beneficiaries of Network meetings are the children in our communities.  As All Our Kin expands its support for existing and aspiring family child care providers to the Bridgeport area, more children will have access to the quality early learning experiences that will enable their success throughout their lives. Seeing how hungry providers are for the resources with which to improve their programs reminded me of the critical need for policies that actively support family child care providers on paths of professional development.  Such policies must afford family child care providers the respect they deserve for their challenging work, and most importantly must recognize how vital quality early childcare is to the future of our communities.

If we want better outcomes for children, if we want increased school readiness and higher reading levels, if we want to diminish the achievement gap, then we must have policies that invest in children by investing in their first teachers.  The determination shown by the women who provide this crucial care inspires me as I seek ways to support and affirm their work.

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