Category Archives: Advocating for Children

The most important call you’ll ever make

Margaret MeadGuest-blogger and Director of 4C Kentucky Services Julie Witten shares her thoughts on the role of early childhood professionals in advocating for children.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead was on to something when she noted the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Despite this time of often sensationalized election coverage, it is important to remember what the democratic process—and the role of our elected officials—is really all about.

Elected officials are chosen by the people to represent the people and are answerable to those who elected them. You may think that your opinion or your voice doesn’t matter or can’t make a difference once someone is elected. In fact, quite the opposite is true. All elected officials offer a variety of ways (phone, email or in person) for you to contact them, but first you need to know what legislative district you live in. To find your legislator in Kentucky click here and in Ohio click here. This video shows just how easy it is to make a call to your legislator!

The Kentucky and Ohio state legislatures are in session now and representatives are making big decisions. So, this is a perfect time to contact your legislator about issues that are important to you.

What do you say? Is it important to you that families have access to child care assistance funding? Would you like to see additional incentives for providers in STARS for KIDS NOW in Kentucky or Step Up To Quality in Ohio? What supports would help your small business to thrive? If these or any other issues rise to the top of your list, contact your representative.

And, if you would like to see what statewide advocates for children and families are asking for, take a look at the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children or Groundwork Ohio.

Remember, it’s the duty of each elected official to listen to his or her constituents, the people who reside in his or her district. Each time you call or email, your exact words are registered on a green slip and the legislator reviews these each day.

Let your voice be heard. Your opinion matters!

Use your voice for children! I did.

This is a guest post from Paige Runion, Leadership Coach at 4C for Children.

I have often reflected that I am a product of 4C for Children, the regional child care resource and referral agency in our region. I’ve grown from my early years of doing the wrong things for the right reasons, learned to become a reflective early childhood professional and, now, am pursuing my passion for early care and education as an employee of 4C. It has been quite a journey. And what I love is this: All along, I have been learning.

My most recent lesson was in advocacy, through immersion. In the past, I have written a letter or two to express an opinion to a legislator. In 2006, I even sent an invitation to Steve Chabot to visit the Step Up To Quality star-rated child care center I administered (I was so surprised when he actually came.).

But my more recent lesson in advocacy was the “in over your head, too far to swim back to shore” kind. A team from 4C was headed to Columbus to talk to our state legislators about the importance of children having access to quality early learning experiences. As I answered the email and accepted the invitation to go, I immediately considered backing out. The very thought of it shoved me into my own un-comfort zone. Would I feel like an outsider, or what Sallie Westheimer called “newish”? I stick my toes in the water slowly, and this was deep water. It felt risky, but I love to learn.

I used my voice for children. You can too!

4C for Children staff who attended Advocacy Day 2014 in Columbus included (from left to right): Lorna, Sallie, Delorise, Paige, Shelley and Annetta. Here they are standing on a map of Ohio, covering all of the counties that 4C serves!

Having the opportunity to see and participate in Ohio’s legislative process was a new experience for me. Government was not in my top 10 interests in high school, but it came alive as I walked through the halls of Ohio’s Statehouse and the offices of the Ohio General Assembly representatives and senators. Having the support of colleagues made each of us more comfortable. We watched Sallie Westheimer, our CEO, smoothly model introductions and we listened carefully to how she phrased her opening descriptions of the legislation we were there to discuss–a new bill not yet introduced. Soon our own stories sprang out of our mouths, however. Our passion for children and their families outweighed any hesitancy. And there we were, all learning again.

We visited and spoke to aides in the offices of State Representatives Denise Driehaus, Timothy Derickson and Bill Coley as well as Senator Bill Seitz. We met with State Senator Eric Kearney. They learned of a bill coming to the floors of the House and Senate that will greatly help Ohio’s children who need it most. And we learned how to use the voice we have for children.

And Sallie? What did she learn? Well, Sallie learned something about each of us. I quietly marveled at how gracefully she shared her skills with us and the importance of what we were doing. I continue to think of ways to take this experience back to other administrators, and I am considering some strategies to support them in beginning to understand the power of their individual voices.

Will I return next year? Absolutely. And Sallie, I’ll not only go first, but you can give me a “newish” partner. I’m “oldish” now. And now I’m wondering what Capitol Hill looks like on the inside.

How does your afterschool program compare to the alternative?

As I sat in the waiting room of my doctor’s office recently, I picked up a copy of Parents Magazine and started thumbing through it. I came across an article entitled The New Latchkey Kids and was intrigued. They very next line after the title said “More than a million grade-schoolers have nobody to take care of them once class lets out. Where have all the after-school programs gone?” At the first sentence, I was nodding, knowing all too well how many children are at home unsupervised after school. At the second sentence, I did a double take; I had to make sure I had read it correctly. Knowing how many programs I visit on a regular basis, it was difficult to imagine how they could say that there was a scarcity. So, of course, I had to keep reading to find out.

Afterschool program tips

A few paragraphs into the article, it described the cuts in funding and limited access to affordable child care options. That may very well be the case. I can definitely see that being an issue for many families, as has been discussed in our Advocating for Children blog (November 2013) many times. It is a tough decision to send your child home alone because you can’t afford it, when there is so much evidence that child care programs, serving anywhere from infant through school-age, are incredibly beneficial to a child’s learning and development. It’s also tough, as a provider, to know that you are losing a child from your care, at no fault of your own. When I ran an after-school program in Indianapolis, there was a family of four children who needed to drop out of the program because of finances. Our fees were not high, but it was more than they could afford. I volunteered to pay for a month of care for them because I knew how crucial it was for the children to have somewhere to go.

Another section of the article touched on what the ‘ideal age’ is for a child to stay home alone. They cited that, at the time the article was published, only two states have regulations for a minimum age. Those states were Maryland (8 years old) and Illinois (14 years old). Other states had set recommendations, but many didn’t even have that. Knowing there is no minimum age for Ohio, I often find myself asking the staff I work with, “What would the children be doing if they were at home instead of in your program?” A lot of their answers revolve around video games and television or movies. Together we brainstorm ideas to make sure what they provide in their afterschool program is substantially different from that. When parents are faced with the whether to continue sending their child to an afterschool program because money is tight, they are going to want to see that there is more being offered in the program than what the child could do for free at home.

What are your thoughts on the availability of affordable child care, being providers of that care? What steps have you taken to ensure that parents want to send their children to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

When and how to bring developmental concerns to parents

In 1988, I became a mother for the second time. Our first son, Matt, was a normal three-year-old boy, enjoying all the things that little boys liked. He loved to play outside, read books, interact with others and talk. After our second son became nine months old and we began to watch for milestones, we noticed something was different. Chris was different.  He wasn’t trying to walk or climb, he didn’t like to read books or concentrate on simple tasks and motor skills were not developing. Was I jumping to conclusions? I was a mother working in the field of early childhood and I felt lost. After months of doctor appointments and evaluations, we found out that Chris was diagnosed with severe apraxia. This is a speech and neurological delay that presents problems with communication, fine motor and comprehension skills. I was experiencing anxiety on both sides of the fence—educator and parent. I needed support, more education, understanding and answers.

When and how to bring developmental concerns to parents

Knowing what is “typical” versus problematic when it comes to communication can be difficult for parents and educators.  In their first years, children form foundational communication skills. If issues develop during this period, children generally respond well to treatment. Below are five behaviors an early childhood professional or parent should pay attention to:

  • A child isn’t making eye contact or smiling. Much of early speech and language development is non-verbal. One of the first ways an infant communicates with a parent is through eye contact. As early as age 6 to 8 weeks, a child should be able to hold a gaze—particularly with a parent or other caregiver. A social smile should be present as well.
  • A child isn’t using gestures. Also in the category of non-verbal communication, an infant should begin using gestures by the time he is between age 6 to 12 months. These include clapping, pointing and waving.
  • A child isn’t cooing or babbling. Well before the long-anticipated first word is spoken, a child should be verbalizing sounds. Cooing typically occurs by the time a child is age 2 to 4 months old, and babbling by 6 months. By age 1, a child generally should say one or two words. By age 2, a child should be stringing two or more words together.
  • A child is not understood by others.  Parents are wonderfully attuned to their children’s needs. They can tell the differences in their cries of being hungry, tired or in pain. As the months progress, parents get even better at deciphering what their child wants. But even if they understand a child’s sounds or words, they should pay close attention to whether other people, including a caregiver, can understand what their child says. If others cannot understand a child by age 18 months to 2 years, this is an indicator of a potential speech or language issue.
  • A child is not responding to his own name. This can be a sign of hearing impairment.  Parents or caregivers may not realize the need for vigilance about hearing because most newborns undergo hearing screening before leaving the hospital. However, hearing problems can emerge weeks or months following birth. Ear infections can also lead to hearing problems. Hearing issues may not be obvious. If a child is not responding to his or her own name by age 7 months to 1 year, a problem may exist.

If you suspect a child has a developmental delay and believe a parent is unaware of it, use the following guidelines to make the conversation go smoother:

  • Highlight some of the child’s strengths, letting the parent know what the child does well.
  • Always use facts. Let the parent know that you are using solid examples of milestone criteria versus your feelings. Talk about specific behaviors that you have observed in caring for the child. For example, “Most four year old children participate in ‘pretend play’ with other children. I have noticed that Joey does not interact with others in the class.”
  • Make the conversation a discussion. Pause often, giving the parent time to think and to respond.
  • Listen to and watch the parent to decide on how to proceed. Pay attention to tone of voice and body language. Expect if a child is the oldest in the family, the parent might not have experience to know the milestones the child should be reaching. This might be the first time the parent has become aware that the child might have a delay.
  • Let the parent know that she should talk with her child’s health care provider soon to relay any concerns or other information is needed. Parents can also be advised to look into Early Intervention programs in their state, or seek an assessment with a certified speech-language pathologist or audiologist.
  • Lastly, remind the parent that you do your job because you love and care for children, and that you want to make sure that the child does his very best. It is also okay to say that you “may be over concerned,” but that it is best to check with the child’s doctor and be certain, since early action is important if there is a real delay.

Early intervention works and is crucial for the development of a child. Support is crucial for parents and caregivers. I was given both. My son received the services that he needed to reach milestones and his caregivers received support through professional services. Continue to advocate for children with special needs because every child deserves the chance to succeed in school and in life.

4C drives the distance for child care providers

When I was little I used to believe that machines didn’t wear out and didn’t break down. I knew that cars needed things like gas and oil to make them go but it was hard to make the connection that they needed so many other things as well. When I grew up and purchased my own car, I discovered the necessity of wiper blades, tires, light bulbs and fuses. Over time came hoses, fans, condensers, coils, ball-joints, tie-rods and linkages. It seemed for every part that needed repairs another was waiting its turn, biding time until the most inconvenient moment to simply give out. Break down. Rumble, tumble, clinkety-clank.

Vote for 4C for Children in Toyota 100 Cars for Good on Oct. 15!

Vote for 4C for Children in Toyota 100 Cars for Good on Oct. 15!

My most recent experience at the auto shop resulted in my regular mechanic giving me a confounded look and saying, “I don’t do that. You’ll have to take it to a specialty shop.” As my jaw dropped and the dollar signs began pinging, then banging, in my ears I had to hope that my poor Lucy would make it through this, too (she’s 14 years old and, well, all cars need a name). Several thousand dollars later her rebuilt transmission is working fine and I am able to trust her for a few more miles before the next item on the list goes out.

My colleagues and I accumulate quite a few miles on our personal cars working with child care providers throughout the 40 counties we serve. We spend so much time on the road visiting administrators and teachers to coach them on leadership and classroom quality, helping family child care providers plan healthy meals and connecting them with resources for school readiness, and offering on-site workshops that we might be out of the office for days at a time. If you added up the average mileage we travel in a month, you might be shocked!

There is something you can do to help – today you can vote for us to win a new Toyota Prius! 4C for Children is proud to be a finalist in the 100 Cars for Good campaign and we need your support. Winning this car would mean all the difference for our staff. Imagine an end to the suffering that Lucy might no longer endure. It may be one car, but the symbol of this car allows us to continue to deliver our mission to improve the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of early childhood care and education in the region so every child can have a positive experience and a strong foundation for success in school and life! Vote for 4C and help us “drive quality” in early childhood care in Ohio and Kentucky!

Ohio invests in children

There is a lot of talk about all of the changes coming  to early childhood education in Ohio and the professionals in the field, especially family child care. These changes, which will roll out over the next 11 months, are happening because the State of Ohio was the proud winner of a not-so-small chunk of change ($69,993,362 to be exact) as part of the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. This is some serious money and it shows how invested Ohio is in improving the quality of care and education of Ohio’s young children.

Changes are coming to child care in Ohio.  Are you ready?

Ohio has revamped its tiered quality rating improvement system (TQRIS), redeveloped learning and development standards, and made changes to licensing requirements. The state has also begun a process of creating a single definition of quality, inclusive of all program types be they Ohio Department of Education (ODE) or Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) licensed. All of this change generates a lot of questions, and 4C is here to help answer them.

Type B family child care providers (in-home child care providers who care for up to 6 children, and are certified by the county in which they reside) probably have the biggest changes of all coming their way. Beginning January 1, 2014 all certified Type B providers will become licensed and they’ll also be eligible to participate in Step Up To Quality. An estimated 25 percent of children in Greater Cincinnati are in their care, so this is great news!

Though these changes may be big, and at times seem overwhelming, I encourage you to be patient, relax and take it one day at a time. Together we will all get through this and our children will be that much better off. Be patient for the children. Be patient for the families. We’re all in this together!

For more information about changes to family child care or to register for an information session in the Southwest Ohio region, please visit our Web site.

Let the children BE

I’ve decided I want to get the word “Be” tattooed on my wrist as a reminder. For me, it would be a reminder of a lot of different things. Relax. Be in the moment. Let the children be. Let the activity be. Watch. Observe.

It’s becoming increasingly stressful to be an early childhood educator. The demand to get children ready for school is an ever-present thought in every educator’s brain. My reaction to these demands is to BE. Be with the children. Grasp those teachable moments. Be in the process.  Give children finger paint and let them explore. Be outside. Participate in the wonder of nature. Be amazed at the children’s curiosity. Read books. Be in the story. Be quiet. Listen to the environment. Listen to the children. You may be surprised at how much children learn during these moments. You may also be surprised at how much YOU learn, as well.

Children learn best when we can relax and remain present in the moment. But what's the best way to do that?

As we are being, we are teaching and children are learning. Children are learning the scientific process while interacting with paint. They are learning about textures while exploring nature. Children are learning writing skills while using crayons and markers. They are learning math skills while working with blocks. Children are learning self-regulation while engaged in dramatic play.

Most of all, children are learning to BE. They are learning to be competent learners. They are learning that school is fun. They are developing a passion for learning. Children are learning to trust their adults. They are learning to trust themselves.

My advice to early childhood educators? Bask in the attention that’s currently being paid to our field. Showcase your talents. Advocate for your children. Educate society on what the children are learning because you are BEING with them. Have an understanding in theory and developmentally appropriate practice so that your BEING is rooted in a firm foundation. Know why you are doing what you are doing. Soon enough everyone else will realize the value of being, too.

– Christine