Last week, we posted a profile of Dionne, a new family child care provider who is gaining expertise through All Our Kin’s Child Development Associate class in Bridgeport. Today we have the story of another participant in our CDA class, Trumbull provider Patti Clancy. We hope you’ll be as inspired as we are by her commitment to continuous learning.
Fifteen years ago, Patti took a step that she describes as “scary and brave.” After 18 years of working with the same company, she decided to switch careers and open her own home-based child care program. Patti has been providing nurturing care to children in her program, PJ’s Home Daycare, ever since. Last year, Patti took another brave step: she decided to go back to school to deepen her knowledge of early childhood education. As a member of All Our Kin’s Child Development Associate class, Patti is proving that even experienced providers can deepen their practice with help from All Our Kin.
Patti was initially drawn to family child care because it offered her a chance to care for her two young daughters while offering a safe environment for children in her neighborhood to grow and learn. Patti says she was inspired by the example of her sister-in-law, who operated her own family child care program in Georgia. After becoming licensed as a provider in Connecticut, Patti began attracting customers through the statewide 2-1-1 Child Care referral service. “I started out small,” Patti recalls. One of her very first clients was a woman who lived on her street, who was thrilled to discover a new child care option so close to home.
As she built her program, Patti drew mainly on her own experiences as a parent and on the interactions she had with her daughter’s family child care provider. Children in her program start every day with circle time, and their daily schedule includes art, music, free play, math/science, outside time, nap time—and, Patti is quick to add, hand washing in between. “I love [the children in my program] and take care of them as I would my own,” Patti says. Over time, Patti’s commitment to children helped her build a strong enrollment based on word-of-mouth referrals. Yet Patti was still aware that she lacked support for her work. “I just used to wing it on my own,” Patti recalls.
Last summer, Patti began to consider returning to school to gain more skills and strategies for educating children. She had never attended college and didn’t have any credits in early childhood. She knew it would take a long time to get an associate’s degree, and that the Child Development Associate credential was expensive. As she was considering her options, a mailing arrived from All Our Kin announcing the start of our free, Bridgeport-based CDA class in fall 2013. Patti called All Our Kin “immediately” and quickly decided to enroll in the class, with encouragement from our educational consultant Maureen.
As part of All Our Kin’s CDA class, Patti has become part of a community of caregivers. She says that it’s “a nice time to share stories and learn from other providers,” and that her classmates often use their time together to discuss approaches for handling challenging situations with children and families. Patti also receives monthly visits from Maureen, who offers her strategies for working with children, preparing for her CDA evaluation, and more. Patti says Maureen is a “huge help,” and that Maureen “wants to see the improvement” in Patti’s program from month to month.
Through the CDA class and her one-on-one work with Maureen, Patti has gained a deeper understanding of how children grow and learn and has changed her program accordingly. One of her first shifts was in her activity and learning spaces. Before the CDA, Patti says all of her activities were scattered. She has since learned the importance of “organizing your room and labeling.” Now, different activities like dramatic play, math and science, and blocks all have their own, labeled areas in her child care space. Children make choices to guide their own learning by seeking out the areas that interest and engage them.
Patti has also added more multicultural items to her child care space, put the children’s artwork up on the walls, and incorporated outside time more regularly into her schedule. Patti is drawing on her new knowledge of children’s needs to make changes that help her better support children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development.
Much of what Patti has learned in her CDA now seems intuitive to her. But although she recognizes that many of these steps are “simple,” she says they’re “things I never thought to do myself.” “I wasn’t really educated in doing it,” she says. “[The CDA class] opened my eyes.” She wishes that she’d had access to All Our Kin’s programs when she first started her home-based child care program. In her words: “How come I didn’t know about this 14 years ago?”
For our part, we’re inspired by Patti’s commitment to ongoing learning and excited to welcome her to our Family Child Care Network. We’re glad to be able to support Patti and other family child care providers as they offer children essential early learning experiences and parents high-quality child care options.
All Our Kin’s Bridgeport CDA class is made possible through the support of the Fairfield County Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls. You can learn more about the Fund at their website.