All Our Kin’s 12th Annual Conference was the largest yet, bringing together over 200 family child care providers from across Connecticut for a day of networking, learning, reflection, and celebration. The conference was held on Saturday, June 3, at the University of Bridgeport, where providers began arriving at 8 AM for the event that is, for many, a highlight of the year. That’s because All Our Kin’s conference gives family child care providers an opportunity that they do not get anywhere else: a day of high-quality workshops, tailored specifically to home-based child care, offered in both English and Spanish.
The theme of this year’s Conference, Welcoming Our Stories, Lifting Our Voices, called on providers to recognize the power of their lived experiences and the potential of their collective actions. In line with this theme, the morning began with a keynote speech from Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Greg Jacobs, co-founder of Chicago-based Siskel/Jacobs Productions, and co-director of No Small Matter, a documentary about the campaign for high-quality early care and education for all children in the United States. Reflecting on the work of All Our Kin, Jacobs told the audience, “You can’t have high quality child care without the providers who do the important work of caring for young children. I haven’t seen any organization do anything as important as this, as well as this, anywhere.”
In addition to framing the conversation around the critical importance of investments in early care and education, Jacobs shared video clips from No Small Matter with the audience. One clip stood out: it featured All Our Kin’s own family child care provider Natasha Auguste-Williams, owner of Sweetpea Home Daycare in Bridgeport. In the video, Natasha’s love for her work and love for children was tangible, drawing huge applause from her fellow providers. The message was clear: a national child care system cannot exist if it does not include the incredible family child care providers like Natasha who are going above and beyond for our communities’ youngest children.
Following the keynote, family child care providers participated in a variety of interactive workshops, from “Mindfulness for Stress Reduction” to “Veggies and Sweets- Getting Children to Love One and not Overdue the Other.” The workshops were led by instructors with expertise in both early childhood education and adult learning. Several of these instructors were All Our Kin staff members, while others were family child care providers in the All Our Kin network, bringing their firsthand experience creating exciting learning opportunities for children in home-based settings. Providers in attendance left each workshop feeling empowered to implement new strategies and activities in their programs.
During lunch, providers heard from a very special guest speaker: David Wilkinson, Commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood. Commissioner Wilkinson, who most recently served as Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation under President Barack Obama, told providers that he knows the value of the work they do for families and for their communities. He shared his experience growing up poor, with a superhero single mom whose hard work and nurturing care facilitated his success—all the while knowing that one small mishap could have completely changed his life trajectory. “Intervening in early childhood is the best opportunity we have to set someone on the path to success. Children depend on those around them. Supporting the child means supporting parents and caregivers. And if the whole country had All Our Kin, we would be doing a much better job of that,” Wilkinson said.
At the end of the day, it was clear that the conference was about much more than professional development; it was a recognition that family child care providers do some of the most important work there is—caring for and educating our youngest children—and they deserve to be honored for that work. They are leaders in their families and in their communities; they are strong women full of compassion, creativity, and courage. And that is why, year after year, All Our Kin’s Annual Conference will continue to celebrate them by welcoming their stories and lifting their voices.
A special thank you to All Our Kin’s Dana Holahan and Kim Braun, without whom the conference would not have been possible. Their endless hard work and commitment to creating an experience that was of the highest quality for providers made the day a great success. Thank you as well to the University of Bridgeport for hosting the conference, and to the many volunteers who helped along the way.