For the last ten months, Ana Rader has been a vital part of the All Our Kin team, championing family child care providers, families and children online and in person. Now, Ana will bring her passion, her skill, and her dedication to children in Santiago, Chile. Ana, you have been an amazing member of our team, and we will miss you!
While Ana is irreplaceable, I’m happy to report that we have a wonderful new Policy Fellow, Rachel Wilf, joining us in September. Meanwhile, here are Ana’s thoughts on her year at All Our Kin.
A year ago, All Our Kin was a logo on a page—a job description that spoke to me—a concept I was intrigued by but had not really thought much about beyond “parents need access to child care! Women need child care!” I had been in a post-grad conundrum of finding a place to work that I actually believed in, that I felt aligned with the principles and values I hold at my core, but that would also challenge me and teach me… and I knew I had finally found that place. When I stepped through the doors on my first day at All Our Kin, I was eager to see what changemaking really looked like, and to see what role I could or would play.
When I think back on my time here, I first, of course, think of the people on the All Our Kin team. My relationships with each of them largely define my time at All Our Kin. Each person astounds me with their passion, expertise, and warmth. I love how each person approaches the work with a unique perspective and host of past experiences, and uses that perspective to fuel the meaningful reflection and discussion that drive us ever forward. I’ve had the pleasure of being “roomies” with many a new arrival at All Our Kin—and I cherish the discussions, collaboration, and friendships that have come out of such shared space. Jessica was a bit disbelieving today when I told her that our move from Grand Avenue to Chapel Street was one of my “fun All Our Kin memories”… but really what I think I found fun about that experience was the time spent with the AOK team: how we each stepped out of our regular roles to build boxes, and smile over rediscovered artifacts from AOK’s beginning, and use wooden pegs to form the desks at which we now do our work. The same feeling, I suppose, happens at our Friday staff lunches when we all come together to share, and laugh, and talk shop, and talk life. Okay, so maybe if I had to do it all again I’d choose an extra staff lunch rather than redoing the move. But still. What does changemaking look like? It’s this, exactly this. It’s building relationships, it’s showing up, it’s thinking, and challenging, and learning, and improving.
I also can’t think of a more interesting year to have jumped into the world of early childhood policy. I feel like I’ve actually seen history happen firsthand, and even saw the bits that won’t make it in the textbook. When I first started, Myra Jones-Taylor had recently been selected as Connecticut’s Early Childhood Planning Director, and one of my first big projects was planning a listening session between our providers and a member of the Planning Team. Early education advocates were all holding their breath in anticipation, waiting to see what might come out of the Planning Team’s recommendations. Their vision for Connecticut, their hopes for a system that actually improved the lives of children and families, made me hold my breath as well. Then the Governor announced his proposal for an Office of Early Childhood…and the bill began progressing from committee to committee. As Monday mornings at the Capitol, writing testimony, and lots of conference calls became part of my routine, I began to understand a whole new way of how change happens. But breath was still held. And outrage and shock felt, as the bill died before the end of the session and the future of early childhood in Connecticut became scarily unclear. Now, steps to form the Office continue, and Myra will continue her work as its executive director. While the real work is only just beginning, I feel privileged to have brought family child care to the table throughout these first steps.
Which, of course, brings me to the reason we’re all here—the exquisitely committed, savvy, resourceful, reflective people who are the All Our Kin Network. The family child care providers I’ve met while at All Our Kin are remarkable. Their eagerness to get to know me, their willingness to share their thoughts, opinions, history, and hopes with me has been deeply touching. Upon my request, providers have taken personal time to write and reflect on their work, and disrupted their daily schedules to let me parade strangers into their homes and programs for site visits. I’ve loved getting to know them as colleagues of sorts at Network meetings, but my deep respect for providers is always deepened upon seeing them “in their element” on a site visit. As soon as a child starts crying, I’m ready to leave. But they know just what to do, what voice to use, how to react. They know being there for the teary times means they will also be there for the laughter, and developmental milestones, and first words, and first day of kindergarten. For them, it is worth it.
Teresa Younger’s words in her keynote at our conference have stayed with me, and I’ve mulled over them often. Quoting a colleague, she said: “The best thing I can do for myself is to drop my daughter off at day care…. I have found an amazing provider who loves her, teaches her, keeps her safe and happy…. I love being at work.” Then, “Today, we celebrate who you are, what you do, and what you make possible for the rest of us to do.” And it’s true. The work of family child care providers is the reason many other parents—many other women—can leave their homes, enter the public sphere to work, and thrive. And I’m not talking about Sheryl Sandberg, here. Family child care providers enable the women even the feminists forget—not the women “leaning in” as they rise to corporate and political power, but those entering the workforce with low-wage jobs, who might need care overnight as they work unpredictable schedules, who are grateful for an ounce of stability upon arriving in this chaotic country. And that’s important. That’s wonderful.
But these family child care providers, these women I’ve known, are far more than their value as a stepstool for other women. In a time when we often measure women’s equality by the number of women in seats where men once sat, these family child care providers are instead redefining what it means to be a powerful, autonomous woman. They are reclaiming caregiving as a profession requiring strategy, skill, practice and patience; reclaiming the home as a space that can be lucrative, important, dynamic, and rewarding. They are teaching their husbands and sons, bringing them into the home to join them as business partners and educators of young children. Siloed though they may be in their day-to-day work, at Network meetings and through telephone calls these family child care providers support and celebrate each other, strengthening and growing this community of women who are neither leaning in nor opting out. This, too—perhaps this, especially—is how change really happens.
So, as for my time at All Our Kin, I know exactly where it went. Each unique moment and experience has left me with a deeper, more nuanced understanding of what changemaking looks like than I ever could have anticipated. The overwhelming support I’ve received by smart, loving people as I went (and continue to go) through the process of discovering my role within this work, and world, humbles and empowers me all at once. I move onward holding dear the lessons I learned and the people I met in my time at All Our Kin.