Every day at All Our Kin, we are inspired by child care providers’ seemingly endless stores of wisdom, energy, and patience as they prepare future generations of students and leaders. Research shows that access to quality child care is incredibly important for child development and family well-being, but it is our day-to-day interactions with providers and the children in their programs that help us see the value of quality care firsthand. Parents get an even more up-close view. They constantly express their gratitude, and they can’t wait to tell All Our Kin staff about how their children have grown and what they are learning at providers’ homes.
Today, we want to shine a spotlight on one provider’s impact on families, and share some of the stories about her work that parents have told us. LuShanna Thompson has been an active member of the All Our Kin network for over eight years. She is an advocate for high quality early childhood education, and has appeared on local radio to raise awareness of family child care. Her program, Every Child Ahead, offers children a safe, healthy environment with developmentally appropriate books and materials, and every day she leads educational activities to stimulate and challenge the children in her care.
“We are constantly in awe”
Two years ago, Sandra Fitzpatrick, a school librarian, enrolled her young son Ryan in LuShanna Thompson’s family child care program. “It was his first experience with daycare – and mine, too, since he was my first child.” Sandra had put a lot of effort into finding a program that would give her son a safe, high-quality experience, so she felt confident that LuShanna’s program would be a great match for her family. Still, she was nervous dropping him off the first day. “LuShanna did so much to put my mind at ease, texting me pictures of him throughout the day, spending time filling me in on the day’s activities when I picked him up and being very open with me and my husband so we could really get to know her and her family.” Even better, after a short time Sandra could see tangible evidence that her son was learning and growing in LuShanna’s care. One day, Ryan was sitting with his father by his desk when, unprompted, he started naming all the letters on the keyboard. “We were just blown away.” Sandra told All Our Kin. “He’s learned so much – we are constantly in awe.”
Other parents reported similar stories about their children’s advancement in LuShanna’s program. Martina Ramos told us that her son has been talking more since he started with LuShanna. “He knows many animal names, and he knows a few letters and sounds.” Another mother, LaToya Williams, said, “LuShanna has taught my daughter Ra’Miyah sign language, the alphabet, and her numbers from one to ten. Not only can Ra’Miyah say them – she recognizes them when she sees them.”
With All Our Kin’s support, LuShanna was awarded a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and has taken college courses on child development and early education. Her education and years of experience allow her to incorporate best practices into her program, identify each child’s needs, and determine how best to prepare him or her for kindergarten and life. Many parents emphasized that LuShanna does not only concentrate on academic skills. They noticed that their children’s empathy and emotional well-being are improving as well. One boy has started sharing with other children. A little girl is listening more when others speak. As Sandra, Ryan’s mom, said, “LuShanna’s kind and gentle manner are reflected in my son’s personality…he is modeling her kindness and true caring.”
A recent report from CLASP advocates for a “two-generation” approach to policy and programs: we can’t create solutions to national problems by focusing just on children, or just on their parents. The authors of the report state that “the well-being of parents is a crucial ingredient in children’s social-emotional, physical, and economic well-being. And at the same time, parents’ ability to succeed in school and the workplace is substantially affected by how well their children are doing.” All Our Kin’s multi-generational awareness has been recognized by outside organizations, and the feedback we’ve gotten from parents of children in LuShanna’s program backs up our approach. Quality, stable child care helps children grow and learn, but it also allows parents to enter the workforce and cuts down on the stress in their lives.
“I have been able to work full-time as a teacher for the City of New Haven. My husband has also been able to work full-time as a carpenter.”
“When my kids are with LuShanna, I am able to focus on my work, advance my career and provide for my family without the distraction of wondering, ‘How are my little ones doing?’ I know they are doing great – they are learning and having fun and they are safe and cared for. My husband is launching a business, which is a financially and emotionally stressful venture, but LuShanna has been an anchor for us.”
– Sandra Fitzpatrick
“Since my job is so demanding, it’s great having someone reliable that I can trust.”
“It is a pleasure to have enrolled my child in a daycare where he loves to go and isn’t distraught when I leave for work.”
Parents tell us again and again how lucky they feel to have providers like LuShanna taking care of their children. “I only wish every parent could have the same,” said Sandra Fitzpatrick.