"When you have strong women and strong communities, you have strong children," Teresa Younger, executive director of Connecticut's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, reminded an attentive crowd last Saturday morning at All Our Kin's Eighth Annual Family Child Care Conference. Over 130 family child care providers from across Connecticut gathered at Gateway Community College for this year's conference, titled "Caterpillar to Butterfly: Children, Families, and Teachers Growing and Changing." The day was a vibrant success, bringing together providers of diverse backgrounds and experience levels, but all with an impassioned commitment to bettering their practice and improving the lives of the children and families they serve.
Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, newly appointed executive director of Connecticut's Office of Early Childhood, energized the crowd with opening remarks. Teresa Younger earned a standing ovation for her opening keynote titled "Be the Change," in which she spoke about her past experience as a nanny and her current role as a fervent advocate for women's equality.
The day continued with a variety of workshops that allowed providers to engage more deeply in their practice. Providers learned conversational reading skills and transition management techniques. They practiced hands-on activities that use music to promote literacy, and experienced curiosity themselves as they discussed ways to nurture curiosity in young children. They learned how to make mealtime a learning opportunity, and how to support rich oral language experiences for children aged 0-5. Providers also gained skills to help promote their business, and had the chance to grow as advocates and effective storytellers.
In reflecting on their work, providers had much to say. "It's important to let the parents know that you care about them, and are there to help them," said one provider. "We are not just providers, but teachers, janitors, cooks, and psychologists all at the same time," said another. "It's not an easy job, but I love my job," another remarked, joined by many nods of agreement. "Seeing the children's happy faces every day. They make my day, every day."
Following workshops, lunch, and a resource fair, Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change and long-time New Havener delivered a moving closing keynote. "Change happens when those of us in this room decide that we are going to make things better," she said. "Every one of you is a change agent in your communities. Believe in your power."
Providers also used the conference as a time to connect with one another, catch up, share ideas, and strengthen networks within and beyond their immediate communities. Providers had the chance to celebrate their individual and collective accomplishments and set goals for the year ahead.
When attendees were asked what they liked best about this year's conference, many cited the information they learned that would help improve their programs, as well as "meeting other family child care providers and feeling the energy from the speakers." One noted the "beautiful and well-thought out theme." Another said she appreciated "the wide variety of workshops that were inclusive of family child care providers." A provider who is new to the All Our Kin family liked the conference because it was "a new experience, very educational," and promised "I won't miss another one!"
All Our Kin's annual conference is a prime example of the dedication, motivation, and passion of family child care providers in New Haven and across Connecticut. The family child care providers that come to All Our Kin are eager to connect with one another, grow as teachers and professionals, and make a remarkable impact on the lives of children and families. We thank you for your support, without which this conference, and the impact it has, would not be possible.
Jessica and Janna