Panelists at 2014 Early Childhood Debriefing Celebrate Advances for Family Child Care

Learning in a family child care program

Learning in a family child care program

On June 19, the Hartford Area Child Care Collaborative, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and Connecticut Commission on Children hosted an “Early Childhood Debriefing” at Goodwin College. The panelists engaged in a wide-ranging, lively conversation about the recent legislative session. Here at All Our Kin, we’re especially excited that the panel discussion addressed the importance of family child care and the need to fully include home-based caregivers in the ongoing conversation about our state’s early care and education systems.

The panelists began the debriefing by discussing the significant investments made in early childhood during the last legislative session, including funding increases to the School Readiness program and to the Care 4 Kids child care subsidy program, and the formal establishment of the Office of Early Childhood. Panelists were united in their enthusiasm over the new Office and in their commitment to ensuring that the Office’s establishment marks the beginning of a new phase in early childhood system-building “We don’t want [just] another Office,” said panelist Marilyn Calderon, Executive Director of Connecticut Parent Power, “We want a system that reflects our communities.”

Even as they celebrated this session’s advances for early childhood education, Elaine Zimmerman of the Connecticut Commission on Children and State Senator Beth Bye warned against isolating early childhood issues from broader issues of poverty, work stability, and housing. They stressed that issues affecting young children need to be tackled within the context of family-focused policies.

In keeping with this focus on families, several panelists spoke to the importance of the passage of the new family child care contract, negotiated by CSEA/SEIU Local. The contract raises reimbursement rates and allocates funding for professional development and quality enhancement for family child care programs. It also creates differential rate increases for licensed caregivers of infants and toddlers, a crucial stride toward increasing the supply of care available for Connecticut’s youngest children. By 2016, differential rates for licensed home-based providers will reach parity with licensed centers.

A child in a family child care program

A child in a family child care program

Several panelists spoke to the importance of supporting family child care in order to protect parent choice and preserve options for working families. Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Myra Jones-Taylor said that she has seen “the power of high-quality family child care and what that does for the communities, for the providers themselves and the families who rely on their care.” Family child care programs are often flexible in hours, affordable, and offer families choices in terms of language and cultural competency. Commissioner Jones-Taylor said that the passage of the family child care contract was one of the proudest accomplishments of last session.

Senator Bye noted that many families rely on the nurturing care offered in high-quality family child care programs. “We cannot think that centers are the only place,” she said. “We need to look at the whole system.” Helene Figueroa of CSEA/SEIU Local stated that the new family child care contract goes a long way toward recognizing “the significant contributions of women who are in their neighborhoods and are seen as a source of wisdom, a source of support for families in their own neighborhoods who oftentimes feel very much alone in raising their children.”

Senator Bye and Commissioner Jones-Taylor both suggested that growing awareness about the potential for high quality in family child care has created a foundation for further investment in this sector in the future. “We have to build on [the new contract],” stated Senator Bye. “And luckily, [we have] Myra’s experience with All Our Kin and the work that Jessica Sager has done showing the return on investment in family child care.” Commissioner Jones-Taylor also expressed her excitement about the growing attention paid to quality family child care in the state. “There’s so much good work that’s happening across the state,” she said. “With All Our Kin, [and all that’s going on in] the state of Connecticut, people are looking at what we’re doing with family child care.”

Commissioner Jones-Taylor emphasized that the state’s new Quality Improvement System, once implemented, will give family child care providers increased opportunities to strengthen the quality of their care. “We know that high-quality is available in family child care,” said Jones-Taylor. “The same way that we’ve been raising our expectations for centers, we’re raising our expectations for family child care providers, and they can meet it. They are already meeting these expectations in communities across the state.”

As we move forward from this exciting legislative session, we hope that leaders and advocates will continue to respect the contributions of family child care providers and invest in these essential caregivers. Family child care needs to be central to conversations about serving Connecticut’s children and families, as it was at this year’s Early Childhood Debriefing.

The full video of this event is available on the website of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Beth Bye and Myra Jones-Taylor speak to the importance of family child care beginning at 55:00 and at 1:35:15. In addition to the panelists mentioned above, the 2014 Early Childhood Debriefing panel discussion featured the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance’s Merrill Gay and Connecticut Voices’ Cyd Oppenheimer. 

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