By Ambata Kazi-Nance, Communications Fellow
It’s not a coincidence that National Provider Appreciation Day falls the Friday before Mother’s Day. In fact, that was the intention of National Provider Appreciation Day’s organizers: to honor and celebrate child care providers, teachers, and other educators of young children. Young children’s first teachers and caregivers, after their parents and guardians, are often child care providers, trusted by families to look after their children while they work.
The best child care providers understand the importance of their role as an extension of the child’s family. They seek to provide nurturing, compassionate, loving care that mimics that of the child’s own primary caregiver. They build meaningful relationships with children and their families to ensure children feel safe and loved, and create fun and engaging child care environments that spark curiosity and allow them space to explore and thrive into early childhood.
This is the type of care we witness every day in the programs of family child care providers we support. Providers like Doris Lopez, who runs Doris Lopez Daycare in Stamford, and sees her work as a family child care provider as the fulfillment of her lifelong dream to be a teacher. Doris promotes social-emotional learning in her program, seeking to understand the complex emotions of her young learners, and talking to them to help them understand and communicate their feelings. Of early childhood education, she recognizes, “It has a lot to do with knowing how to connect with a child’s feelings. The emotions—they’re a very important factor.”
The family child care providers with whom we work embrace their role as educators of the next generation of leaders and professionals, and as such, they work together with children’s families to empower children to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams. “We have to be partners,” family child care provider Bernadette Ngoh who runs Trusted Care in West Haven notes. “I take time to listen to my parents and understand what they are dealing with,” she says. This insistence on building long-lasting relationships with parents and guardians hearkens back to Bernadette’s upbringing in Cameroon, where she says, “The children were raised by the community.”
Many family child care providers go above and beyond in the services they provide for working families by being flexible and understanding to their unique needs, such as extending their hours to earlier in the morning, or later in the evening into the night. Family child care provider Deneen Brown, owner of Mommy’s Day Care in Stamford, even arranges to pick up and drop off children in her program to assist parents dealing with lengthy work commutes. “I know they have other options for child care,” she says, “but they choose my program for their children, so I try to accommodate them.” Deneen’s compassion and understanding for the challenges working families face allows her to foster meaningful connections with families that continue on long after their children leave her program. She notes, “One of the children I used to care for is now fourteen, going into high school, and his family still talks about the care he received in my program.”
Family child care professionals provide a critically important educational need for young children, especially in Connecticut and New York City, which have some of the highest rates of educational disparities in the nation. Many families struggle to find affordable, sustainable, and high-quality child care that offers the early education young children need before entering school. By opening their homes to young children and giving them key learning experiences in the crucial early childhood years, family child care providers are improving children’s chances for success in school and life. As one family child care provider, Yanerys Aziz expressed, “For me, everything is about preparing the children. That’s golden.”
We at All Our Kin are inspired every day by the family child care providers we have the pleasure to work with. Despite the long hours they work every day, family child care providers come to our programming with enthusiasm and a joy for the work they do. We see firsthand how they love and care for the children in their programs, and bring a wealth of knowledge and wisdom into their family child care programs. Today and every day, we thank family child care providers for the incredibly valuable, necessary work they do for our youngest citizens. We applaud their passion and persistence to lay the educational foundation all children need to thrive in life.
To all family child care educators: We celebrate you!