Today is Early Childhood Advocacy Day. Soon, parents, child care providers, health care providers, and advocates from across Connecticut will gather at the Capitol in Hartford to urge increased investment in programs and services that support our youngest children.
At All Our Kin, we can think of no better way to celebrate this day than to share the important work of the family child care providers in our network with all of you. And the best way to honor this work is to share stories in providers’ own words.
Earlier this month, we had the privilege of hearing from an incredible duo at our annual Fairfield County Benefit: Emily Mingia-Lewis, owner of Mingalew Family Daycare in Bridgeport, and her mother, Jacquelyn Mingia, who works as a substitute for her daughter’s program. The pair had a powerful message for the audience about their love for their work, for children, and for each other. You can read their speeches, and enjoy photos from their family child care program, below.
My name is Emily Mingia-Lewis and I am the owner of Mingalew Family Daycare here in Bridgeport. I am fairly new to the daycare scene, but a veteran when it comes to child care. I have four beautiful children of my own, the oldest of which, my son, will be nineteen this year…yikes! Sometimes I wonder where the time has gone. Additionally, I have 2 daughters and another son. Their ages are 16, 11, and 9. I am originally from the Bronx, New York. My family relocated to Bridgeport 10 years ago. When we first got here, I was 3 days off from having my last child, my daughter Elani Jael Lewis. That was a wild ride. In the midst of unpacking and getting the house situated, I went into labor and gave birth to my last princess.
“My husband and I could not afford daycare.”
I was excited to be able to stay home with my daughter, but as it happened each time I had a child, I yearned to be a part of the workforce again. It drove my husband crazy. “Just relax,” he would tell me. “You’ll find work when the time is right.” Now, you guys don’t know me, but I cannot sit still! I must be moving…doing something. I figured, let me check out daycare centers for her and my then 2-year-old son. I checked out a location in Stratford and was heartbroken by the cost. It had been years since I had infants in daycare and apparently the price had doubled. My husband and I could not afford daycare for 2 children at 500 per week. What about vouchers? My husband and I were never eligible as he made above the salary limit for a family of six. I was devastated…but at the same time, I began to think…what if I opened a daycare? I had taught my oldest daughter at home, and she was reading by age 3. I knew this was something I could really get into and make a difference.
I brought the idea up to my Mom and best friend, Jacquelyn Mingia. At the time, she was still working in NYC and commuting every day. She was interested, but she wasn’t ready to leave her job. Retirement was only a few short years away. I, however, looked into what it would take and what was needed. It seemed like something I could really get my hands into. Then, life happened…cost of living for a family of six dictated that another income was necessary ASAP! So, I began to look for work outside of my home. Sadly, my daycare dreams would have to wait. I landed in more than a few places. I worked at Radio Shack in Derby…took a Medical Assistant course and worked for a while in a pediatrician’s office, then, I finally settled on customer service for Cablevision. It was decent pay and decent benefits, but my sanity disappeared daily when I walked into those doors. After 3 years of excruciating customer service, I decided that it was time to get serious about becoming a provider. By then, Mom was retired and was absolutely on board. She had been caring for my niece from the time she was an infant and was still doing so.
“Any training that was needed, they offered. Any training that was desired, they offered.”
It was through [my mom] that I was introduced to All Our Kin and the wonderful things that they offer. From meeting with us to go over our paperwork (because trust me, the State is going to send it back 3 or 4 times before anything happens), to visiting our location to tell us what we needed to do for inspection, to making sure we understood that we were not alone. That last one has been invaluable to me and my Mom over the past few years. Whenever we have a question or are unsure how to proceed, there is always someone we can reach out to. Maria and Erica [All Our Kin staff members] essentially held our hands through it all. I think Maria was more excited than I was the day I got the call that my license had been approved. It was and still is that level of investment that makes All Our Kin a star in my book.
I have been given the opportunity to take advantage of some of the best programs and trainings with this group. After all, they are striving to make us better and more confident and proficient providers. Any training that was needed, they offered. Any training that was desired, they offered. There was and still is always something beneficial being offered by these amazing people. I had the opportunity to obtain my CDA credential through All Our Kin. That was a very big deal for me. The classes, taught by the lovely and charismatic Maureen, challenged my thought processes and my methods. It gave me a new way of thinking and interacting with the children. I even became more comfortable with big messes and nature, two of my Achilles heels. If you ask Maureen, she will tell you that this was a journey for me. But, the goal was and still is to broaden the horizons of the children and I am definitely on my way thanks to All Our Kin. In the end, I earned my CDA and developed a newfound love for messes.
I also had the opportunity to take advantage of the Read, Count, Grow series. This is a lovely program where the children are given the opportunity to learn about or learn more about a specific topic. My education consultant, Marina, always came in smiling and the children loved her to pieces. There was always a great storybook and a hands on lesson for the children. Together, we made learning fun and exciting for every child in my care. There were also reflection meetings where we discussed a myriad of topics pertinent to providing quality care. We discussed discipline, development, and ways to reach each child on his or her own level. Those conversations always provided a newfound respect for everything that All Our Kin does for us. One of the children’s favorite lessons was the beach. Marina walked the children through making sand. It was very, very, messy, but they thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. And there was a giant cleanup afterwards…but believe it or not, that did not discourage me from making more messes with the little ones. I actually witnessed just how important it is for them to get their hands dirty. The things they learn and the connections they make are indelible.
“All in the name of quality. All in the name of the children.”
I am currently working towards accreditation. My program is very important to me and I want to make sure I am giving my all. I do have some sleepless nights where I agonize over the best ways to teach a lesson. There are plenty of ways, but I am always after the one that will provide the most learning for the children and for me. It is through these lessons that I learn how each child relates to his or her surroundings and friends, as well as how they learn best. I have tweaked and re-tweaked our learning environment, our materials, and our schedule. All in the name of quality. All in the name of the children. I want the children to love the program. I want the children to be successful with the program. I want to help their families with this program. I want the parents to be comfortable with me and impressed with their children and how they are growing. I know firsthand the joy one feels when your little one accomplishes something new. That joy is unparalleled! To know that I had a hand in that accomplishment warms me to my core.
These are some of the wonderful memories and memories in motion that I have made and continue to make with All Our Kin. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by such dedicated people who will go out of their way to ensure that providers succeed. I have made great friends, colleagues, and mentors who have similar goals, different ideas, and different levels of experience. I couldn’t be prouder of this organization and its members. They are truly an asset to me and the community. We see so many different types of families and it is heart-warming to know that because of All Our Kin, we can make a difference in the lives of all children; especially those who are more vulnerable than others.
“Working hand in hand with my substitute, my Mom.”
One of the best things I have experienced has been working hand in hand with my substitute, my Mom. We are two very different people, but the same in many ways. We have laughed, speculated, and grown together over the past year and a half. She has truly been my rock throughout this venture. Not to mention, I love when she calls me Boss. We learn from each other daily. Her 50 years of experiences with children collides with my almost 20 years of experiences and together we choose the best methods for this program. We have seen tremendous growth in each other and that is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I love my Mom to the moon and back and this venture has given me not only a newfound love for all she taught me and my siblings, but also for the opportunity to actually be able to say, I taught her something too! I hope she is as proud of our program as I am. As a matter of fact, why don’t I let her have the floor and share her experiences with you guys…Mommy?
Good evening! My name is Jacquelyn Mingia. I’m the substitute and mother of Emily Mingia-Lewis, the director of Mingalew Family Daycare. I’m feeling very special to have been chosen to say a few words for this occasion. Since Emily has already covered how we began, I’ll briefly tell you a little bit about our daycare relationship.
Our day starts at 6:25 a.m. in my kitchen. The kettle is on and I make sure I have cold ginger ale, Emily’s choice in the morning. As we sit at the table we go over our lesson plan and meals for the day. We also use that time to prep for whatever projects we have going on that day so we can jump right in when breakfast is over. We also discuss non business related matters such as what is going to happen to Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds or Olivia Benson on Law and Order SVU. These are two shows we both enjoy. Oddly enough, our tastes concerning television, books, and music are very different.
“A loving family is very important for a child’s development.”
Emily and I have always had a good relationship. She is, after all, my only girl out of five children. I’ve always believed that a loving family is very important for a child’s development. Also, instilling self- confidence at a young age goes a long way in preparing the child for life’s challenges. This daycare has shown me that I did an excellent job with my daughter. When Emily decided to start this business, even her brothers (who have always tried to appear indifferent) were proud.
Emily knows I will have her back at all times and she certainly will have mine. Because I am from another era, it sometimes takes me a little time to grasp some of the concepts being used today. Saying “feet belong on the floor” instead of “don’t put your feet on the couch” or “Running is for outside” instead of “don’t run.” Emily grasped this right away and worked with me to help me understand the benefits of this language; and I have to admit, it makes a big difference.
I believe we work well together because of the respect we have for one another and because we have now become of one mind for the daycare. Everything we do is for the benefit of the children in our care.
“What I love most about my daughter/boss is that her mind is always thinking of ways to teach the children various lessons through play.”
Emily is my boss but she gives me the freedom and encouragement to plan and execute activities my own way. Even when we don’t agree, the respect never leaves. It is through this that we have been able to successfully run our program. As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.”
What I love most about my daughter/boss is that her mind is always thinking of ways to teach the children various lessons through play, a concept cemented in our heads during CDA [Child Development Associate] class with Maureen.
Yes, I also earned my CDA credential through All Our Kin. It was a rough road, but Emily always encouraged me, sometimes a little harder than I would have liked. In the end, it was definitely worth it.
I have thought a lot about why this mother/daughter working relationship is successful. It is because with all of our differences, we are the same where it counts the most. The children in our care are a testament to that. Thank you.