Tag Archives: economy

An Open Letter To Esther Evans Central NY’s Own Mary Poppins

18 May

Dear Esther,

It has been several weeks since we met at your home tucked away in the rolling hills between Skaneateles and Marcellus, N.Y. You agreed to talk with me on the dawn of your retirement from 16 years as a licensed family child care provider, so I could “profile” your story for Child Care Solutions. The stories I typically write are attempts at illustrating the importance of the work we do on behalf of the Central New York child care system.  I spin negative circumstances which our agency has helped parents or child care providers overcome into heart-tugging pleas for more money, better legislation, and progressive public policies. But your story is different. Your story is an example of our vision –“every child being cared for in a high quality, safe and nurturing environment that cultivates healthy development, early learning and joy” – being brought to life. There is nothing to spin, no barrier to hurdle, no struggle to detail. Yet I want you to know, you tugged at my heartstrings like no other person I’ve interviewed.

The day we met began with a nostalgic drive down memory lane on the country roads of my youth. Farm houses, sturdy barns and rolling pastures brought me back to simpler days and led me to a humble home that felt comfortably familiar. I stumbled up your gravel driveway; you held the door open for me, your cheery yellow scarf blowing in the wind, and shouted, “Honey, I’m so glad to meet you.”  My heart knew you meant it. I loved you instantly. After formal introductions and offers of coffee and tea, I settled into a well-worn couch and learned about the volumes of knowledge accumulated during 16 years as a family child care provider. What was supposed to be a quick ½-hour interview about retirement evolved into a 2-hour visit that filled me with gratitude for having met such a kind soul. I could have stayed nestled in that couch forever. I’d liken the experience to what I am sure Jane and Michael Banks felt after realizing that Mary Poppins had magical nanny powers – it was mesmerizing!esther

Please know that meeting you felt like kismet to me. You came along during a period when I was questioning the relevance of my work and becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of political/societal will to change a dysfunctional child care system. You single-handedly reignited my spark because in you I saw what I’m working for – child care that is filled with learning, play, security, comfort, and most importantly, love. You embody what every child care provider should be. This vocation was your calling and countless children and parents benefited from your passion. My hope is that by writing this letter, others will reap the rewards of your wisdom; they will know your story is a diamond in the rough … and that we need more diamonds.

In 2000, you worked up the courage to open your own child care business. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” you told me.  You had never been your own boss, having worked in retail and at a Camillus copy center – where people would come in and scream and yell all day. The thought of anyone yelling at you is heartbreaking. Who yells at quite possibly one of the kindest ladies I have ever met? These jobs led to an assistant position at a child care center in Skaneateles, where you found your destiny. And I don’t use that word lightly. It is my belief that some people are simply hardwired to perform certain jobs. Child care is one of the hardest professions around and it takes a special person to do it really well – and to want to. Let’s face it, you weren’t in it for the money. You said yourself you should have charged more, but that wasn’t what it was about for you. For you, it was about the kids and loving them and helping their parents. “Where else can you go to work every day and get a hug and ‘I love you’?”  Oh, how I wish I would have known you when my children were small. The heartache you could have saved me.

As you know, Esther, heartache like mine can be quite common among parents who rely on child care when they are at work. Leaving your child in someone else’s care is a leap of faith. It is the ultimate test of trust. For you, it was “a privilege that parents would trust [me] enough to help raise their children.”  When you uttered those words, I choked up and thought, why can’t everyone feel that way? For truly, it is a privilege and an honor (albeit not always an easy one) to be entrusted with another’s safety, security and education. (We need this privilege to translate to community and political leaders – a letter for another day!) For 16 years you did it with grace, humility, confidence, common sense and a little bit of flair. That flair shines through in what I’m calling “Esther’s Pearls of Wisdom.” These are the nuggets you peppered into our conversation, and I’ve compiled them into a list so you can easily share them with others:

  1. Play outdoors all of the time, but be prepared for anything. Always have extra sweatshirts, socks, and underwear on hand.
  2. Thrifty Shopper and the Rescue Mission are a child care provider’s best friend for things like sweatshirts, coats and snowsuits. A little soap and water and things are like brand new!
  3. Don’t be afraid of making messes. It’s OK if you get paint on the table. It will come off.
  4. Let kids play. Let kids make mistakes.
  5. Kids are so smart. Give them the time and patience they need because slow and steady wins the race.
  6. Encourage, don’t discourage. Praise children for things they do well. Listen and get excited for them.
  7. Say “I’m sorry” as an adult and teach children to say “I’m sorry” sincerely.
  8. Place children on your heart and never take them off.
  9. Adults have good days and bad days. Children are no different – always remember that.
  10. Don’t buy expensive toys. It’s OK to get toys at garage sales.
  11. There are no bad kids – only bad situations.
  12. Greet children at the door with a hug or a handshake.
  13. Document, document, document every bump, bruise, tummy ache, etc.
  14. Jump in the mud!
  15. Do arts and crafts outdoors. Kids will be inspired.
  16. Parents visit a child care program multiple times before you make a decision. You can’t get a true sense of what a place is like in one day.
  17. Know what your limits are and what you’re capable of.
  18. If you can’t give kids 110% it’s time to quit.
  19. Have a schedule and share it with parents. Be flexible with the schedule if you need to.
  20. Enroll in CACFP.
  21. If you are the child care provider and you witness a child’s first step or word or smile, DO NOT TELL THE PARENTS! Let them have this experience.
  22. JUST LOVE THEM!

These pearls of wisdom are just a few of the examples of the kind of child care you provided, Esther. How lucky are the children and parents who benefited from this advice.

mackenna-green-beans

As you embark on your retirement, please rest assured knowing that you served the parents and children of your community well. The impact you’ve had on children’s lives cannot be underestimated. Children like Mackenna Caryl are better people for having been in your care; I’m sure she will always credit you for being the person who got her to eat green beans (a magical feat for many parents) and for being a second “grandmother” to her. Your “kids” who are now teenagers come back to visit you and write cards and letters. That says something!  So from me personally and the entire staff of Child Care Solutions, thank you. Thank you for your dedication, for treating child care as a profession, for doing right by children, for being the type of child care provider everyone should emulate, for being Central New York’s own Mary Poppins. You will be missed.

Sincerely,

Patrice Robinson

Marketing & Development Director

patrice crop

PS. Don’t be surprised if I stop by for freeze pops one day this summer!

Esther made differences in children’s lives every day. We need more qualified and caring individuals like Esther to support working families. When you support Child Care Solutions, it’s an investment in Central New York’s future. Your donation supports professional development opportunities for child care educators and providers like Esther and our public policy and advocacy efforts on behalf of quality and affordable child care.

Every day Esther invested in children, parents, and our economy. Make your investment in Central NY’s future.

DONATE

 

 

 

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Obama For Children…More Than Just A Kissing Baby Photo Op!

23 Feb

Why President Obama’s Budget is Good for Young Children

Even though the country still faces economic challenges and a number of federal departments would be cut in the President’s proposed 2012 -13 budget, President Obama has made early care and learning a priority. Here’s what the administration’s proposed budget would do:

  •  The Child Care and Development Block Grant would receive an $825 million increase. $300 million of that amount would be targeted to support child care quality including rating systems to help parents identify high-quality child care and investments in the child care workforce.
  •  Head Start would be increased by $85 million. The increase would include $45 million for cost of living adjustments for existing programs and $40 million over two years to implement the re-competition process, which requires grantees that are not meeting quality measures to compete to continue receiving funding.
  • Race to the Top, competitive grants to states for education reform, would receive $850 million in funding. A portion of this funding would be used for Early Learning Challenge Grants for systemic improvements in early care and education programs.
  • The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which helps parents cover a portion of their child care expenses, would be expanded to provide increased benefits for low- and middle-income families.

Go on the web to ask your federal Senators and Congress members where they stand on funding for early care and learning programs. Remind them that 85% of the foundation for a child’s intellect, personality and skills is formed by age 5. Parents can’t do it alone; they need support. And everyone benefits when we invest in children’s school readiness.

Peggy Liuzzi, Executive Director

Governor Cuomo, The Children of NY Need Your Support!

21 Nov

Child Care Solutions is a member of Winning Beginning NY, a coalition of early childhood advocacy organizations from around the state. Last week Winning Beginning NY released its recommendations for 2012 to Governor Cuomo. They asked the Governor to:
• Invest $20 million to begin implementation of QUALITYstarsNY (QSNY), New York’s new quality rating & improvement system.

What is QualityStarsNY? from Walking Whale on Vimeo.

• Restore $37 million in funding for child care subsidies and explore setting consistent statewide standards for parent eligibility and co-pays and provider reimbursement rates.
• Maintain the current commitment of $384.3 million to support Pre-K services for nearly 99,000 four-year-olds across the state.
• Adequately and equitably fund K-12 education aid to prevent school districts from reducing access to Kindergarten for five-year-olds.
• Invest $30.3 million to sustain evidence-based home visiting programs for vulnerable children and families.
• Restore the Early Intervention (EI) Program to last year’s funding level of $230 million.
• Restore the Advantage After-School Program to last year’s funding level of $22.5 million.
Child Care Solutions supports the Winning Beginning NY agenda because we believe that investments in young children help families and children thrive today and give children a foundation for life-long success. Even in bad economic times, no, especially in bad economic times, when so many families are struggling to make ends meet, we can’t afford to do less. We hope you agree.

Peggy Liuzzi, Executive Director, Child Care Solutions

To learn more about Winning Beginnings click on this link. http://www.winningbeginningny.org/

It’s About the Economy Baby!

26 Sep

We all know families who rely on child care programs to get to work every day, but we don’t always think about child care as an economic issue. With the formation of new Regional Economic Councils and continuing concern about the economic health of our region and our nation, it’s time to get the word out that investing in child care is a smart economic strategy.

Quality child care generates both long-term and short-term returns.
• Short-term—it supports local families so they can work. Their productivity on the job keeps our businesses running and enables residents to provide for their families, buy homes and pay taxes to support the economic stability of our community.
• Long-term—it increases school readiness and lays the foundation for children’s later success in school and in life. With lackluster test scores and high dropout rates plaguing many of our schools, it’s time to invest more money in school readiness. Research studies have found that 75% of brain growth and 85% of intellect, personality and social skills develop before age five.

Charles Kolb, president of the Committee for Economic Development (CED), said recently, “We’re literally spending billions and billions of dollars on K-12 education, and when kindergartners and first graders aren’t ready to learn when they get to school, it hurts the nation.”

Quality child care is good for business too. Many Fortune 500 companies have found that increasing access to child care helps employees to balance their family and work roles and improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, cuts turnover and increases company value.

As the CNY Economic Development Council plans for the future, I hope it will include support for the development of a quality child care system.

Author: Peggy Liuzzi, Executive Director Child Care Solutions CNY

Check out what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has to say about Child Care and the Economy

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