Child Care Leaders Address 2015 Child Care Aware® of America Annual Meeting and Conference

Child Care Aware® of America’s (CCAoA) 2015 annual meeting and conference in Washington, D.C. brought together child care providers, CCR&Rs, and leaders from government agencies and the White House to address many issues including Early Head Start and Child Care Partnerships, implementation of CCDBG, CCAoA’s strategic planning, and cultural competency in family engagement.

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Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood Education, Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), addressed annual meeting attendees. Photo by Steve Barrett.

We were so fortunate to have Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood Education, Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and Rachel Schumacher, Director of the Office of Child Care, join us on day one of our annual meeting! Smith kicked off the events on Monday morning with her opening keynote on opportunities and challenges affecting the child care community and potential changes coming down the road, while Schumacher spoke later that afternoon about CCDBG implications for the early childhood community generally and for CCR&R’s specifically. It was a great discussion with questions from attendees on how these issues would affect their communities.

Day one also included a presentation by Shannon Moodie and Manica Ramos with Child Trends on the report “Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs”. Presenters offered tips and resources on how to engage parents from diverse communities in child care and early learning settings – something many attendees in the audience had questions about and perspectives to share after their presentation.

A panel on Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership included Dr. Cheri Vogel from Mathematica, Steve Rohde from the Maryland Family Network, and Dr. Walter Gilliam of the Child Study Center at Yale University and a CCAoA board member. Panelists discussed the issues and core competencies that support partnerships between Early Head Start and Child Care providers.

For those in attendance on Monday afternoon, Dr. Abby Thorman of Thorman Strategy Group facilitated a discussion to get membership input on CCAoA’s evolving Strategic Plan. Members will have more opportunities to engage – be on the lookout for more opportunities to share your ideas and perspectives as we all look forward to embracing new goals and objectives for the future later this year when we release the final plan.

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Left to right: current board president L. Carol Scott, Ph.D., CCAoA Executive Director Lynette Fraga, Ph.D., and president-elect Steve Rohde. Photo by Steve Barrett.

Please join us in congratulating Steve Rohde, Deputy Director for Resource and Referral Services of the Maryland Family Network, on his successful election to the position of president-elect of the CCAoA board of directors!

Rohde has been a preschool classroom teacher, a child care center director, a child care specialist with municipal and county licensing programs, a trainer, and a county and state administrator for licensing. He has a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Towson University, and was also adjunct faculty with Stevenson University (formerly Villa Julie College) for five years.

His expertise and leadership will be a great asset to the Child Care Aware® of America board. We are looking forward to him joining us at the next board meeting in May.

Two of our newest board members Ann McCully and Tonja Rucker were also on-hand for the annual meeting, and participated in the discussion and events. You can learn more about them, and another recent addition to CCAoA board leadership, online.

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Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President on education gave the keynote luncheon address. Photo by Steve Barrett.

Day two of the annual meeting and conference began with Linda K. who spoke about understanding the new landscape of early learning systems during the morning session, with a luncheon keynote from Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President on education.

In his role advising the White House on education and early learning policy, Rodriguez said to attendees, “A child’s zip code should not be a predetermining factor in the opportunities he or she has to grow and succeed.” We at Child Care Aware® of America couldn’t agree more!

In a fantastic exchange of ideas, attendees participated in our first open session, where groups gathered to talk about issues they were most interested in. The open forums then reported out at the closing session on Tuesday afternoon on some of their key takeaways.

If you missed the 2015 annual meeting and conference, we’ve got you covered! Check out our Facebook album for pictures from the event, start to finish.

And be sure to keep an eye out for details on the spring 2016 symposium! Plans are currently in the works for this big event, to be held in Washington, D.C.

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Working Families Summit Recap

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On Monday, I joined President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at the Omni Hotel in Washington D.C. for the first ever White House Summit on Working Families. The place was packed with policymakers, business and labor leaders, economists, reporters and their cameramen, and of course many advocates for working families, including parents and small business owners from across the country. The sum of us gathered for opening remarks with the same questions on our minds: What will it take to help working families succeed in the 21st century workplace, and how can we, as a nation, make it happen?

The theme of the day revealed itself early, as Dr. Jill Biden spoke about her personal experiences as a mother of three, working and going to school full-time in earlier years. Her husband and Vice President and later the Obamas would also speak to their own experiences of struggling to balance their careers with family and their children. The message was clear that although issues vary from one individual to another, no one is alone in these experiences. All working families experience these challenges.

I was very interested to see Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at New Republic and author of the Hell of American Daycare, would be moderating the opening plenary. Not surprisingly the issue of children’s health and safety in America’s child care system was brought up almost immediately. Jonathan raised the question of working families’ accessibility to quality child care, and though the panelist varied from Ivy League economics professor to Global Chairman and company CEOs, all seemed to agree that among the most basic needs of working families is the need for high-quality, early learning environments… Early learning environments where children of America’s working families can flourish in a safe and healthy setting that will stimulate their brains during the most critical of time in their development.

President Obama took the stage to talk about bringing the American economy into the 21st century and prepare workplaces to support working families in the coming decades.  He touched on the importance of spending time with family, the necessity of having flexibility in the workplace, the struggles of the “sandwich” generation who must deal with raising children, maintaining their careers, and caring for aging parents. He discussed his and Michelle’s experience as young working parents and the struggles they faced, and what he wants as a father for his two daughters.

President Barack Obama

“…I take it personally, because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies.  And I want them to be able to have families.  And I want them to be able to have careers.  And I want them to go as far as their dreams will take them.  And I want a society that supports that.“

And perhaps most importantly, the President talked at length about child care in America. He quoted directly from Child Care Aware® of America’s 2013 Parents and the High Cost of Child Care report when he pointed out that “in 31 states, decent child care costs more than in-state college tuition.” Obama went on to say that America must find a solution to rising child care costs and the burden it puts on so many families. In his own words, “child care, workplace flexibility, a decent wage… these are not frills these are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses; they should be part of our bottom line as a society.”

As fate would have it, my phone lit up just as Obama spoke about juggling careers and family obligations. I looked down and saw my daughter’s name appear on the screen.  Knowing she was with her grandparents visiting from Arizona.  I had to giggle. Really? Now?  The text exchange that followed went something like this:

ME: “Can’t talk right now. I’ll call you later”

MY DAUGHTER: “Kk”

MY DAUGHTER: “I’m just really bored, what are you doing?”

ME:  “Guess who this is?? President Obama!!” (with accompanying photo as I sat tables away from the President)

ASHLYN: “Cool, what is he doing?”

ME: “Giving a speech about kids like you and working parents like me!”

ASHLYN: “Oh”

ASHLYN: “I’m still bored”

I found it so ironic that just hours earlier I had listened to Vice President Biden emphasize the importance of every day moments, of which I am fortunate to have many with my children, and then, on that particular day, during that particular hour, my daughter was reaching out to me – at work – listening to President Obama!

Vice Preseident Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden

The President concluded his remarks by urging the audience to take action.

“As long as Congress refuses to act on these policies, we’re going to need you to raise your voices.  We need you to tell Congress don’t talk about how you support families, actually support families.  Don’t talk the talk.  We want you to walk the walk.

In the meantime, if Congress will not act, we’re going to need mayors to act.  We’ll need governors and state legislators to act.  We need CEOs to act.  And I will promise you, you will have a President who will take action to support working families.”

Later, the First Lady’s remarks echoed this call, saying “It’s up to us to change the conversation… That’s the job of all of us and it starts here… These conversations have to continue at the regional level. This is just the beginning. And it has to be a movement, and there has to be momentum, and it has to continue to the point where the pressure is real.” So let me also close by asking you to raise your voice. Help us walk the walk. Or as Maria Shriver put it, “We all have a story to tell, tell it.”

Lynette M. Fraga with Maria Shriver

One way to tell your state’s child care story is to share our 2014 State Fact Sheets with legislators and policymakers in your community. Child Care Aware® of America’s state fact sheets  provide data useful to child care advocates, policymakers, and program administrators as they make decisions around child care programs and expenditures in their state. The fact sheets look at the cost, use, and supply of child care in individual states, as well as family characteristics related to the need of child care, services provided by Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, and the child care workforce.

Visit usa.childcareaware.org  for the latest data on your state, or visit the workingfamiliessummit.org for more ways to get involved.

You can watch the President’s full remarks from the Summit below: