In 2012, All Our Kin brought our proven model for improving the quality and accessibility of child care options to Bridgeport, Norwalk, and surrounding towns. Today, on Fairfield County Giving Day, we hope you’ll take a few moments to join us in reflecting on the providers and families we’ve touched in our new community. If you’re moved by our work, we hope you’ll choose to support All Our Kin today.
First, we want to explain the need in Fairfield County, especially Bridgeport and Norwalk. According to a recent report from the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, there are over 6,000 children under age 3 in Bridgeport, and an additional 3,549 children ages 3 and 4. Bridgeport has a child poverty rate of 37.6 percent—more than double the statewide rate. Bridgeport is also experiencing a shortage of infant and toddler care. In 2012, the city had just 11.6 child care spaces available for every 100 infants and toddlers, compared to a statewide rate of 17.3 spaces.
We know from our experiences in Norwalk that working families in the city face many of the same challenges as their Bridgeport neighbors in terms of finding affordable, accessible child care. There are over 5,800 children under the age of 5 in Norwalk, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and the city has one of the highest average costs of child care centers in the state. In Bridgeport and Norwalk, as in many other cities, low-income families rely on family child care providers to meet their need for affordable, accessible care.
By training and supporting family child care providers in Bridgeport, Norwalk, and surrounding towns, All Our Kin is helping to improve the quality of care that vulnerable children receive in their earliest years. We’re also empowering providers to build sustainable child care businesses and ensure financial stability for their own families (you can learn more about the economic impacts of our work here).
Some of the ways All Our Kin is supporting providers and families in northern Fairfield County:
We’ve helping providers become licensed. In 2013, All Our Kin helped 22 caregivers in Bridgeport, Norwalk and northern Fairfield County successfully complete the licensing process. These newly-licensed providers have the capacity to offer safe, healthy care to over 130 children. In addition to increasing the supply of care in our communities, licensure is also transformative for providers. Their earnings increase; they gain pride and professionalism; and they are able to serve more children, and serve them better, with the equipment and training they need to provide safe, educational child care.We’re building a community centered on professional development and quality care. Our Family Child Care Network offers educational mentorship, professional development, advocacy and leadership opportunities, and a network of relationships with other family child care providers. Providers come together for monthly network meetings on topics including literacy, how to set up learning environments, and hands-on strategies for building curriculum and lesson plans. A hallmark of the All Our Kin network is the program visit, in which early childhood consultants visit family child cares to lead model lessons, demonstrate new strategies, and reflect with providers on their work.
The Network also offers our providers opportunities to dive deep into topics including children’s healthy development (through our “Growing Healthy Kids” monthly workshop series) and children’s mental health (through our pilot Circle of Security project).
Over a hundred licensed family child care providers in Bridgeport, Norwalk and northern Fairfield County are currently engaged in All Our Kin’s professional development efforts, which are supporting them as they grow as professional educators and businesspeople.We’re offering providers opportunities for formal study. Through All Our Kin, a cohort of licensed family child care providers in Bridgeport is in the process of obtaining their CDA credential. The CDA is a rigorous, year-long course in the fundamentals of child development, which articulates to six college credits in early childhood at any of Connecticut’s state colleges. To learn about the impact of the CDA on providers and the children in their care, please read the stories of Dionne, Patti, and Natasha.
In the coming year, we plan to expand the range of services we offer providers. In 2014, we’ll continue to provide licensure support, coaching, and consultation to providers. We’re also excited that we’ll be expanding our Garden Project, which we initially piloted with New Haven providers, to Bridgeport in the coming year. Through the project, All Our Kin will plant organic gardens in the backyards of family child care programs across the city and help family child care providers positively impact the way children think about food and physical activity.
We have been so thrilled to learn and grow with providers and families in our Fairfield County Network. If you would like to support All Our Kin’s work in Fairfield County, we hope you’ll donate today through the Fairfield County Giving page or through All Our Kin’s website.