by Ambata Kazi-Nance, Communications Fellow
Today is my favorite day of the year. Today I am in the presence of people who are changing the world. –All Our Kin Co-Founder & CEO Jessica Sager
All Our Kin’s 14th annual Family Child Care Conference was a great success. Held at the University of Connecticut-Stamford on November 9, 2019, family child care educators from cities across Connecticut and the Bronx, staff members, and many influential early childhood education professionals came out for an inspiring and energizing day of workshops, talks, and professional networking and team building activities.
Dr. George L. Askew, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Health, Human Services and Education in Prince George’s County, Maryland, delivered the keynote speech. A leading expert on children’s health, Dr. Askew addressed the importance of building a strengths-based narrative to connect pediatricians to the policies that impact the children in their care. In addition to his role with the Office of Health, Human Services and Education, Dr. Askew is also the founder of Docs for Tots, an organization dedicated to improving children’s physical health and social, educational, and economic opportunities by fostering relationships between children’s doctors, policymakers, and stakeholders.
With the attendance of many influential stakeholders and decision makers – including Shannon Christian, Director of the Office of Child Care at the Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Beth Bye, Commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, and Louis Finney, President of the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) – family child care educators had a special opportunity to share their stories, expertise, and experience with these stakeholders through a series of listening sessions. These largely attended sessions gave educators a powerful platform to inform stakeholders of their understanding of family child care, highlight its importance, and provide a deeper understanding of what is happening within their profession.
This year’s conference theme was D is for Development: How Our Work Helps Children Grow, and our diversely talented and knowledgeable workshop presenters explored a variety of thoughtful and important topics.
Alika Hope, Founder of the Ray of Hope Project, My Reflection Matters Founder Chemay Morales-James, and Maimuna Mohammed and Zipporiah Mills, Equity Specialists with Bank Street College of Education, all addressed young children’s formation of racial and ethnic identity in their workshops. Morales-James discussed the impact of institutional racism within and outside of schools on young children in her workshop, “Exploring Racial and Ethnic Identity Development During the Early Years.” Hope facilitated a workshop on identifying and healing trauma and fostering resiliency in young children. Mohammed and Mills focused on the necessity for culturally responsive teaching in their workshop, “Do Children See Color?”
All Our Kin staff members and family child care educators also directed workshops. To give just one example, Education Coach Nancy Carillo presented “One Home for All Children,” a workshop on how educators can successfully integrate children with special needs into their family child care programs. Nancy created this workshop, she says, “to share with educators the benefits of including children with special needs in their programs, benefits such as helping the children develop a respect for a child whose abilities are different from theirs and learn how to offer help to others.” Reflecting on the experience of presenting at the conference, Nancy said, “I had a great experience facilitating this workshop, not only because it is a topic very close to my heart, but because educators were so excited to learn and support each other by sharing their own experiences welcoming children with special needs into their programs.”
Other staff-led workshops covered topics such as using wordless picture books with children from diverse language backgrounds, obtaining NAFCC accreditation, as well as workshops led by our Business Coaches that dug in to ways educators can sharpen their business skills and earning potential.
NAFCC-accredited Family Child Care Educator Evelyn Majano-Montiel and All Our Kin Education Coach Luz Martinez teamed up to co-lead a Spanish-language workshop, “Ambientes de Aprendizaje y Su Impacto,”on the impact of creating positive social environments in family child care programs. They chose this topic because they have seen the impact environment has on children’s comfort and eagerness to learn. “Environment constitutes a social world in which boys and girls grow, play and co-exist together,” Luz says. “When a planned and thought out environment is put in place, children are able to expand and develop their senses, cognition, gross and fine motor skills, physical and emotional state. Lastly, the environment can invite and stimulate a child to learn in a very natural way. ”
Luz enjoyed partnering with Evelyn, who she has worked with for years, and whose professional growth she has witnessed firsthand. “Evelyn had been waiting for the opportunity to be able to present a workshop with All Our Kin and this was the perfect opportunity. Evelyn is the perfect example that where there is a will there is a way and I knew she would inspire other educators not only to expand their abilities and knowledge about this topic but to participate and present workshops in the future.”
Family Child Care Educator Lizavetta Novoa-Galindo also presented in Spanish on the challenges of addressing the needs of families receiving support from child care subsidy programs like Connecticut’s Care4Kids program. Lizavetta shared her strategies for effectively communicating with families and the subsidy funding organizations.
It was a special treat for family child care educators to experience a child and educator led workshop aptly titled, “Child-Led Learning in the Forest.” Tim Dutcher, Nature Teacher at Common Ground High School, and co-presenter Miles Ambler, an elementary school student who participates in programming Common Ground offers to younger students, introduced participants to Common Ground’s forest school program, the benefits and challenges of an all-weather, all-season outdoor education, and the impact of free play and child-led learning on children’s social-emotional development. All Our Kin Outdoor Education Coach Monica Edgerton helped facilitate by providing Spanish translation. “It was a wonderful workshop with so many key takeaways. Tim is an amazing instructor both for adults and especially for children,” Monica shared. “It was great to hear first-hand from Miles his experiences learning from, exploring, and engaging with the outdoors. The trust and respect between Tim and Miles was evident.”
A highlight of the event was Family Child Care Educator Julia Susan Dioses taking the stage to speak on her journey to family child care and her most recent experience training for and receiving accreditation by the National Association for Family Child Care.
I have been a child care provider in Norwalk, Connecticut for more than 22 years and this national accreditation from NAFCC is a tremendous milestone for me. It was an amazing experience to have the opportunity to show my daily commitment to provide a safe, healthy, nurturing and learning environment to the young children in my care.
Julia ended her speech with a beautiful reflection of how the community she found within All Our Kin nurtures her personally and professionally, and how the support she receives from the organization impacts her family child care program.
One of the most meaningful experiences for me through this process was developing close relationships with my daycare parents and my professional mentors. I will always be grateful to [All Our Kin Provider Showcase Director] Mrs. Nilda [Aponte], and [Education Coaches] Mrs. Antonia [Better-Wirz] and Mrs. Gaby [Hernandez-Keene] for their kind support during this process. Their help was countless: high quality training, professional consultation, mentoring one on one, and home visits. All of this to help me reach the quality standards I needed to achieve my accreditation.
Writer Abdul-Razak Zachariah closed off the full-day event with a reading of his new picture book, The Night Is Yours, beautifully illustrated by artist Keturah A. Bobo. Zachariah’s story of a young Black girl and her father’s special nighttime hide-and-seek game provided the perfect final note on a day spent exploring the many ways we can all positively impact the futures of children through education and nurturing, compassionate care.
We look forward to seeing you all and many more at next year’s conference!
Many thanks to All Our Kin’s Colby Rutledge and Dana Holahan for all of their hard work putting together an amazing conference, and all staff and volunteers who assisted in making this day a success. We thank The University of Connecticut-Stamford for hosting the event, and the Seymour L. Lustman Memorial Fund for providing funding to make this year’s conference possible. We also thank photographer Jeffrey Wirz (husband of All Our Kin Education Coach Antonia Better-Wirz) for beautifully capturing so many special moments. And we extend our deepest gratitude to all the wonderful, insightful workshop presenters and speakers for sharing their knowledge and expertise with us.