As our gift to you this holiday season, we’d like to share one of our provider’s thoughts about what makes family child care special for caregivers, children, and families alike. Many thanks to Josie Queen for beautifully articulating her experience as a family child care provider and mother.
“I was working a corporate job when I became pregnant with my daughter and knew I would need a good daycare so I could return to work after her birth. I looked at daycares both close to my job and close to home, weighing the benefits of each. I looked mostly at daycare centers and, like many other parents in the same situation, was shocked to find out that I would be paying about a third of my salary to place my daughter in a center. The ones I really liked and trusted were even more expensive and I just couldn’t bring myself to settle for the ones that were a chaotic free-for-all when I went to visit.
I called a few family child care programs, but none had spaces for infants and I called as a last resort, mistakenly thinking that a center would have so much more to offer. So, desperate and close to giving birth I started thinking about opening a family child care for myself. It seemed the perfect solution. I had fifteen years of nanny experience with all ages of children and an associate’s degree in early childhood education. I would be able to stay with my daughter while, at the same time, providing the second salary that we just can’t live without. So I applied for my license with a huge amount of help from Nilda Aponte and All Our Kin and started advertising. It took a whole year to actually get any families to enroll, but at last, on September 6, 2011, I opened my doors to my first two toddlers.
So what does it mean to be a family child care provider? I have been lucky enough to meet quite a few other providers in the last year and what I can tell from those encounters is that we offer a safe, fun, loving and warm environment to the children and families we care for. The ratio of children to adults is a small one; we’re allowed six children up to five years of age and three children of school age before and after school. Only two of those children can be under two years of age. So we are able to get to know the children quickly. We discover their likes and dislikes, we understand their tears and what will bring a smile to their faces, we encourage them and cheer for them and we let them know it’s safe for them to try new things and to broaden their curiosity. All this in a home environment. The children I care for, at least the older ones, have become fast friends. Play is an important learning experience and the children enrolled in my program and my daughter are constantly learning: how to share, how to be good friends, to be empathetic, and that the world does actually extend beyond themselves and their own interests. Now that I also have two infants in my home, the older children are learning what it takes to care for a baby. I see it in their pretend play with the dolls and the stuffed animals.
A family child care offers a more personal opportunity and allows me to share more one on one time with each child. I know each of them by heart. “Heart” is a good word for what it feels like to have children come to my home each day. I think each and every family child care provider falls in love with the children in their care. It becomes more than just a “job.”
Of course, there are a few practical benefits to attending a family child care program: we don’t usually close on snowy days (or after hurricanes if we still have power), we can be flexible with drop-off and pick-up times, and our schedules don’t have to be rigid. We can take breaks through the day to sit and read a book or ten together, or to sing songs and dance to the music the children love, or we can decide to make play dough, or bake, or go and weed and water our vegetable garden or if the children are just enjoying playing together, then we can just spend the day playing. The children still get the learning experiences that they would get in a more structured setting such as a center; they play with blocks and manipulatives learning math and logical skills and they start to recognize numbers and letters and eventually words through our reading, songs and craft projects. But they also get the benefit of being at “home” all day. They eat family style meals together, get to know the other parents and develop important relationships with each other, and we spend hours outside, running, jumping, climbing, playing. And I try to foster the children’s imaginations constantly. I get a real kick out of watching them “go to” the supermarket and library. Or take their dollies and animals for a ride in the elevator or airplane.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, if I had known what a family child care looks like and offers to families and their children, I would not have hesitated to place my daughter in that kind of setting. A family child care is, literally, a home away from home.”
– Josie Queen
Lil Cupcakes Daycare