Makayla is a shy, sweet two year old who loves to learn. “She likes to play tea party and read books,” her mother Katina tells me. “She’ll copy anything you say.” A few months ago, Katina and Makayla’s father Jeremy contacted All Our Kin about enrolling her in an Early Head Start (EHS) program. Katina had been staying home with her daughter for the first few years of her life, but now she wanted to go back to school. Were there any open spots for Makayla?
A grandmother’s legacy
Although it was Makayla’s first time enrolling in a child care program and she doesn’t have any older siblings, her parents Katina and Jeremy were already familiar with All Our Kin’s work. Jeremy’s mother Elizabeth Fain had been a beloved family child care provider in All Our Kin’s network until her death in 2013 after a long battle with cancer. Ms. Fain participated in All Our Kin’s associate credential classes and the New Teacher Mentor program, and when our Early Head Start program got off the ground, she was one of the first providers to apply. “Even though she knew that Early Head Start had high standards and required a big commitment, she was determined to give kids the best start possible,” said Paula, All Our Kin’s senior educational consultant. “She worked tirelessly; she always went the extra mile.”
Ms. Fain was a source of wisdom and guidance for many in her community. Other providers looked to her for advice on running their own child care programs, and parents relied on her whenever they had questions about their children’s health and development. “We all admired her completely at All Our Kin,” Paula told me. “She taught the kids in her program to be good listeners, respectful, ready for school. She was a kind, wonderful person.”
“She’s helped us with so many things”
When Jeremy called All Our Kin about open EHS slots for his daughter Makayla, Carlos Galo (All Our Kin’s family advocate) searched through the EHS program rosters; luckily, there was an open space at Butterfly Child Care, a program run by family child care provider Marie Gibson. Two months ago, Katina dropped her daughter off for the first time.
At first, Makayla struggled with separation anxiety. “She cried every day when I left,” Katina remembers. “She cried like that for the first month. But Marie worked with us on that, reassuring Makayla and telling her that I’m coming back. She really makes Makayla feel comfortable. She’s helped us with so many things.”
Even after just a couple months, Katina can see Makayla learning new skills and making connections with the other children at Butterfly Child Care. “It’s nice to just have six kids so that Makayla can adjust to being around a group of people. When I drop her off in the morning, they all say ‘Hi Makayla!’ She gets along with all of them. And I’ve gotten to meet most of the other kids’ parents already and talked to them. Sometimes the other parents help us out, give us rides if we need them.”
Katina is grateful for the many services that the EHS program provides, and she feels involved with her daughter’s care. “Makayla gets free day care, free food, free pampers,” she says. “And she gets a loving child care provider. What could be better than that?”
While Makayla is learning critical academic, emotional, and social skills, Katina is at school every day working to finish her GED. “If Makayla wasn’t in EHS, she probably would be home with me and I wouldn’t be able to finish my high school education,” Katina told me. Her long-term plan? Going to college to get an associates’ degree in Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counseling (DARC). “My goal is to work with people with substance abuse problems,” she explained. “I really want to help others.”
The Two-Generation Approach
The past few years have shown a burst of energy around what some call “two-generation approaches,” that is, strategies that address the needs of children and their parents at the same time and move whole families toward economic stability. Makayla’s story broadens this concept to include three generations. Ms. Fain built a quality child care business from the ground up and changed the lives of the children in her program. Katina is getting her degree in order to start her career and help those in need. Jeremy can go to work without worrying about his daughter’s care. And finally, Makayla is receiving free, high-quality early care and education in the home of a loving child care provider.
Katina and Jeremy both agree that Early Head Start has been an amazing opportunity, not just for Makayla but for their whole family. “We tell everyone we know about it and give them Carlos’s number – neighbors, friends, anybody that has kids.”
Click here to learn more about two-generation approaches from Ascend, a policy program of the Aspen Institute that invests in two-generation programs, policies, and community solutions.