Family child care providers, by and large, work solely by themselves. Though I now have employees, this was the case for my first several years as a provider. It’s hard work to work with young children each day by yourself. It can be quite isolating. We don’t get breaks, work 12 hours days at least, and just because the children are not here, doesn’t mean we are not working! There is meal prepping, cleaning, activity planning, and the PAPERWORK. Ugh, paperwork!
So how can providers overcome the isolation? By connecting with those who do the same work.
I attended my first conference in 2012, Atlanta, Georgia. Honestly, a life-changing experience. I wish I had better pictures (especially when I got to meet Grover from Sesame Street!) The trainings were good, but it was the connections I made were the best. Meeting providers from around the nation and hearing their stories was powerful. I never realized there was such a difference in requirements from State to State. I was naïve for sure. After this experience, I vowed to try and attend each year and bring my staff as well.
As psyched as I was to go again in 2013, I just couldn’t make the trip to Arizona. Timing and money didn’t work in my favor.
In 2014, I was fortunate to have saved enough money to attend, along with my staff, so we headed to Orlando, Florida! I was able to take a preconference training with Tom Copeland about fun stuff (seriously I do love the business side of my job) like record keeping and policy writing for legal matters. This is the conference I really started connecting with other providers. Facebook made it easy to exchange information and stay in touch! This conference is where I first learned about Nature Explore, a provider in Kansas had a certified outdoor classroom. If I hadn’t met her, I never would have become the first certified outdoor classroom in the State of Maine the following year.
At conference we are appreciated in a variety of ways. My favorite is the Tribute to Family Child Care, held the Saturday evening of conference. This year’s theme was “shimmer, sparkle, shine!” Though it wasn’t a red carpet, blue carpet treatment is just as amazing!
Of course who can go to Orlando without heading to DISNEY WORLD! I know I can’t. Disney was a great bonding experience for my staff and I.
2015 I was back again at the “Together We Can” conference in Bloomington-Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was an exciting time as I attended the Train the Accreditation Trainer during preconference. My co-provider received a grant from Maine Roads to Quality and was able to take the observer training. So excited her and I were now both NAFCC observers! I was able to finally meet Mason from NAFCC. I had talked with him on the phone so often this past year. He was my observation scheduler. It was wonderful to put a face to a name.
The Mardi Gras themed tribute was a success! Mother Goose Time graciously gave $100 gift certificate to each accredited provider in attendance. Another highlight was a scavenger hunt at the Mall of America.
Once again in 2016 conference was on the west coast. Unfortunately the flight times and cost did not make it possible for us to attend in San Diego.
2017 was in Mobil, Alabama. This time we had the red carpet treatment for our gala event along with the Southern Belles! A highlight for me was during one of the sessions everyone was asked to write on a sticky note what team work means to them. The top 3 stickies were put on the wall and…..one was written by me and the other two by my employees! I guess that is why we work so well together. We are all on the same page.
Once again we accredited providers were doted upon. We received a nice tote with books galore. It feels great to be appreciated. It helps me get through the challenges of the year.
We got a little sight seeing in, it was a gorgeous view right on the water. The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center was across the street from the hotel. We had a wonderful afternoon there. Our favorite excursion would be Dauphin Street and the boozy slushies (well we were on vacation after all.)
In 10 days, my staff and I will be headed to Chicago for the 28th annual conference…Celebrating the Power of Family Child Care. I am looking forward to my cup being refilled once again. At least in my State, the number of Family Providers is on the decline. I hope to be filled with ideas to help encourage more providers to open their doors. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog about our Chicago experience!