Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Hispanic Heritage Month

reading
This week marks the 25th anniversary of Hispanic Heritage Month, and kicks off the Latinos Achieve White House Initiative.

Outgoing Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, describes the importance of the Latinos Achieve initiative to our children and our nation:

“Today, nearly one in four students in our nation’s public schools is a Hispanic youth. Making sure they have the opportunity to achieve their dreams isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s also a matter of our shared success as a country. In just the next few decades, Hispanics will represent nearly one in three American workers. It’s clear; the future of our nation is closely connected to the future of our Hispanic communities. When we lift up the Hispanic community, we strengthen our nation. When we create more ladders of opportunity, we provide the chance for all Americans to reach their greatest potential.”

There are currently 230 programs, models, and organizations that are part of the “Bright Spots in Hispanic Education ” – ongoing efforts across the country at all levels, meant to support Latino educational attainment and excellence. These programs are helping to close the achievement gap. If you’d like to nominate a “Bright Spot” you still can! Get more information on the program and nominating process at ed.gov/hispanic-initiative.

Follow the call of Senior White House Advisor, Jaqueline Cortez Wang to take part in the Latinos Achieve Day of Action! Use the #LatinosAchieve hashtag on October 15 to highlight Latino achievement and inspire a positive narrative on Latino contributions across all social media platforms. Share what Latinos Achieve means to you, and why it’s important. Tell us what you’ll do to ensure that Latinos Achieve.

September 2015 Footnotes

Footnotes-Blog-Header_FINAL-1200x400As we settle into our fall schedules and wait for the changing of the leaves here in Northern Virginia, I always feel a little nostalgic for the warm months of summer.

Looking back on the month of September, we were quite busy wrapping up our summer work and welcoming back Congress. Take a quick peek at some of what you may have missed here at Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) headquarters…

Around the Country

CCAoA’s Healthy Child Care, Healthy Communities project is currently reviewing applications and selecting participants. This Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-supported project provides two years of technical assistance from Child Care Aware® of America to 6 selected state groups on incorporating child health, nutrition and obesity prevention in child care plans. Participant selection is underway and will be announced in mid-October.

Child Care Aware® of America has enlisted individuals from diverse settings including national groups, Child Care Resource & Referral agencies, and higher education settings to serve on our new Research Advisory Group. Co-chaired by Dr. Dionne Dobbins, Senior Director of Research, CCAoA, and Dr. Kim Engelman, Senior Advisor and Director of Family and Community Engagement, CCAoA, this group will help us build a new research agenda that aligns with the needs of the child care community and positions our organization to address the challenges and leverage the opportunities in child care

We’re looking forward to our first meeting in November 2015. Stay tuned for more information.

CCAoA’s Bonnie Storm Senior Director, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), attended the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Respite Council Working Group meeting in Washington, D.C. on September 15 and brought back a wealth of knowledge from other respite care workers and programs.

On the Hill

Child Care Aware® of America participated in the 2015 Biennial NICCA Conference at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. Members from the public policy team presented Capitol Hill advocacy strategies that included how to advocate and have successful meetings with members of Congress and staff. The team also provided support to NICCA and advocates for their ‘Day On The Hill’ to advocate for CCDBG funding.

NICCA

Jay Nichols, CCAoA’s director federal policy and governmental affairs, on the Hill with some of the dedicated NICCA advocates.

On September 30, CCAoA participated in a “Head Start Rally” on Capitol Hill sponsored by the National Head Start Association (NHSA). The event celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Head Start program, and it included a number of Congressional speakers including:

  • Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Senator Al Franken (D-MN)
  • Senator Time Kaine (D-VA)
  • Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN)
  • Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)
  • Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD)

We were proud to stand alongside Head Start and other organizations supporting the early education of our children.

Online and On-Air

CCA-CCDBG-logo_WEBsmallOn September 29, CCAoA hosted its fourth CCDBG Implementation Station webinar highlighting the health, nutrition, and obesity prevention opportunities and mandates under the new law. The webinar was hosted by Jay Nichols and Krista Scott of CCAoA, and included Julie Shuell, Project Director, Nemours National Office of Policy and Prevention, and Beverly Lynn, Chief Executive Director of Programs for Parents, Inc. in New Jersey. More than 100 attendees participated in the webinar and discussion. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can watch it on our YouTube channel.

Member Connections

We hope to see you at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. April 4-6, 2016 for the 2016 Symposium: Celebrating Milestones, Collaborating for Results! Mark your calendars and be prepared to join in discussion on topics around policy, research, practice, and innovation.

RFPs for panel topics and discussions will be coming out soon – stay tuned for more information.

April Dodge-Ostendorf is joining the CCAoA team as our Family and Community Engagement intern so you may see more from her in the future. April is in her second and final year of a Master’s of Social Work program at the University of Missouri Kansas City. She has worked for the Missouri Children’s Division since 2004 where she has gained a wealth of on-the-ground experience related to foster care programming and child services. She has a heart for serving vulnerable children and families and is a remarkable, well-rounded and highly motivated person. April works remotely in the Kansas City area with Dr. Kim Engelman, Child Care Aware® of America’s Senior Advisor and Director of Family and Community Engagement. April’s internship with Child Care Aware of America will span the 2015-2016 academic year.

ICYMI: September in the News

MSN had an interesting article on how salary experts would calculate the value of stay-at-home mothers. Of course this includes the cost of child care, citing data from CCAoA’s 2014 Cost of Care Report. Check it out to see what else they included in their calculations.

Fulfilling the Promise of Early Childhood Education: Advancing Early Childhood Education As a Professional Field of Practice

ED0862

By Stacie G. Goffin, Rhian Evans Allvin, Deb Flis, and Albert Wat

Early childhood education (ECE) is in the spotlight as never before. Being in the limelight, however, has highlighted the field’s fragmentation and the variability in the quality of children’s formal early learning experiences. This reality is unlikely to change, though, unless the ECE field comes to terms with its lack of organization as a unified field of practice with defined accountabilities for a competent and responsible workforce.

A budding movement is emerging in response to this crisis of fragmentation—a drive to organize ECE as a professional field of practice unified by a common overarching purpose, defined body of knowledge and practice, shared professional identity, and internal and external accountability. This movement was apparent at a plenary session of the 2015 QRIS National Learning Network’s national meeting, which explored questions critical to advancing ECE as a professional field of practice.

Stacie G. Goffin, Principal of the Goffin Strategy Group, organized the plenary session and provided its introduction. Rhian Evans Allvin, Executive Director of the National Association for the Education for Young Children, and Deb Flis, Program Quality and Accreditation Specialist, Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, were panelists, and Albert Wat, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Division, National Governors Association, was a respondent. Panelists were encouraged to voice their differing viewpoints, and we share some of those views below. We hope you’ll join us in thinking about an alternative future for ECE.

Acknowledging ECE as a Professional Field: What Needs to Happen?

Becoming a recognized profession will involve deep systems change. Because of the nature of ECE’s work, few would question that it ought to be a profession. Yet, as John Goodlad reminds us, “A vocation (occupation) is not a profession just because those in it choose to call it one. It must be recognized as such.”

  • To qualify as a recognized profession, ECE has to include attributes that define professional occupations—criteria such as a prescribed scope of work as a field of practice and formal preparation as a prerequisite to being licensed to practice.
  • ECE needs to move beyond its fragmented state and its history of willingly accepting people into the “profession” with varying education levels, credentials, and competencies, and restructure itself as cohesive, interlocking systems of preparation, practice, and accountability bound by a unifying purpose.
  • We should consider tools available to us, such as QRIS. Describing QRIS as an organizing framework, Rhian identified it as a vehicle for moving quality to scale in a consistent and rational way. Deb, however, cautioned against considering QRIS as a singular approach and doubted its ability to remedy all of our field’s challenges. Trying to be an all-inclusive framework, with multiple sets of differing standards across the country, she suggested, has had the unintended consequence of undermining the work of unifying ECE as a professional field of practice.
  • Given the transformative nature of what lies ahead, deep and broad conversations are needed, Deb maintained—conversations that are inclusive of the field’s diverse roles, settings, and aspirations.

Exploring Challenging Questions

We wanted to move beyond attempts to solve existing problems, and focus instead on creating the future we want for ECE as a professional field of practice. Toward that end, some of the questions explored during the plenary follow, along with answers provided by panelists.

  1. Should the ECE profession, like the nursing and medical professions, include specialty practices? Could this structure unite the field around a unifying knowledge base and practice expectations while also acknowledging that different roles may necessitate additional specialized expertise? If so, would one option be practice specialties based on practitioner competencies required by early learning environments with differing purposes?

Rhian contended that we know too much about the science of early learning and the impact of competent early childhood educators on children’s developmental trajectories to parcel professional competencies by workplace. For too long, she continued, we’ve derailed conversations by focusing on early learning settings rather than on the competencies required by the educator’s role. Landing solidly on the side of a shared, core knowledge base in conjunction with specializations, Deb argued that expecting all educators to possess the field’s identified core knowledge, skills, and dispositions is not only an ethical responsibility but also essential in dismantling perceptions that anyone can function as an early educator.

  1. How should we address existing teaching staff unable to meet required preparation standards?

Deb and Rhian emphasized role-based specializations and linking these with specified competencies. Creating consistent competency expectations across states also was considered essential, as was the availability of different pathways toward fulfilling the profession’s requirements. Yet Deb also cautioned that this approach should not be misinterpreted as suggesting that ECE is a suitable career choice for everyone.

  1. Albert challenged us by asking, Why do we have the policies we have for preparing and supporting ECE teachers? If we were to develop the ECE profession from scratch, would we have what we have today?

In response to his first question, Albert underscored that ECE policies rarely are rational or based on what children and adults need; instead, they typically reflect what the field thinks is affordable—a questionable way to develop policies for a workforce critical to children’s near- and long-term success. Thus, a resounding no was the response to his second question, accompanied by an assertion that the field needs to dismiss the notion that diversity and high standards represent competing values and put a stake in the ground about who gets to “function as an early educator.”

Moving Forward

Our attention focuses primarily on uplifting the existing workforce, according to Albert. Developing an alternative future for ECE requires also devoting our considerable energies to developing a profession that will be attractive to those we want to be educating and caring for young children.

After decades of attempts by policy makers and civic and business leaders, the time has come to restructure ECE as a field of practice from the inside out. As stressed by Rhian, “early childhood educators need to lead this effort. They need to be the drivers of ECE’s destiny.”

Do you agree? Please join this conversation by sharing your comments below or by participating with others at ECE Pioneers For A New Era, an informal online community where we share our experiences discussing these issues.

References and Resources

“Beyond the Status Quo: Rethinking Professional Development for Early Childhood Teachers,” by P.J. Winton, P. Snyder, & S.G. Goffin. Chap. 4 in Handbook of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 2016. http://www.tandf.net/books/details/9781315818245/

Early Childhood Education for a New Era: Leading for Our Profession, by S.G. Goffin, 2013. http://store.tcpress.com/0807754609.shtml

“The Occupation of Teaching in Schools.” Chap. 1 (p. 29) in The Moral Dimension of Teaching, 1990. http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1555426379.html

Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era, by S.G. Goffin, 2015. https://www.naeyc.org/store/Professionalizing-Early-Childhood-Education-as-a-Field-of-Practice

Ilse Wilson and Fairyland Family Child Care – August 2015 Provider of the Month

August 2015Photo courtesy of Ilse Wilson, Fairyland Family Child Care

Congratulations to Ilse Wilson and the staff at Fairyland Family Child Care in Sandy, Utah. They have been named Provider of the Month for August 2015, and they are the first home care provider to be honored through the new campaign!

Creating a fun, caring, healthy, and educational environment for children as they learn and grow is the first step to a lifetime of healthy development, and Ilse Wilson and her staff at Fairyland Family Child Care go above and beyond every day with the children in their care.

Wilson and her team do this through creative play, including spaces for playing with sand, water and mud; an outdoor music and art area; and a reading “nook”. They even have a fairy garden in the front yard!

Fairyland is also TOP Star-endorsed (an obesity prevention program in Utah) and Let’s Move! Certified, making health and obesity prevention a clear goal.

At the beginning of each school year, the staff at Fairyland have parent-teacher conferences to set learning goals for the children in the upcoming year.

We’re grateful to exemplary providers like Wilson and her staff – they’re adding significant value to the development and overall health and well-being of the children in their care.

Nominate an Outstanding Provider
Do you know an outstanding provider or early childhood educator who is deserving of the Provider of the Month award? Visit www.providerappreciationday.org for details on how to nominate them, and help Child Care Aware® of America and partner organizations honor those providers that go above and beyond every day!

August 2015 Footnotes

Footnotes-Blog-Header_FINAL-1200x400

I’m writing this as I ride the train from New York City headed back to Washington, D.C. on the last day of summer. Tomorrow the kids will return back to school in Virginia, and I am certain that there will be anticipation and perhaps a bit of (unadmitted) anxiety for what’s to come in the school year ahead. But before I too begin to think about the launch of the year ahead, I must share about our last weeks of summer!

Around the Country

This month we launched the Healthy Child Care, Healthy Communities project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to expand technical assistance activities in targeted states to emphasize health, nutrition, and obesity prevention. You can find out more about the project and apply on the CCAoA website. The project will be managed by Krista Scott, Sr. Director of Health Policy.

KS glassesKrista has her bachelor’s degree in political science and her M.S.W. with a focus on management and policy. Most recently, she served as the Early Intervention Monitor for District of Columbia’s Early Intervention Program, which provides services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families and as the District’s Lead for Preschool Special Education. She has over a decade of experience providing quality assurance reviews, developing policies and procedures for early childhood programs, overseeing program budgets, providing access to health care to children with special health care needs, providing case management, providing reflective supervision and performing legislative bill analysis. She holds expertise in group facilitation, reflective practice, early childhood mental health, early childhood education, early childhood special education, policy and procedure development, training, technical assistance, coaching, mentoring, systems and program development, quality assurance, and special education regulations. We are thrilled to have her join our team!

Way to go!

We are proud to announce that one of the 50 participants in our Office of Refugee Resettlement project, Aizezi Dilidaer, recently received her State of Maryland Family Child Care License. Her home-based business is located in Prince George’s County, Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. The mission statement for her family child care home is:

We believe that all children are special and unique, which is why through our program we will work to find your child’s inner strengths and even unusual features and to nurture them – giving your child the best success. It is our goal to provide children with a safe environment that nurtures self-esteem and security. We provide a quality child care program in an academic and loving environment.

Due to the extended period of time required to resolve county zoning and fire issues, it took Dilidaer 3 years and the support of her local CCR&R agency to achieve licensure for a home-based business. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from her home country of Xinjiang in China, and her standards-based curriculum will have a focus on nature and the arts. Congratulations, Aizezi Dilidaer!

Online and On-Air

Earlier this month CCAoA participated in a joint Twitter chat with MomsRising to discuss the needs of parents. Together we reached over 128,000 accounts with 324 tweets and 51 contributors participating. You can find an archive of the chat on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatParentsWant.

For many children and families August means back to school, which is why we joined ABC News in a Back to School Health Tips Twitter chat with Dr. Besser, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor. As a group, we sent over 3,523 Tweets which are available for review using the hashtag #abcDRBchat.

Member Connections

Child Care Aware® of America is pleased to announce the dates and location for the 2016 Symposium: Celebrating Milestones, Collaborating for Results.

We hope to see you at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. April 4-6, 2016! Mark your calendars and be prepared to join in discussion on topics around policy, research, practice and innovation.

CCAA_Postcard 2_Page_1

ICYMI: August in the News

Bringing home the point that child care issues are workforce issues, the Washington Post had a front page article on the cost of child care. In it, they cited a recent WaPo poll that said more than three-quarters of mothers and half of fathers in the United States say they’ve passed up work opportunities, switched jobs, or quit to tend to their children. A lack of affordable, quality child care was the primary factor in this decision. You can learn more about the poll results and how CCAoA statistics were used to come to this conclusion in, “The surprising number of parents scaling back at work to care for kids.”

On August 10, I appeared on the Fox 5 News morning show to discuss the cost of child care, especially in light of the recent poll commissioned by the Washington Post.

Martin Austermuhle of NPR station WAMU interviewed Michelle McCready, deputy director of policy, on the cost of child care in Washington, D.C. Michelle weighs in on some of the aspects of the cost of living that are more expensive in the D.C. area, and how that contributes to the overall cost of care. it’s definitely a must-read: D.C. Is One of the Most Expensive Places in the U.S. For Child Care. But Why?

What Happens With Child Care When Children Go Back to School?

bus-878697_1280School buses are back on the roads again for most of the country, which means day time child care may not be an issue for many school-aged children right now. But what happens to children whose parents work long or irregular hours? Where do they go for care after school?

For many families in the U.S., after-school and transitional care are an important part of the child care equation, and something the media often overlooks when reporting about families and their child care needs.

According to a report from the Afterschool Alliance (PDF), 10.2 million children participate in an after school program – this leaves 11.3 million children on their own in the hours after school, and another 19.4 million children that would participate in an after school program if one was available to them.

The importance of these after school programs, including 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) which serve children living in high-poverty areas and attending low-performing schools, cannot be overstated.

While parents across the country continue to work long or nontraditional hours, after school programs are keeping their children safe, helping to improve academic performance and behavior, and supporting working families.

But millions of kids are still being left out: For each student enrolled in a program, two students who want to participate won’t be able to go back to after school this fall due to funding shortfalls in their state.

Learn more about the quality and importance of after school care from AMERICA AFTER 3PM in their latest survey on trends in after school program participation (PDF). And as we send our children back to school, let’s keep in mind the ones who need care after school hours as well.

Take a minute to support after school programs by contacting Congress and asking your elected officials to expand funding for after school and summer learning opportunities in ESEA using the Afterschool Alliance’s online action center!

July 2015 Footnotes

Footnotes-Blog-Header_FINAL-1200x400I had a beautiful drive into our office’s in Arlington, VA today – not only is it a sunny clear day, I have the good fortune of driving along the Potomac River with a breathtaking view of the nation’s Capital. Even more amazing about this morning’s drive? Very little traffic! Ah, August is here and for the next several weeks many are taking their summer vacations…

That said, July was busier than ever!

Around the Country

Child Care Aware® of America is pleased to announce an exciting partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation focused on encouraging family engagement through, a national initiative that empowers parents to turn everyday activities into brain building moments for their children. Vroom provides interactive tools and resources that highlight the science behind early brain development, showing parents how they can build their children’s brains in everyday moments like bath time and meal time. The tools are free of cost, simple enough to fit into parents’ daily routines, and right at their fingertips.

On the Hill

SAVEreportOn July 15, Lynette Fraga participated in a panel discussion hosted by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) highlighting the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and what gaps remained based the recommendations from the former National Commission on Children and Disaster, which was published in 2010.  The event, which was held on Capitol Hill, was moderated by NPR contributor and New Orleans native, Cokie Roberts, and in addition to Lynette, the panel also included:

  • Rich Bland, National Director of Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children, US Programs
  • Dr. Steven Krug, Chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council
  • John Bischoff, Executive Director, Missing Children Division, National Center on Missing and Exploited Children, and
  • Dr. David Abramson, Director of the Program and Population Recovery and Resiliency at New York University

You can review the report from Save the Children here.

CCA-CCDBG-logo_WEBsmallCCDBG Implementation Station

Child Care Aware of America policy team introduced the CCDBG Office Hours as part of the CCDBG Implementation Station. This one-on-one designed member benefit has received tremendous responsiveness. The first session was held July 17th and focused on the impact of the reauthorized CCDBG Act of 2014 on after-school programs. The Office Hours sessions will continue through March 2016.

Online and On-Air

On July 20, Lynette Fraga joined the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) along with a panel of experts from FFYF, NBCDI , and NAEYC on a national call to discuss making funding for early childhood programs a priority.

On July 30, Child Care Aware® of America hosted a webinar on Family Engagement. Over 160 people participated, and it was headlined by Michelle McCready, Deputy Chief of Policy, Jay Nichols, Director of Federal Policy and Governmental Affairs, and Dr. Kim Engelman, Senior Advisor and Director, Family and Community Engagement. Additionally, Lauren Hogan, Vice President of Programs and Policy with the National Black Child Development Institute participated as well. You can view the slides here.

Member Connections

Several CCAoA staff attended BUILD in Washington, D.C. July 15-17 visiting with many of our colleague CCR&Rs from around the country who also attended.

We are gearing up for the State Network and Membership Council meetings on October 18-20 in Arlington, VA. More information coming soon

Please also continue to explore our new website and provide us with feedback. Check out the ENGAGE page and connect with us on social media or contact us with any questions!

ICYMI: July in the News

July was a great month for media coverage, with more than 3900 media hits in such digital resources as Time, Newsweek, Forbes, Money and MSN.com. Lynette was interviewed by Good Morning America for a story on child care safety after an incident at an unlicensed child care facility in New York City. While the actual interview was not aired, ABC News shared our resources online on how to find a child care provider, what questions to ask in selecting a provider, and how to access CCR&Rs for information.

Talk, Read, Sing – Start Early With Children to Fight the Word Gap

“We know that right now during the first three years of life, a child born into a low-income family hears 30 million fewer words than a child born into a well-off family. By giving more of our kids access to high-quality pre-school and other early learning programs, and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their kids succeed, we can give those kids a better shot at the career they are capable of, and a life that will make us all better off.”
– President Barack Obama

TalkingIsTeachingResearch has proven time and again that talking to children, especially when they’re still too young to speak, gives them a leg up when they reach school age and beyond.

Talking to children and encouraging them to engage in discussion using the words they do know will help them grow their vocabulary and set the pace for their educational development moving forward.

Health and Human Services, Department of Education, and Too Small to Fail have just launched a new toolkit for families, providers and health professionals to help them engage children in speech: Talking is Teaching: TALK, READ, SING TOGETHER EVERY DAY!

The materials come in English and Spanish and were completed in partnership with Sesame Workshop and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and they include a roadmap of speech milestones for children birth to age five so parents and caregivers know what to look for in speech development.

Check out their milestone road map online, and then download these amazing tools to start engaging the children in your care in language growth – then share these resources with the parents and providers in your community!

_SB15778CCAofA Daycare 11.08.14

National Child and Adult Care Food Programs Week

Help Child Care Aware® of America support the movement to declare a National Child and Adult Care Food Programs Week (CACFP) in 2015, to help bring awareness to the USDA’s program for adult and child nutrition!

CCAoA is joining with National Child and Adult Food Care Sponsors Association (NCA) to ask President Obama to proclaim the third week in March as National Child and Adult Care Food Programs Week. You can join this cause by taking a minute to sign the White House petition.

Making sure underserved children and seniors have access to healthy food options needs to be a top priority for our country – learn more about the USDA-Proposed Meal Patterns for the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

And for more information on the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), check out Child Care Aware® of America’s Nutrition Basics!

National Child and Adult Care Food Programs Week_IMG

A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks! Photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr.

President Obama visits the Sunflower State to Talk about Quality, Affordable Child Care

By: Leadell Ediger, Executive Director, Child Care Aware of Kansas:

When an email from the White House came into my inbox, I paid attention!  That’s the situation I found myself in, in mid-January.  I was delighted to find that Child Care Aware® of Kansas was being offered two tickets to attend the President’s Remarks at the University of Kansas.   It really didn’t take me more than 2 minutes to look at my calendar and send a quick response back to the White House, stating Absolutely!  Much to my surprise, on Wednesday (the day before the President’s visit) we were offered another seven tickets!  Of course I said we’d take them.  Within a matter of one hour, I called the CCR&Rs in Kansas, two child care center directors and one high school teacher to extend the offer.  All 7 people immediately said “YES”!

Dean Olson (The Family Conservancy), Elaine Edwards (center director) Deb Crowl (center director), Leadell Ediger (CCR&R Network Director), Cheryl Firsching (Child Start), Amanda Ediger (High school teacher), Angie Saenger (CCR&R Network), Tanya Koehn (CCR&R Network).

Dean Olson (The Family Conservancy), Elaine Edwards (center director) Deb Crowl (center director), Leadell Ediger (CCR&R Network Director), Cheryl Firsching (Child Start), Amanda Ediger (High school teacher), Angie Saenger (CCR&R Network), Tanya Koehn (CCR&R Network).

From the email from the White House, I learned that there was a specific procedure to picking up the tickets, so off to Lawrence, Kansas, we went on Wednesday afternoon.  The pickup time was between 4 – 6 pm.  We got there at 5 and waited an hour to get our 9 precious tickets.  Much discussion took place because we got a “red” ticket, versus a “green” or a “white” ticket, how close to the front would we actually be?

Thursday morning dawned quite chilly in Lawrence, Kansas but an electric feel was in the air when we snaked our way through the waiting line.   We made arrangements to meet one of our colleagues from the Kansas City area outside the arena where the event was being held; luckily I got his cell phone number just to be safe.  Standing was the name of the game that day, standing outside in the cold, standing for 3 hours inside waiting and standing, applauding, cheering for a short 35 minute window when the President spoke.  What an exciting 35 minutes though!  When the President finally made his entrance, we were within 30 feet of him and had perfect viewing!

Front: Deb Crowl, Cheryl Firsching, Leadell Ediger Middle row: Elaine Edwards, Tanya Koehn, Dean Olson Back row: Reva Wywadis and Angie Saenger

Front: Deb Crowl, Cheryl Firsching, Leadell Ediger
Middle row: Elaine Edwards, Tanya Koehn, Dean Olson
Back row: Reva Wywadis and Angie Saenger

President Obama strolled in with his shirt sleeves rolled up, ready to go!  It was very obvious, the President knows how to excite a crowd, and he did so by starting off with saying “he’s a Kansas boy”.  This statement got a big roar from the crowd.  Yes, the President has deep roots in Kansas.  He then shared his message, that middle-class economics should be the focus!  This included a healthy discussion about child care!   After listening only days before to the State of the Union address, I knew he had big plans to strengthen child care, but again in Lawrence the President said “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us”, which brought, again, a huge roar from the crowd.  During this short address, I heard the President’s passion for young children and their working families.  His persistence and dedication to wanting to help the middle-class and how much he values and supports, not only early learning, but learning for all!  He showed his impatience to get the job done.  An added bonus for me and something I didn’t expect to see was his delightful humor.

After the speech, the President interacted with the crowd by shaking many hands.  Because we were so close to the stage, before he left the auditorium he shook the hands of four of the nine early childhood folks that went with us!   This clearly will be a day that we’ll remember for years to come.