Conference 2018 Thoughts…
This was my fourth time attending the National Family Child Care Association’s Annual Conference. This year was an entirely different experience, as I attended not just as a provider, but as a board member of Family Child Care Association, Maine.
In previous years, I chose workshops based on my own personal interests, and topics that I thought I could adapt into my teaching. This year was different, in that I chose workshop sessions that were more about leadership and working with a broader scope. One of these workshops was one that I was invited to, which was quite exciting. I was asked to participate in an open dialogue with Shannon Christian. Shannon is the Director of the Office of Child Care at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families. The OCC is responsible for the Child Care Block Development Grant. This is federal money that is allocated to the states, so long as each state meets the requirements outlined in the grant. This grant is working to help families receive high quality, affordable child care.
The purpose of this open dialogue was to share with Shannon challenges we face as Family Child Care providers, as well as programs and supports within our state that are working well for us. This session included around twenty-five other family child care providers, all of whom are affiliated with their state’s Family Child Care Association. It was very informative to hear from providers around the country. I found that we all had similar concerns, and when we shared them with Shannon, she seemed interested in ways that she and her staff could help us to overcome roadblocks.
One issue seemed to stand out most, and that was states not recognizing Family Child Care as what it is. Family Child Care is a valid avenue for the care and education of our young children. The idea of FCC is that children are taught, loved, and nurtured in a home like environment. Too often, when FCC is observed by state and federal funding sources, we are held to the same standards as child care centers, when that’s not what we are. FCC providers don’t want their homes to look like little, “mini centers”, they want them to look like homes. This is not to say that one is better than the other, but there are differences in what FCC looks like, as there well should be.
This issue of states sending in personnel who are unaware of what a family child care looks like, and what it is, seemed to raise the importance of providers joining forces in their states. Each of the state representatives who mentioned issues with their states, were part of their state’s family child care association. This stressed the importance of groups, such as Family Child Care Association, Maine. It is through these affiliates that each of our whispers becomes a shout, and we work together for the good of the state.
Shannon also mentioned that overall, the amount of family child care homes has been on a decline over the last ten years. Based on what I heard at this meeting, it seemed like most family child care homes are closing because the cost of living is rising, and that most new homes built have Homeowners Associations, which bar homes from having businesses in the development.
What does this mean for Maine? It seems like, overall, we are doing better than some states. We have already implemented childcarechoices.me as a source for searching child care by area. We have Maine Roads to Quality, which is an excellent resource for those in our field. This meeting stressed to me the importance of providers belonging to organizations like MRTQ, as they can keep track of programs, and what types of support and trainings providers need.