Last week, All Our Kin demonstrated the value of its model to family child care providers across the country at the twenty-third annual conference of the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) in Scottsdale, Arizona. Along with a family child care provider from its network, six members of the All Our Kin team traveled to Arizona where they connected with other professionals, learned about innovations in the field, and shared their experiences to help other programs improve.
Julia Granata, All Our Kin’s financial and business coach, partnered with the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership’s Robyn Kelton to lead a workshop on marketing for family child care. As parents increasingly rely on web searches to find care for their children, high-quality online marketing has become almost essential. Workshop participants absorbed Julia’s concrete strategies for making their programs stand out on the Web, while Robyn offered marketing tools developed by the McCormick Center. “There weren’t many workshops about marketing and business,” Julia says, so providers found this one particularly interesting.
The presenters were popular with the attendees. “The topic was great,” one wrote, “but the presenters were the best I’ve ever had!” Another participant said she always attended “the most sophisticated workshops available… so it is a valuable review when I say this workshop was one of the best I have ever been to.” The presentation provided the practical skills necessary for providers to begin effective online marketing, and gave them the confidence to take the plunge. One provider declared, “I [was] thinking about starting a Facebook page—now I will!” The marketing workshop made clear that supporting family child care not only enriches early childhood experiences, but also empowers providers as small business owners. As a program director who attended the session wrote, the workshop could “help family child care providers understand the professionalism of what they offer, not just the money part.”
All Our Kin representatives also offered a session on the value of the coaching and consultation model of supporting educators. Educational consultant Paula Simpson and family child care provider Marie Gibson co-led “The Best Practices in Supporting Family Child Care Providers: Research, Practice, and Policy” with Juliet Bromer of the Erikson Institute and Amy Dapsauski of Zero to Three. The presenters explained that research indicates that ongoing, high-quality visiting can be instrumental in improving programming.
Juliet, who is working to expand Early Head Start in family child care settings in Chicago, discussed how the early stages of such efforts typically play out. Paula and Marie gave a more personal perspective, discussing All Our Kin’s model of partnerships between educational consultants and providers. Marie is one of a small group of All Our Kin providers participating in our Early Head Start for Family Child Care program. All Our Kin staff member Tyree Dickey, who attended the workshop, said that Paula and Marie gave providers “opportunities to understand what Early Head Start is, how it can benefit them, and the impact it can have on their parents and children.”
For many family child care providers, Early Head Start’s high standards seem daunting. Tyree said that Paula and Marie made the process “less fearful,” sharing “information, knowledge, and skills in a non-threatening way.” Paula explained that All Our Kin consultants work in a collaborative, hands-on way with children and providers, using a strength-based approach to make change in provider practice. Marie emphasized that Early Head Start is “not about money,” but quality. “I wanted more for myself and I wanted more for my daycare,” she said. “I wanted to avoid being labeled a babysitter.”
The key innovation of All Our Kin’s coaching and consultation approach is the strength of the relationship between provider and consultant. Paula said that her relationship with P. Marie was clear to everyone at the workshop: “You could tell it was a relationship-building, collaborative, team.” Marie said that the presentation “just flowed,” that “we could have been there a while!” Marie was one of the only working family child care providers presenting at the conference, adding to the value of her perspective.
All Our Kin’s presentations reflected the theme of the conference, “Relationships that Last a Lifetime.” The conference was an excellent chance for All Our Kin to learn from providers across the country and to share our experiences from working in partnership with educators. Seeing Paula and Marie presenting together, Tyree said she “was so proud to be a part of All Our Kin in that moment.”