For just over a year, All Our Kin’s Fairfield County team has been hosted by RYASAP at the Burroughs Community Center, a perfect location for building connections with providers and community organizations. We are very grateful to RYASAP for their generosity in sharing their space with us. As our engagement with providers continued, it ultimately became necessary to move to our own space to support our growing network. Yesterday, we were thrilled to welcome our partners and supporters to our new, permanent Bridgeport office at 1550B State Street. We gathered to celebrate our new space and the hard work of our Fairfield County team—including Nilda Aponte, our Bridgeport Network Director, and Educational Consultants Stephanie Lorek, Maureen Myers, and Marina Rodriguez—who have used this year to build an incredible community of engaged and dedicated family child care providers.
We’re glad that so many of our friends were able to join us for this celebratory day. Among those present were representatives from community partners including the Bridgeport Alliance for Young Children, Family Resource Centers, Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County, Norwalk Community College, the Norwalk Early Childhood Council, Park City Prep, RYASAP, and the Women’s Business Development Council. We were also pleased to welcome several of our major supporters, including the Grossman Family Foundation and the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, and education champion Ken Paul, who convinced All Our Kin to come to Bridgeport and whose commitment to our work continues to help us thrive.
As Jessica Sager, our Executive Director, explained to the crowd, All Our Kin’s expansion to Bridgeport and Norwalk is helping to meet a deep need for quality child care in these communities. In 2012, there were just 11.6 child care spaces per 100 children under the age of three in Bridgeport. Last year, All Our Kin’s Fairfield County team helped license 22 caregivers, helping to create 132 urgently-needed quality child care slots for children and families.
Family child care providers are also improving their program quality by taking part in our programs and services. Over 120 caregivers, serving approximately 732 children, engaged in professional development through All Our Kin’s Bridgeport/Fairfield County site in 2013. This professional development included monthly network meetings, a monthly “Growing Healthy Kids” workshop series, an entrepreneurship series to help providers improve the sustainability of their child care programs, Child Development Associate classes leading to a credential worth six college credits, a pilot training in the Circle of Security designed to help caregivers support children’s mental health, and one-on-one coaching and consultation from master teachers.
We were thrilled that several of our dedicated providers were able to attend the open house and speak to the assembled crowd about their experiences with All Our Kin. Natasha Auguste-Williams, a provider whose story has been previously featured on this blog, explained how All Our Kin is helping her achieve the mission of her child care program: to prepare children for kindergarten. Kamara Moodie described her joy at participating in our Circle of Security class last fall, the intimate discussions that the class fostered, and the intense bonding that occurred within the group. Her fellow classmates, she said, are “all my sisters now.” A third provider, Patricia Garcia, spoke eloquently about the way that All Our Kin is shifting her perceptions of caregiving and informing her practice. “You are changing the way we see our kids, the way we teach them, the way we nurture them,” Patricia stated.
Natasha, Kamara, and Patricia are all participating in All Our Kin’s first Bridgeport Child Development Associate class, and are on track to graduate from the course this June.
We’re grateful to everyone whose support and collaboration has made All Our Kin’s work in Bridgeport and Fairfield County possible. Most importantly, we thank our providers. As our Network Director Nilda Aponte said yesterday, “You are our Bridgeport Network. We’re here because of you.” We look forward to building our community with you in the years to come.