All Our Kin Provider Natasha Auguste-Williams Speaks about the Importance of Child Care Subsidies: “Care4Kids not only impacts children and families, but also the businesses like mine that support them”

Earlier today, our partners at the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance and the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors hosted a forum on Care4Kids at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Parents, providers, advocates, and legislators joined together to discuss the impact of changes to Care4Kids program eligibility on Connecticut’s economic infrastructure. All Our Kin provider Natasha Auguste-Williams, who runs Sweetpea Home Daycare in Bridgeport, spoke at the forum to share the importance of Care4Kids on her ability to provide quality care to children in her community.

natasha-and-babyYou can watch Natasha’s speech here (starts at 57:20), or read it below:

“Good morning. My name is Natasha Auguste-Williams. I have been a Bridgeport family child care provider for six years. I wanted to open a home daycare because I wanted to start a family, make a difference in a child’s life, and to offer quality care to children in my community, serving single-parent families and low-income families. I wanted my program to be different because a lot of people think that when you have a home daycare the kids just come and sit inside and watch TV, you feed them and change their diaper. I wanted to change that. I wanted to start a program where books are within every child’s reach, and where there are hands-on opportunities to learn and explore. Prepare them for kindergarten and their future, nurture them, offer nutritious healthy meals, field trips, a fruits and vegetables garden, and give them a safe and healthy environment to play, explore, grow and have fun while learning. Although most of the children in my program are English speaking, I teach them basic Spanish and Sign Language as well. I serve a community where there is a great need for quality affordable care. As a mom and a provider who lives in Bridgeport I know finding quality affordable care is a challenge.

I currently care for 6 full time children and 3 children before/after school. All of the families receive Care4Kids. Some of the parents travel as far as New York City for work. I could not provide the type of high quality care that I do now without support from Care4Kids. Without Care4Kids, the parents I serve would have an even harder time finding affordable, quality care, and would possibly have to quit their jobs or leave their children with an unlicensed caregiver, with someone who does not offer quality care, or leave them home alone.

Without Care4Kids, low-income families often have to jump around from child care to child care to make things work. When this happens, children regress in their development. Moving a child from a provider they have been with since they were a baby can create anxiety, stress, and impact the child’s development, trust, and ability to feel secure.

Without income from Care4Kids, my business would not survive and a lot of other family child care providers would lose their businesses as well. Some of us have been working in early childhood for decades, and would have a difficult time finding another job. If new families continue to be shut out from the Care4Kids program, this is a real possibility that many others and I will face. We will face not only losing our business but also our homes, and our families will suffer. Care4Kids not only impacts children and families, but also the businesses like mine that support them and that are now worried about having to close their doors. I urge you to do whatever you can do to restore full funding to Care4Kids so that new families can access this important program. I love my job and I want to continue providing high quality care to children.”

We thank Natasha for taking the time to share her perspective, and we thank all the family child care providers in our network for the work they do to support children and families in these challenging economic times.

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All Our Kin Attends Care4Kids Rally on the Heels of a Victory for CT’s Working Families

Good news! Child care providers, parents, advocates, and community partners joined our advocacy efforts to save Care4Kids, and it paid off: working families who are currently receiving Care4Kids, and who remain eligible at redetermination, will stay on the program!

img_6183Over the past month, there has been much anxiety among Connecticut’s working families, child care providers, and early childhood advocates about a funding deficiency in the Care4Kids program—the program that provides child care subsidies to low-income families in Connecticut. With the Care4Kids program already closed to new applicants from the working family group, the fear was that families currently on the program would be removed at redetermination to cut program costs.

Yesterday, the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood announced that working families will be able to stay on the program at redetermination. Instead, eligibility cuts will be made in a different area. Effective December 31, the Care4Kids program will be closed to new applicants who have received TANF in the past 5 years, and to 18 and 19 year old teen parents who attend high school or the equivalent. These eligibility changes are expected to impact 1,800 families who would have applied to the program between now and the end of the fiscal year in June. For more information, see the official announcement from the Office of Early Childhood here. You can also read coverage from the Hartford Courant here.

img_1126This is a huge victory for low-income parents who rely on Care4Kids to help pay for child care so that they can go to work. Yesterday, we joined many of those parents, their children, their child care providers, and advocates at the Capitol in Hartford. What began as a rally to save Care4kids for working families turned into a celebration as news of the Office of Early Childhood announcement spread. This is a testament to the incredible advocacy efforts of so many, which included hundreds of phone calls to Governor Malloy and state legislators, an online petition from the CT Early Childhood Alliance, public testimony in front of the state Appropriations Committee (see testimony from All Our Kin beginning at 2:40:35), media coverage, and countless stakeholder meetings to organize and strategize. We are so grateful to everyone who partnered with us over the past few weeks.

Even as we celebrate this victory, we know that our work around Care4Kids is not done. With the Care4Kids program now closed to all new applicants except families currently receiving TANF, there are many families who need access to child care who will be waitlisted for the foreseeable future. If you are a parent who can no longer access the Care4Kids program, and you are willing to share your story with media and legislators, please contact All Our Kin’s Policy Fellow, Natalie, at 203-772-2294 x. 21 or

Our fight now is to secure more funding for Care4Kids so that the program can reopen to new applicants. More broadly, we need to advocate for a child care system that is comprehensive, equitable, affordable, accessible, sustainable, and of the highest quality for all children, so that families are not continually faced with the possibility of losing their child care. At All Our Kin, we will continue to work to ensure that the Care4Kids program reaches all children and families who need it.

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All Our Kin Goes to New York: Jessica Sager Shares Best Practices in Family Child Care with Stakeholders in NYC



In New York City alone, almost 16,000 children who are under the age of three and receive government-subsidized child care spend their early years in home-based programs.  That is why NYC has undertaken ambitious initiatives such as EarlyLearn NYC, which recognized the importance of ensuring quality in family child care programs by setting standards that focus on social and intellectual development in a safe environment.  In May, The Center for New York City Affairs at The New School hosted a forum to discuss its latest report: Bringing It All Home: Problems and Possibilities Facing NYC’s Family Child Care.   The forum highlighted the important progress of the EarlyLearn NYC initiative, but also illuminated many of the challenges facing NYC’s family child care landscape.

On October 11, All Our Kin was honored to participate in a panel discussion that offered some solutions to support quality in NYC’s family child care programs.  Jessica Sager represented All Our Kin as a member of the panel, which focused on sharing best practices for effectively and sustainably raising the quality of family child care programs in New York City and beyond.  The event drew a packed house that included family child care network staff, child care providers, industry representatives, policymakers, NYC Administration for Children’s Services administrators, and philanthropists, all united in the same goal: to learn about and share strategies for improving quality in family child care, so that all children and families have the foundation they need to succeed in life.

In addition to Jessica, the panelists included:

  • Lorelei Atalie Vargas, Deputy Commissioner of Early Care and Education, City of New York Administration for Children’s Services
  • Toni Porter, Senior Principal, Early Care and Education Consulting
  • Diana Perez, Vice-President, Home-based Childcare Services, WHEDco
  • Catherine Barnett, Executive Director, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York

Kendra Hurley from The Center for New York City Affairs at The New School was the moderator, and provided some helpful context by summarizing the forum in May and laying the groundwork for this follow up discussion.

Lorelei Atalie Vargas started the discussion by sharing her vision for a comprehensive family child care network in NYC.  Although it can be daunting to imagine widespread change in a place as large as New York City, Lorelei reminded the group: “Change is possible in a child care system this size.  And family child care is a big part of that change.”

Next, Jessica discussed All Our Kin’s model, focusing on our strength-based approach that views providers as partners.  She noted that our model has been highly successful, increasing the supply of child care in southern Connecticut, yielding greater earnings for providers, and providing significant macroeconomic benefits to the wider community.

Toni Porter followed Jessica’s presentation to share the findings of her study: Examining Quality in Family Child Care: An Evaluation of All Our Kin.  The results of her evaluation were clear: our model has a significant impact on quality in family child care. All Our Kin image4providers scored on average 50% better on indicators of quality in family child care than non-All Our Kin providers.

Following Toni, Diana Perez explained the ways in which WHEDco is already supporting family child care providers in New York City, working with both licensed and legally exempt home-based providers to create child care programs that are safe and nurturing for children.  She also highlighted an aspect of home-based care that is often overlooked: provider wellbeing.  At WHEDco, they know that when providers thrive, the children in their programs will thrive too.

Finally, Catherine Barnett wrapped up the conversation by reminding us that family child care is critical to the sustainability of the restaurant workforce.  Why?  Because as discussed in ROC’s latest report Nightcare: The Growing Challenge For Parents On The Late Shift, the majority of restaurant workers are women with nontraditional hours, and they need to access child care too.  Unlike center-based care, family child care providers tend to be more flexible in their hours, making them a valuable resource for parents working in industries like food, retail, and health.  To learn more about the challenges faced by parents with nontraditional hours, check out Jessica’s TIME op-ed: How Irregular Hours Hurt Low-Wage Parents.

All Our Kin staff members had a great time learning about family child care in NYC!  We look forward to future opportunities for collaboration in support of NYC’s children, families, and child care providers, and thank all those who brought their enthusiasm and ideas to the event to make it such as success.

image5A special thank you to Philanthropy New York for hosting the event, and to the event sponsors: Viking Global Foundation, the Child Care and Early Education Fund, and the Grossman Family Foundation.  Thanks, as well, to the Grossman Family Foundation, for funding the above-mentioned report, “Examining Quality in Family Child Care: An Evaluation of All Our Kin.”

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Daniela is Preparing the Children in Her Program for Kindergarten with the Help of Read, Count, Grow

“It’s a very welcoming place to be”

When Tanya Smith, an Educational Consultant with All Our Kin, walks into Daniela’s child care program on a pleasant Friday morning in September, the children immediately gravitate towards her. They come bright-eyed and smiling, bringing along whatever toy they happen to be holding at the moment, all eager to involve their guest in their morning playtime. This isn’t new to Tanya—this is how she is always received when she visits Daniela. “The warmth from the children is a reflection of Daniela and the way she runs her program. It’s a very welcoming place to be,” Tanya explains.

blog-picDaniela is the vibrant family child care provider who owns ABC Kid’z Home Daycare in Hamden. Right now, she has five children in her program.  The oldest is almost four years old, and proud of it! The youngest is a year and a half. They keep Daniela on her toes, but she doesn’t mind. She has an endless supply of energy, and her love for and commitment to her job as an early childhood educator is evident in every move and interaction.

A Dedication to Continuous Learning

As part of the Read, Count, Grow program, Daniela receives monthly educational coaching and mentoring from Tanya that is centered on quality in early childhood learning and the age-appropriate introduction of math and literacy skills.  Daniela began the 10-month program back in March.  Before Read, Count, Grow, Daniela was already actively involved in All Our Kin’s professional development events, but she wanted more.  “I know there is so much to learn and I always want to bring new activities and ways of learning to the children in my program.  I want them to be kindergarten-ready.  I know that Read, Count, Grow will help me get them there,” Daniela says.

During her visits, Tanya coaches and models activities, experiences, and interactions
based on research around how young children learn best, often bringing new materials for the children to engage with.  On this particular visit, Tanya brings a book, beads, string, and color boards.  Daniela is constantly looking for ways to ensure that all the children in her program are actively engaged in an activity.  In response to this, Tanya is careful to demonstrate strategies around how to include the youngest children while challenging the older ones. 443.JPG

So, while the youngest children are busy rolling the beads across the table, occasionally putting a bead on the corresponding color board, the oldest girl is placing the beads on a string, following a pattern provided by Tanya.  When she is done, Tanya asks her: “How many beads do you have on the string?  Can you count them for me?  What is the pattern?”  Daniela follows suit, asking, “What colors are the beads? Can you name the shapes?  What do you think comes next?”  Already, Daniela is putting into practice strategies that Tanya has just modeled.  She is a pro at applying what she learns through Read, Count, Grow to her program.

Maximizing Teachable Moments

The learning doesn’t stop when Tanya is done with the Read, Count, Grow activity.  It continues as Daniela proceeds with her morning routine.  During circle time, Daniela reads an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, during which she points to a picture of the Wolf and asks, “How do you think he is feeling right now?” “Sad! He’s sad!” One girl 459exclaims, running up to the wall and pointing to the “sad face” on the feeling chart that is hanging there.  The feeling chart is just one way in which Daniela has very purposefully designed her child care space to facilitate learning.

After circle time, it’s snack time!  Before the visit, Tanya described some of the ways Daniela uses snack time to support school readiness.  On this day, Daniela builds on the experiences modeled earlier by Tanya.  Each child has a plate and cup set of a different color.  They know which set is theirs, and call out the colors as they take their plates.  This may seem subtle, but it is the small ways in which Daniela so seamlessly integrates learning experiences into daily activities and playtime that make her program a space for continuous early learning.

Building Support in Family Child Care

While the kids munch away on their cheese and crackers, Daniela takes advantage of the quiet moment to debrief with Tanya.  She asks for copies of Read, Count, Grow materials and discusses needs and behaviors she has observed in the children.  The providers and educational consultants in the Read, Count, Grow program build strong relationships that truly improve the quality of work on both ends.  While Daniela names the support she gets from Tanya as one of her favorite aspects of the program, Tanya also draws on her conversations with Daniela to take her work to the next level.  “The tremendous responsibility that Daniela places on herself rubs off on me too—because she is so committed to her role as an early childhood educator, I am driven to constantly find new and better ways to support her work,” Tanya reflects.

Ending on a Joyful Note

475Before the visit comes to an end, it is time for some outdoor play.  Daniela has a beautiful outdoor space with plenty of room to explore and a playground fit for hours of fun.  This is clearly a highlight for the children; their excitement is tangible.  As they run, jump, skip, swing, climb, and play, it is easy to forget that the learning never stops.  But then one girl points out shapes in the clouds, and another starts counting her jumps on the trampoline, and everything comes full circle.

Daniela looks on and smiles.  “One thing I’ve realized through Read, Count, Grow is that there are many different ways to introduce an idea or learn a concept.  Math is not just numbers on a paper, it is everywhere.  Even while playing outside, they are learning.”  Her pride in her program and in the children’s progress is evident and well-deserved.  Through her compassion and dedication, and with some help from Tanya and Read, Count, Grow, Daniela’s children won’t just be ready for kindergarten—they will be ready to succeed in life.


For more information about Read, Count, Grow, visit


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Kiana Hernandez, Liman Fellow: “I realized there is no better feeling than being a helping hand to those who truly need it.”

This past summer, All Our Kin had the pleasure of hosting Kiana Hernandez, a Liman Fellow from Yale College. The prestigious Liman Summer Fellowship is awarded by the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program to undergraduate students passionate about addressing inequality and improving access to justice by working with organizations that support public interest.

This is not All Our Kin’s first experience with a Liman Fellow—it was the Liman Fellowship for Yale Law School graduates, which funds work on public interest legal projects, that funded All Our Kin’s Executive Director Jessica Sager during her first year building the organization. As such, the support of the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program through the Liman Fellowship has been instrumental in All Our Kin’s success.

During her time with All Our Kin, Kiana worked most closely with the Early Head Start program, through which she was able to form valued connections with children, families, and providers. Read below to learn more about Kiana’s experiences working with All Our Kin, and how these experiences transformed her personal and professional goals as she furthered her commitment to serving children and families.

kh-blog-2Read Kiana’s Story:

For my summer fellowship, I was placed with a New Haven-based nonprofit called All Our Kin.  The primary focus of All Our Kin is to improve the quality of early childhood education and care in underserved populations through direct work with the community and advocacy.

Over the course of my time with All Our Kin, I had many projects relating to different aspects of the mission.  My primary project was the creation of a policy memo, with the help of some of the data available in the office, for a state program that provides childcare subsidies to low-income families.  Other projects were based largely in the Early Head Start office, and included translation, – from interviews with childcare providers to a handbook for parents enrolling in All Our Kin’s New Haven-based Early Head Start program – workshop planning, creating a video to promote the program, and helping set up a study on the efficacy of the All Our Kin Early Head Start program to be conducted in the near future.  At times, I even met with families interested in the Early Head Start program to help them apply and enroll.

It is important to note, however, that I did not spend all of my time in the office.  On certain occasions – say, when a newly enrolled family was starting their first day at a provider’s home – we would go out and visit the Early Head Start sites.  During these visits, I got to see the smiling faces of the kids’ whose names I had already seen a number of times in the office.  My first visit to a particular site meant that the children would always start off shy around me, but would ultimately warm up and even try to pull me along into their games.

I cannot say there is one specific memorable moment in the entirety of my summer, but there are definitely a couple dozen small ones.  Watching the children sing a morning song or sitting with them as they finger-painted and blurted out the names of the colors.  Hearing the joy in a mother’s voice as she was notified by phone that we were able to offer her child a spot in the program.  Working with parents on their resumes and interview skills during a job skills workshop.  All of these small moments have left me with an image of my summer imprinted in my mind that still gives me a sense of warmth whenever I look back on it.

My summer was filled with many families and many, many children.  It did not take long for me to realize that it is impossible to focus solely on one or the other, because in practice, they are so connected.  To make sure our support system has a strong effect on children, we must also ensure that the adults in their lives outside of their childcare program are also being supported.  We held many workshops for parents and providers alike, as a result.  It was in those workshops that my resolve to go on to law school was solidified.   When I first applied to the Liman fellowship, I was a (struggling) Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry major, trying to decide whether I would ultimately go into research or law.  Through my experiences this summer, I realized that there is no better feeling than being a helping hand to those who truly need it.

As I enter my junior year, I enter “undeclared”.  I have no major and feel like a freshman again shopping so many classes.  Sometimes, I even get lost trying to find all of these Humanities buildings that I have never before had reason to find.  But I am so much surer of what I will do in the long run, and I have this summer to thank for that.


To learn more about the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program and the other fellowship awards it supports, click here.

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Meet Natalie: All Our Kin’s New Policy Fellow

Hello! My name is Natalie, and I just started working at All Our Kin as the new Policy Fellow. I am so excited to engage with the All Our Kin community, especially the incredible family child care professionals who dedicate themselves to providing quality, affordable child care for Connecticut families. As a Connecticut native and a graduate of the University of Connecticut, I look forward to supporting the people who are transforming early childhood experiences in my home state.

The Policy Fellowship is a dream position for 13669380_10207086066614006_466063884063282846_o
me, because it allows me to combine my passion for empowering communities with my belief in policy as a critical tool for effecting widespread change. My journey to All Our Kin began in January 2013, when I moved to Washington D.C. for a semester-long internship with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). There, I was spurred to action by the reality of poverty in our nation’s capital. I was also in regular communication with Connecticut constituents, who often voiced concerns related to employment, education, and the welfare of children and families.

With this in mind, I organized and led twelve university students on an immersive learning and volunteer experience to D.C. in the spring of 2015.  During this trip, we had the opportunity to work with and learn from a variety of organizations addressing issues related to urban poverty and political action. Across all the organizations, it was evident to me that a person’s path in life is often largely determined by their early childhood experiences.

Most recently, I spent a year in the beautiful town of Pravets, Bulgaria, where I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant for students in grades eight through twelve. Seeing the outcomes of educational inequality in the classroom every day, I grew passionate about becoming an advocate for the time when it all begins: early childhood. That is why I am at All Our Kin, and that is why I am so inspired by the work of our providers.

I have already jumped right in, attending meetings, coordinating site visits, reviewing upcoming policy issues, managing social media, and working on presentations. I am most looking forward to meeting the family child care professionals in All Our Kin’s network, and seeing their work in action. And of course, I am excited to work with our providers, partners, and policy-makers to ensure that Connecticut makes family child care a policy priority!

I will maintain regular outreach via this blog during my time here, so check back often! If you are a family child care provider, I’d love to hear from you if you would like to share your story, write a blog post, get involved in advocacy work, or touch base about your experience as an early childhood professional and how I can best support your mission. Please feel free to contact me at at any time. Thanks for reading!

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Family Child Care Takes the Stage: Jessica Sager Represents All Our Kin at United State of Women Summit

USOW Panel Pic

Thousands gathered in Washington D.C. earlier this month for The United State of Women Summit, the first large-scale event of its kind, to celebrate gender equality achievements and to discuss solutions for the societal challenges that still exist. Presenters included First Lady Michelle Obama, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Oprah Winfrey, Amy Poehler, and our very own Executive Director, Jessica Sager. The Summit rallied professionals from across sectors to focus on six overarching topics, many of which All Our Kin supports through its mission. The topics of focus were: economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership and civic engagement.

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, and Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the White House Council of Women and Girls and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, gave a welcome address, calling for a celebration of the triumphs women have made around the world. Higher graduation rates and lower unplanned, teen pregnancy rates, they noted, are amazing strides, but the fight for equality and justice continues. Jarrett and Tchen embraced the Summit motto, “Today, we’ll change tomorrow,” evoking a spirit of ingenuity, ambition, and possibility.

One of the highlights of the day was when Mikaila Ulmer, Founder and CEO of Me & The Bees Lemonade, introduced President Barack Obama. Ulmer is a social entrepreneur, bee ambassador, advocate and student; she is also eleven years old. “What makes great entrepreneurs,” she started out,  “is what comes naturally for kids…. Entrepreneurs hold the American Dream. And the biggest dreamers are kids. We dream big. We dream about things that don’t even exist yet. We believe in our dreams.” Ulmer’s message reminds us that people of all ages have the power to transform their lives, communities, and the world, if they allow themselves to embrace creativity.

In addition to the inspirational keynote addresses, the Summit also included numerous panels of experts discussing pressing issues in gender equality. Jessica Sager’s session, “The Promise of Our Youngest Girls: Investing in Early Childhood Education,” was moderated by Rafael López, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, and included Alison Gopnik, Marcy Whitebrook, Nicole Mason, Tonia McMillian, and Sherrie Westin. Dr. Gopnik began the discussion with a shortened version of her TED talk on how babies think.  The panel went on to address such issues as: How do we increase wages and professional development for the women who care for and educate our youngest citizens? How do we ensure that working mothers have access to quality child care? And how do we provide equitable access to quality early learning environments for our youngest girls–and, indeed, all children?

The conversation about child care did not end with the panel, however. The final hour of the Summit featured a conversation between Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. During this interview, Ms. Obama told a story of how she brought her daughter, Sasha, to an interview because she lacked another option. “I had been mothering-part time and working full time…because the thing I found out about working half-time is you only get paid for half-time,” she said with a laugh. But with this new position, Ms. Obama would only settle for a position and a schedule that would allow her to give her daughters the care they needed. The crowd celebrated as she told Ms. Winfrey, “I got that job because I did not compromise.” Ms. Obama reminds us that working parents in all job sectors struggle with finding appropriate, affordable care for their children. We are glad that the universality of the child care climate received the attention it did at the Summit. If we are going to transform child care in this country, we need to continue having honest conversations about the state of child care, no matter how personal or difficult they may be.

The Summit was hosted by The White House Council of Women and Girls in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation. More information on the Summit, including video footage, can be found at the website:


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Guest Post: Family Child Care Providers at the Yale University Art Gallery

Authors: Jessica Sack and Elizabeth Williams, Yale University Art Gallery

For almost three years, the Yale University Art Gallery and All Our Kin have collaborated to offer professional development sessions to family child care providers. We at the Gallery are so grateful for this partnership, which has led not only to new friendships and relationships in New Haven but has catalyzed new projects related to bilingual education and early childhood education.


Experimentation has marked much of our work with All Our Kin. We have tried a number of different models for these workshops over the years, including multiple times, days of the week, meal options, and languages. We have also experimented a great deal with the focus of the sessions: topics have ranged from storytelling to special exhibitions to child development. Sessions take place at the Gallery and are led by both Gallery educators as well as by Wurtele Gallery Teachers, Yale graduate students whom the Gallery employs as museum educators. The Wurtele Gallery teachers who have been involved—Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, Tess Korobkin, Mary Kim, Tony Coleman, and Emmanuel Lachaud—continually reflect on the enormous impact their experience with All Our Kin  has had on their teaching practice and lives in New Haven. For instance, Tess noted that something wonderful happens when people share a meal and are able to talk about the experience of looking at art together. We have kept this in mind as we have planned our sessions.

As Ana Maria began to coordinate sessions, she also invited providers to return with their families, friends, and students. This resulted in a summer filled with tours in Spanish for families and friends.  Ana Maria helped us think about how we could work with Spanish-speaking groups more easily and helped us translate our self-guided family materials into Spanish. These include our Architecture Guide, Looking Closely with Felt and Yarn, and Exploring Art Together. At the same time, the museum created a task force to look at the needs of our Spanish-speaking audience. This task force, comprised of members of our business office, visitor services, and education, met with participants in the All Our Kin workshops to better understand their perspective. As a result of the meetings and the work the task force did, the museum now has all family materials, maps, and general museum information in English and Spanish.


This past year we have been working to structure the workshops to focus on developmental skills of young children. We did a session on fine motor skills that modeled activities for providers to do in their own work. We looked at objects in the special exhibition and worked on a project that focused on the fine motor skills of cutting and sculpting. As the year went on, we incorporated more storytelling into our activities. For our workshop on emotional development, we read Our Many Colored Days in English and Spanish in front of a painting by Pierre Bonnard. Participants thought about the connection between the story and the painting and then focused on ideas of mood and emotion.  At another workshop on imagination, Emmanuel and Mary read Where the River Begins in English and Spanish in the American Landscape Room. Participants were asked to look around as they listened to the story and imagine which paintings would fit as illustrations. At the end of the story we had a lively discussion about which paintings fit best and why. The group agreed that this kind of activity could work with many different stories. Finally, in one project, providers made their own books in the studio to foster the imagination. The hope is that these books can be used with the children and also spark new ideas for projects with kids.


As you can see, this collaboration has had quite an impact on the Gallery’s teaching. We now work with many more groups of young children as result of All Our Kin participants bringing children. We also do a lot more teaching in Spanish, which has helped us realize the importance of having multilingual staff members; we are keeping this in mind as we hire new Wurtele Gallery Teachers. The planning for the sessions has been truly collaborative and we have learned an enormous amount from our colleagues at All Our Kin.

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Growing Brains, Growing Communities: University of Bridgeport Opens its Doors for All Our Kin’s 11th Annual Family Child Care Conference

“High quality early childhood programs – whether they are in a center or in somebody’s living room – have huge, important, powerful impacts on the lives of children. And those impacts can last a lifetime.”

These words, spoken by Dr. Walter Gilliam, were a perfect way to begin All Our Kin’s 11th Annual Family Child Care Conference, “Growing Brains, Growing Communities.” The conference, held on May 14 at the University of Bridgeport, brought together over 200 family child care providers from across the state for a day of growth and learning about child development.


Dr. Gilliam, the Director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at Yale University’s Child Study Center, kicked the morning off with a keynote address about children’s brain development and the science of early learning, giving providers concrete examples of how they can incorporate neurological research findings into their programs. He ended his address by encouraging providers to invite legislators and local elected officials to their programs so that they can see what goes on in a family child care, emphasizing that small advocacy efforts like this can truly change minds and make a difference in politics.

After Dr. Gilliam’s address, providers split up to attend workshops on a variety of themes, from sign language to emotional literacy to business marketing.

One workshop, “Developing and Supporting an Emergent Curriculum for Young Children,” led by Winnie Naclerio, introduced providers to the idea of an “emergent curriculum,” a way of planning curricula based on children’s interests and passion at a point in time. “Every little thing can be a learning experience for children,” reflected one provider afterwards. “You can start a conversation about anything and everything.” Providers were particularly enthusiastic about the workshop’s emphasis on using recycled objects and objects from nature to create program materials: “I learned how to be creative without spending a lot of money,” said one provider. “We don’t need to buy expensive materials to teach basic science concepts.” Naclerio’s suggestions were innovative and practical for family child care providers, who may not have extensive materials budgets for their programs.



Another workshop, “Girls in Books,” was taught by Sandy Malmquist from the CT Children’s Museum, a longtime partner of All Our Kin. Sandy explored the role of girls in books for young children. Providers were enthralled: “What look like harmless pictures actually carry important messages that reinforce stereotypes that are harmful for all children.” Another provider said, “I learned to teach kids about gender roles in storytelling, and to change stories so that women can play a greater role. We can use stories to support gender equality and women’s empowerment.”


Presenters were inspired by providers’ engagement and impressed by their unflagging enthusiasm and energy. The workshops allowed providers to learn from the instructors and also to share their own wisdom in peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

The day ended with a celebration including music and raffle prizes. Alika Hope, a local musician and performance artist, helped participants write their own songs about children and their experiences as family child care providers. “The music really brought providers together,” said Kim Braun, All Our Kin’s conference coordinator. “It was a nice way to build a sense of community. By the end of the day, there was this real sense of unity around the common goal of enriching children’s lives.”


We are so grateful to the University of Bridgeport for opening its doors to All Our Kin and our provider network. Dr. Tarek Sobh, the Dean of University of Bridgeport’s School of Engineering, was generous enough to donate the space and meals for all conference participants. He organized an entire team of professors, graduate students, and university staff to help out as volunteers. “The conference couldn’t have happened without them. They were outstanding,” said Kim Braun. “And the space couldn’t have been more beautiful. The campus was in bloom, the rooms were elegant, and the weather was perfect.” Many thanks to Dr. Sobh and the whole team from the University of Bridgeport for their support!


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Making Quality Possible: Jessica Sager Featured in a Q&A at New America Ed Central

Last week, All Our Kin Executive Director Jessica Sager spoke with New America’s Aaron Loewenberg about All Our Kin’s history, our new study (which Aaron had written about previously in a different article), and the importance of investing in family child care providers. Read the interview with Jessica at New America’s website, or keep reading to see the whole thing here. 

Aaron Loewenberg: What led you to create All Our Kin and what need does it fill?

nJessica Sager: All Our Kin grew out of a very particular historical moment–the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which “ended welfare as we know it.” The law imposed new job training requirements on welfare recipients with young children, and created a lifetime limit on their eligibility for benefits. I entered law school just weeks after President Clinton signed the Act. I had come to law school wanting to be an advocate for children; working with a local policy organization, I began researching the law’s consequences on children and families. It was clear that the Act’s new job training requirements would create a tremendous burden on our already inadequate child care system. We didn’t have then, and don’t have now, enough safe, healthy child care options, let alone the high-quality, nurturing, developmentally appropriate settings that we know are crucial for children’s development. Under these conditions, parents would be forced to choose between their families’ economic survival and their children’s well-being.

In response, Janna Wagner and I founded All Our Kin. In its initial form, All Our Kin was a lab school where parents on public assistance could come together with their young children. Participants trained to become early childhood educators, while working with their own and each other’s children. Our program was designed to enable parents to continue to receive benefits while they trained with us. Upon graduation, they could go to work at child care centers, or open family child cares in their neighborhoods, thus expanding child care options for other parents.

How did you get started working with family child care providers?

We began by working with the graduates of our lab school who had chosen to open family child care programs. Unlike those who had gone to work at child care centers, the family child care providers had nothing in place to support their continued professional development, and no resources to help them manage the multiple roles they had to play, as teacher, director, and business owner. We researched best practices around the country, and created a family child care network for our graduates based on what we learned had been most effective. Once we created the network, however, we found that the demand extended far beyond our original group of graduates. Family child care providers began reaching out to us, asking if they could take part in our trainings and programs. The network grew, first throughout New Haven (where All Our Kin began), then to adjoining towns, and eventually expanded to four cities in Connecticut: New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk. In 2008, we closed the lab school, focusing all our efforts on family child care.

Family child care is such a critical piece of the child care landscape. We know that almost half of all children under five spend a portion of their day in home-based care, and that our youngest children and our poorest children are especially likely to be in these settings. Family child care fills a pressing need for care that is affordable, accessible, flexible, and culturally diverse. If we care about children’s foundational learning experiences, it’s essential that we raise quality in home-based care.

Could you provide some more details about the organization’s Toolkit Licensing Program? And, what other services does All Our Kin offer to family child care providers?

The Toolkit Licensing Program, a collaboration between All Our Kin and the Connecticut Children’s Museum, has two components. The first component is a series of boxes–literally kits–that contain everything that a would-be family child care provider needs to become licensed in the state of Connecticut. The second component is the Toolkit Coordinator, an All Our Kin staff member who serves as a counselor, advocate, and critical friend. She helps applicants navigate the multistep process: her role includes everything from explaining the paperwork, to following up on the status of an application, to helping the applicant prepare her space for children. Throughout, she is reinforcing the message that child care providers are professionals, and that this is just the first step on a lifelong professional journey.

Once a provider becomes licensed, she graduates to All Our Kin’s Family Child Care Network. Our network, which is voluntary and free, offers providers a range of services to improve the quality of their care and the sustainability of their businesses. All our programs and services are offered in both English and Spanish. In each community, we also build relationships with multiple stakeholders–health providers, mental health providers, school systems, libraries, museums, food banks, legal clinics–so that we can connect family child care providers, and the parents and children that they serve, to a broader range of opportunities.

All Our Kin also runs a small Early Head Start-Family Child Care partnership program, in conjunction with the United Way of Greater New Haven, which serves as a learning lab for our work overall. Through Early Head Start, we’re able to access additional training and resources for providers, children and families, and learn new strategies that we can try out in other parts of the network.

A recent independent study found that providers affiliated with All Our Kin scored higher on measures of child care quality compared to other providers. What does this study tell us about what works in improving the quality of family child care settings?

The study is very exciting, because it makes a strong case for the value of investing in family child care quality. It supports what the research of scholars like Juliet Bromer tells us; staffed family child care networks are the most effective strategy for raising the quality of family child care programs.

We are still learning about what makes a network effective, but a few things are clear. First, relationships are fundamental. In order to be effective, work with family child care providers has to be strength-based, grounded in mutual respect and reciprocity between network staff and providers. Second, staff need specialized training and knowledge in order to do their work well. They need to understand the principles of both child development and adult development, as well as the particular strengths and challenges of family child care. Third, in order to combat the isolation and loneliness that go along with the work, providers must have opportunities to build relationships with each other, and engage with a broader professional community.

I’m hoping that the study will encourage states and communities to expand the professional development opportunities that they offer family child care providers. I’m also hoping that it will lead to additional funding for research into family child care initiatives like ours.

Are there any plans to replicate the All Our Kin model in other states or communities? Have other states or communities reached out to try to adopt this model?

We are working on a plan to expand the All Our Kin model to additional communities, both within Connecticut and beyond. Our strategy has two parts. First, over the next five years we plan to replicate directly in three to five additional sites. Second, we’d like to partner with agencies in other parts of the country who are already engaged in working with family child care providers, sharing what we’ve learned through trial and error over many years in the field. We get several calls a month from communities all over the country who would like to learn from what we do; we want to be responsive to their interest and enthusiasm. It’s exciting to see the growing interest in family child care, and the growing recognition that family child care is an essential piece of the child care puzzle.

What is the biggest challenge you see going forward when it comes to improving the quality of family child care providers?

Honestly, I think the biggest challenge is convincing stakeholders, such as policymakers, educators, and community leaders, that family child care programs can be a quality option for young children. Once you succeed in making the case, it follows logically that we need to provide the resources–funding, training, incentives–that will make quality possible.

What are your thoughts on the recommendations of the National Academy of Medicine’s Transforming the Workforce report and the implications for family child care providers?

I’ve read the Practitioner’s Guide, and I’m looking forward to reading the full report. I love the vision of a cohesive, unified set of standards for the early childhood workforce, and the acknowledgement of family child care providers as professional educators and lead teachers. The focus on high-quality professional learning systems is very much in line with the way we think about our work at All Our Kin, and the elements outlined in the report (active learning, coaching, peer study groups, sustained and intensive learning) are the same elements that we work to incorporate into all our professional learning activities with family child care providers. I hope the report will inspire states to think about ways to structure their professional development systems to align with these principles.

I am an advocate of bachelor’s degrees for all educators, including family child care providers, but only so long as the requirement is implemented thoughtfully, and providers receive the supports and resources necessary to make it feasible. In our experience, family child care providers are enthusiastic and eager to take college classes that directly apply to their work, but they are more challenged by, and less likely to see the value of, general education requirements. So, many of our providers have, with our support, obtained nine to twelve college credits in early childhood, but they rarely continue to a two- or four-year degree. Language barriers are also a challenge; few courses are available to our Spanish-speaking providers. So, to make this idea a reality, I think you’d need: (1) funding for scholarships; (2) specialized support for family child care providers (language supports, among others, and perhaps a cohort-based model); and (3) most of all, tangible incentives to make it worth family child care providers’ while.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I am a huge advocate for investment in family child care, for so many reasons. First, as I discussed earlier, when you raise the quality of family child care, you reach many of our youngest, poorest children, those in the greatest need. Second, because family child care is such a good option for working families, when you expand the supply of care, you make it possible for low-income parents to enter and succeed in the workforce. And finally, through building family child care businesses, you raise the incomes of providers, many of whom are parents themselves, and help them build better lives for their own families.

New America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.




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