Stories

Our Voices Matter.

By sharing our stories, we begin to see each other, understand our common needs, and tap into our collective power. By grounding in our shared experiences as child care providers and parents, we can shape our vision for the future--and the path to get there.

“More neurological connections are formed in the first three years of life than at any other point in development.”

I remember hearing those words in my Child Development class at the University of Arkansas and thinking, “How can anyone think that there is work more important than serving our youngest children?”

I have been in the early childhood field for 15 years. I always knew I wanted to work with children. My vision for what that looked like changed and grew throughout my degrees and the beginning of my career. Ultimately, everything led me to the work I’m doing now, which is an Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Mental Health with a state-wide initiative at a non-profit in Nebraska.

Our initiative strives to enhance the social and emotional well-being of all young children in Nebraska, while also working to build the early childhood mental health systems across communities. I currently co-lead Nebraska’s Pyramid Model State Leadership Team, and work closely with Nebraska’s early childhood coaching system as well.

I was born and raised in Arkansas but moved to Nebraska in 2017. A primary focus of my work has always been social and emotional development in young children, and building strong families. I’ve worked as an early childhood classroom teacher, a Mental Health and Disabilities Specialist and Family Advocate with Head Start, and a director of a Child Care Center.

While this field has always been my vocation, having my son has given me an entirely new viewpoint on the importance of access to high quality child care. I have immense privilege in being able to enroll my son in a high quality child care with excellent teachers, but the cost for him alone is equivalent to our mortgage.

Child care is an economic necessity. Communities must have access to high quality child care for everyone to thrive. Without it, our economy would crumble. Unfortunately, the high price of quality child care is rarely enough to sustain the high price that is necessary to run a child care program. Teachers are paid low wages, parents pay high tuition rates, and every single month, centers or child care family homes are closing because they cannot afford to keep their doors open.

Nationally, we have to recognize the child care crisis and act. Early child care teachers are some of the hardest working, most intelligent professionals in the workforce. They help to support the workforce of our entire country while also helping to grow and develop the leaders of tomorrow.

As more individuals outside of the early childhood field are beginning to recognizing the importance of access to high quality child care and early education, I am hopeful that our voices will be louder in demanding change. These are our children. Our communities. We must support the early childhood workforce because THIS is the most important work.

Christen, Nebraska

We hear you.

New York

Janna

Resilience was embedded in me as a child. I took that force and commitment to want to succeed and knew education was my only option out of the poverty I had come from.

Throughout my childhood years, I vividly remember watching my single mother go above and beyond to assure that the needs of four children were always met. To me this memory is vivid and has shown me what courage, resilience and love can do at dark times. She came from the Dominican Republic with a three-month-old baby girl to the United States following behind my father. For my mother education has always been important and she was blessed to attend catholic school in the Dominican Republic which provided the fundamentals to learning a second language such as English. However, not being proficient in the English language, the struggles began the moment she arrived in New York in 1989. She worked two full time jobs to be able to provide for myself and my unborn brother who she was carrying at the time: in addition to recently going through a divorce with our father. The tears that would run down her face on the exceptionally long nights are part of my strength today. Today that little girl who had an absent father figure and a mother overworked still understood the fundamentals of life because I watched my mother never give up. The tears and pain she endured instilled so much strength in me and my fellow siblings. She would always state being a Latina is not something she was ashamed of and always encouraged me to hold my head high even on days that felt so tormenting and lost. Her motivation was her children, my motivation is ensuring that every child is provided the opportunity to succeed no matter creed, race, or financial stability.

I was always told growing up that I always showed such courage and understood what survival meant for being a Latina raised in a community that was divided by race. I would say to them, resilience was embedded in me as a child. I took that force and commitment to want to succeed and knew education was my only option out of the poverty I had come from. To mitigate change within a community where your voice was ignored, many could not survive the obstacles and fell for such habits such as drug addictions, gang affiliation, prostitution, and other criminal activities. Those experiences I watched others endure, provided me with the foundation to want to be part of the change my community needed. I started my advocacy role at a young age of fourteen. I understood that collectively as a community we needed to work tirelessly to bring forth change and it began with electing individuals who resembled me. Who understood my needs as a teenager looking for a way out and willing to listen to the voices of the voiceless. When an African American man became mayor of the community I was raised in, I knew change is possible but only with resilience and faith in doing what’s best for all people. Not allowing fear to deter you from your dreams. The dreams that seemed so unattainable from the reality I lived as a child.

My advocacy in early childhood education may not be ten plus years, however the passion for change is persistent and that is powerful. So, let us delve into why childcare and early childhood education are essential to the economy of America. The pandemic we are still facing has brought the broken childcare system we have in this country to the forefront. So, what are these so-called issues? When we look at disproportionate families – minority and low-income families – the disparities prove to be true that these individuals are affected the most. Women then and presently continue to be affected the most when it requires making decisions of continuing to work or leave employment due to the lack of childcare options. The inaccessibility of childcare to women, especially women of color and within the poverty income limits, whose children are already at a disadvantage, continue increasing in the need for a stable and enriching environment to learn. Programs such as Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant have been pivotal in providing affordable / subsidized childcare for families that are disadvantaged. Therefore, it is crucial we continue to advocate for policy reform in funding these amazing programs to provide more high-quality childcare within communities of color.

Understanding the process for policy reform is important and I was able to learn these essential skills during my internship at the Honorable Congressman Gregory Meeks Office. Collectively, we worked on immigration reform policies for the New York’s 5th congressional district. The Congressman understood what Dreamers meant for America and stood by them. Again, the childcare crisis has been and will continue declining due to the inadequate funding and support families need to work. As a childcare provider, I serve low-income families and see firsthand the importance of high-quality childcare and the effects it has on children from birth to five years old. Subsidies for these parents who cannot afford to cover rent and essential bills and the cost of care are forever grateful for the assistance. Their low wages do not permit for these low-income parents mostly mothers to cover the cost of childcare.

I am hopeful that we can truly make the world a better and safe place for everyone most important the children, those most vulnerable. The importance of standing for what you believe in and seeing it though continues to be the force behind why I continue fighting for the voiceless, in which I was once part of. Today I am stronger than ever and understand the importance of advocacy and civic engagement and the power behind we the people. We are capable of changing policies that can assure that children within low income and minority communities see the reform necessary to succeed. Becoming a part of organizations whose mission is to support children and families, it has created an opportunity to bring the change we need on a national level and truly work toward true reform. Many organizations such as NAEYC, CDA Council, Empire State Campaign for Childcare, Childcare Changemakers and CSEA have and will continue to be the strength we need to create sustainable and accessible early childhood programs nationally and understand the importance of supporting high quality childcare programs across this great nation.

Arkansas

Rosemary

The lack of recognition and value placed in early childhood education is staggering.

The lack of recognition and value placed in early childhood education is staggering. It's a low paying career in a high demand workforce, which makes it challenging to find qualified teachers. Luckily, there are still a handful of loyal educators hanging in there because their true passion is making changes in children's lives.
Arkansas

Angie

Coming to the decision to close our facility after 10 years was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

I owned and operated a childcare center for 10 years. It was one of the most rewarding but most difficult jobs I've ever had! Coming to the decision to close our facility after 10 years was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I loved making a difference in our families lives. I loved pouring into my staff and doing life with all of these people (we were family). But, at the end of the day, it was growing increasingly harder year after year to retain employees and operate at the high level of quality that we worked tirelessly to maintain. The constant revolving door of staffing the center was exhausting and of course when you have staff turnover, families grow weary and begin to look elsewhere. I just didn't have it in me anymore to lay out a vision for the future and steward the center the way it needed to. I wish I had CECE before making the decision to close. It gives me hope for the industry.
Arkansas

Dina

Support and professional development outside of business hours has always been a challenge.

Support and professional development outside of business hours has always been a challenge. I can't jump on a call when covering classrooms or we are shorthanded in other areas. One positive in the industry is an increase in federal funding and grant opportunities to better enrich our learning areas and technology.
An eBook

The Heart of the Provider

My childhood was all about survival. I was taken care of by neighbors and family members over the years while my parents worked. My parents assumed that the people who were watching me during the day and after school were safe and to be trusted because they were friendly neighbors or relatives. I was abused by 4 of them. These awful experiences greatly altered my childhood. I became a bully at school. A bad, ugly bully. It was a coping mechanism and helped me to survive my childhood in the only way I knew how. The effects of the abuse carried into adulthood, and created quite an unexpected and incredible journey.

Read the eBook

You Are Not Alone

By sharing our stories, we begin to see each other, understand our common needs, and tap into our collective power. By grounding in our shared experiences as child care providers and parents, we can shape our vision for the future--and the path to get there.

Join our movement by sharing these stories and your own.

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