Early in November, I went to the home of Yanerys Aziz to help her prepare her speech for our New Haven benefit. The speech she gave on November 18 was lovely (you can read it here), but it provides just a quick snapshot of Yanerys’s warmth and dedication to her work. Below is the full post about my visit to Yanerys’s program.
It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon in late fall, and the doorbell rings: a young girl’s parents have come to pick her up from child care.
Yanerys Aziz, the girl’s family child care provider, knows from experience that this interaction can be far more than a thirty-second encounter. Instead, it is an opportunity to build a relationship. “I try to offer a family feeling,” Yanerys explains. “When parents come pick up the child, I want them to feel like they’re at home.” And indeed, the mom and dad who have just arrived take off their coats, hug their daughter, and gather around Yanerys’s kitchen table to chat. They share details about their days, laugh about movies they’d seen and books they’d read, and work out a plan for helping their daughter overcome her fear of the vacuum cleaner. Meanwhile, another mom is on the couch reading a book with her son, and two toddlers are experimenting with playdough at a child-sized table.
“Some of these parents have been with me for years, with all of their children,” Yanerys tells me. “My program is always at full capacity because they refer each other. They like the close relationships, the respect we have for each other. And the kids love it. They see that their parents are comfortable, so they become comfortable.”
Starting from scratch
Yanerys has been a family child care provider in West Haven since 2007; before that, she worked as a teacher at a child care center in Orange. One day in 2006, her husband casually asked her why she didn’t open her own home-based child care program. Yanerys was intrigued by the idea, but was intimidated by the process of starting a business from scratch. “Opening a business is a big thing. There are so many things to worry about and so many questions to answer,” she says. Because her first language is Spanish, she wasn’t sure if she could navigate the bureaucracy of the state licensing process by herself. Then she found out about All Our Kin and learned that there were Spanish-speaking staff members who could help her through the licensing process through the Tool Kit Licensing Program. “I was so happy to find out about All Our Kin. All the details, I was able to learn in Spanish. Then, after I got my license, I was open with my day care and everything, but I didn’t know how to get children. I had left my job as a center-based teacher. I was so afraid that it would be months and months and I wouldn’t have any children.”
Yanerys contacted Tanya, an All Our Kin educational consultant, and asked her to stop by her program to do a mock walk-through. “She pretended she was a mom looking for child care, and I gave her a tour of the inside and the outside space and showed her the contract. At the end, she gave me advice. She said, ‘You have to welcome the parents in to your house. You have to make them feel more comfortable. Open the curtains. Bring the educational materials out so that they can see them. Change your contract so that it’s clearer, more professional.’ She answered every question. And she connected me with Erica Wilcox [All Our Kin’s administrative assistant], because I had no knowledge of computers at the time. Erica helped me with the marketing. She helped me create a logo for my day care. We made business cards and flyers for me to post around the community.” Yanerys also obtained a zero-interest loan from All Our Kin early on that allowed her to renovate the ground floor of her home; now, she has a beautiful child care space with child-sized furniture and developmentally-appropriate materials. “I wouldn’t be where I am today, with a successful business and strong relationships with my families, without that support at the beginning.”
A thirst for knowledge
Since joining All Our Kin’s network, Yanerys has come to dozens of workshops and participated in multiple professional development series. She was the first All Our Kin provider to achieve accreditation by the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC), and she has even presented about NAFCC accreditation to newer providers who are interested in learning more about the accreditation process. “For me, everything is about preparing the children,” Yanerys says when asked about her motivation for engaging in so many professional development activities. “That’s golden. Being sure that the children can succeed when they go to school. I want to be a person that can give the best to the children, and if there’s something I can do to become better, to learn more, to be more inspired, I will do it. And I get more out of each training because I love the work.” Yanerys also attends conferences and workshops about child development that are offered by other organizations in Connecticut, even when their primary audience is providers in center-based child care programs. “Every time I hear something about child care, I go for it, even if I am the only family child care provider there. I feel a little bit different, but it’s always valuable.”
Parents trust Yanerys with the care and education of their children in part because of her commitment to continuous learning. “Parents ask me, ‘Oh Yanerys, my child is biting,’ or ‘My child is afraid of the vacuum, what do I do?’ They say, ‘She knows what she’s talking about.’ They respect me because of the trainings I go to.” When she participated in All Our Kin’s Circle of Security program for family child care providers, she found the material so engaging that she copied some of the materials for the parents and told them about techniques to promote secure attachment. And she doesn’t just absorb knowledge from All Our Kin staff: “I learn from everybody, from all the providers’ experiences. I teach them what I know, too.”
“We are all human beings”
After so many years of attending All Our Kin programs, Yanerys has been able to track our organization’s growth. “In the beginning, when I was coming to a training, All Our Kin was in this super small space on Grand Avenue. There weren’t so many providers, and it was like a family. I come to the trainings in the new space, and the meetings now are way larger. Every time, it’s more and more providers. It’s amazing how big All Our Kin has gotten! But it’s still a family feeling. When I go to the meetings, I joke with the staff and every other provider. Whatever issues I have, I know that All Our Kin is there for me. They give me advice about what to do. Even with personal stuff, they come just to be with me. They keep calling me, checking up on me.”
At the doorway, the little girl struggles to put her winter coat and looks to her parents for help. Her father stoops down and turns the sleeve inside out so that she can put her arm through. As Yanerys watches the interaction, she reflects, “We are all human beings. Stuff happens to everybody. We smile, we cry, we have pain. When you reach out, and ask for support or knowledge, your life is happier, because you’re able to work out all your needs.”