We all know that just because something has been a certain way does not mean that it should stay that way. This, we believe, is the case with how so many people talk and think about early childhood issues. While change is hard—both individually and culturally—we know that it is necessary to change how we treat early childhood matters if we actually want to improve the state of early childhood.
In many regards, the early childhood movement has made significant strides since the 1980’s. It is now widely known that certain types of conditions during a child’s first five years increase the likelihood of either future success or struggle. In other words, it’s generally accepted that what happens during early childhood is important. And while this truth may seem obvious to some, that certainly hasn’t always been the case. And yet, outdated perceptions and attitudes about early childhood can do real harm.
One of the biggest problems is the persistent and widespread use of the term ‘day care.’ Using the previously accepted and still widely used name for a certain type of child care may seem harmless. However, using this phrase perpetuates negative associations and beliefs about early childhood.
During the second half of the 19th Century, the day nursery movement started as a means for keeping lower-income children physically safe while their mothers worked. The term and idea of ‘day care’ directly stems from this era of “warehousing” children. The problem, of course, is that while the expectations of what happens in early care and education environments has changed dramatically due to the research mentioned above, the connotation of the term ‘day care’ still carries with it an image of careless providers warehousing children in unstimulating environments.
It is possible that not everyone hears the word “day care” and sees an image of a warehouse full of unstimulated children, but it generally expresses a certain undesirable type of provider, environment, and experience that is uncaring, unengaging, and even unsafe. What’s important here is not to debate whether such situations exist, but rather to call attention to the valuation and judgment implied and expressed through the term. Common explanations such as “My child goes to a preschool, not a day care,” or “I’m just a day care provider,” convey a sense that day care is inferior, even undesirable. This is a real problem if we hope to increase the support for early childhood investments.
The latter example demonstrates that this problem isn’t external to the early childhood profession—even early care and education professionals themselves use the day care term to describe the work or distinguish between programs. This only emphasizes the importance of instead using more respectful language for this important work. In order to elevate the early care and education profession, we must talk about it in a way that expresses its importance.
Wyoming Kids First received a $25,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation to support and expand the Book and a Bite program model in Wyoming. Through a competitive grant process, Wyoming Kids First selected ten communities that will receive mini grants to support this program model. In total, Wyoming Kids First received over $64,000 in funding requests for the $25,000 of funding available to support this community-inspired family-strengthening program.
We look forward to partnering with the following communities as they implement or sustain programs:
At the end of this month, I will begin my seventh year with Wyoming Kids First. Oh what a journey I’ve had from then to now…! I was drawn to this role not because of the early childhood component, but because of the community component. When I was hired all those years ago, very little of my life was settled or certain, and yet I knew that I had inherited a belief in community, the promise that a simple gathering could and would create and change culture. Perhaps now more than ever, I am deeply aware that the most important work we do is in our communities.
We have started our work to make Wyoming the best place for young children and their families by supporting, connecting, or facilitating small but meaningful things at the local level: establishing coalitions, pooling resources, hosting community events, honoring families as first and most important teacher. (“We” is generous, here, as “we” rely on dedicated partners who are actually doing the good work in communities!)
I have been frequently frustrated that not all Wyoming lawmakers, investors, and community members perceive the same meaning or value from these local actions that I do. I am humbled and inspired as I see communities doing more for their youngest people than most would think is possible with the set of resources that exists. On the days when I am most frustrated by the chasm that exists between what is and what I think ought to be for all of Wyoming’s young children, I have to remind myself that this series of small but intentional actions is how change starts in a nebulous, complex, somewhat blurry early childhood system. Change takes root not from above, below or beyond but from within; change – albeit slower change than I would like sometimes – takes root from many meaningful local actions occurring simultaneously.
So I applaud each and every individual, entity and community engaged in improving our state for young children and their families. Your work is not recognized or valued in the way that I think it deserves to be, but I stand with you – hopeful – that this unwavering commitment and solidarity to local impact is the start of statewide, sustained change for Wyoming’s youngest populace.
Becca Steinhoff Executive Director
We hear from early childhood providers in communities across the state that they want to be more connected with their peers and the early childhood community at large. Especially for family childcare providers, opportunities to meet with other providers to discuss challenges, share strategies, and simply connect with others doing this challenging work are few and far between.
We at Wyoming Kids First certainly believe in the value of communication and collaboration for supporting early childhood professionals, as well as for strengthening the whole system. While the desire to connect is there, the ambiguity of what such an opportunity should look like can be intimidating. In the spirit of our recent article on our R&D approach—ripping off and duplicating—we wanted to share a model that can be easily replicated by interested communities.
The Early Childhood Professional Roundtable model is based off an event that first happened in Sheridan in February, but has already been replicated in Casper. A group of individuals from each community’s early childhood system identified the need for networking opportunities and reached out to Wyoming Kids First to facilitate a gathering of early childhood professionals.
In Sheridan, individuals from the High Five initiative worked together to plan the event. In Natrona County, members from the Ready League and Success by Six initiatives initiated the opportunity. In each community, local leadership helped organize the event and invite local providers. Wyoming Kids First supported this process, but served primarily as a neutral party to facilitate the dialogue.
Each event opened with icebreaker activities that started the networking part of the evening, and even included door prizes! Then, Wyoming Kids First facilitated the group through a process in which providers expressed how they wanted to connect, to support other providers and the early childhood community, to be supported, and to communicate information and successes. Providers described specific needs and interests, including training opportunities, social activities, and communication do’s and don’ts.
Participants at both events were committed to continuing the dialogue and building the community. After the event, Wyoming Kids First synthesized the information and feedback from the Roundtable to share with participants and guide their next steps.
If you are interested in hosting a Roundtable event in your community and want Wyoming Kids First to help facilitate or support the process, please contact us at email@example.com.
(Pictured: Providers engaging at Sheridan’s Early Childhood Professionals Roundtable.)
Are you interested in advancing your early childhood knowledge and skills? Great news! Laramie County Community College (LCCC) offers online classes for both the CDA and the Associates of Arts in Early Childhood. (See course descriptions below.) Because courses for both the CDA and Associates Degree are available entirely in an online format, students can structure their course assignments around their work and family schedules.
The CDA training courses can be completed in one semester. Upon successful completion of the course work, students receive seven college credits. Completion of the Associates Degree typically takes longer as there are 61 credits involved. LCCC’s Advising Center will gladly take a look at any college credit courses you have taken in the past to see if they can be substituted for some of the required hours to obtain the Associates Degree. (Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 307.778.1214 for more information.)
There is no application fee to begin the registration process at LCCC. New classes will be starting in August, so if you are interested please begin the enrollment process now. To begin or continue your college career please contact Alex Barker (LCCC Admissions Representative) at 307-778-1117 or via email email@example.com.
At Wyoming Kids First, we fully believe that families are a child’s first and most important teacher, which is why we support family engagement programs and efforts, such as the Book and a Bite model. There is a lot of research that shows the importance of family engagement in improving child outcomes. As described in a synthesis of the research on family engagement and student outcomes, “The evidence is consistent, positive, and convincing: families have a major influence on their children’s achievement in school and through life.”(Henderson and Mapp, 2002).
The positive relationship between family engagement and improved achievement is undeniable. Specifically, research shows that families support learning, children are more likely to do better in school, stay in school longer, and simply like school more (Henderson and Mapp, 2002). While this engagement can certainly take the form of reading together, positive parent engagement also includes communication and parental style and expectations (Jeynes, 2005). For instance, when families talk to their children about school, expect them to do well, help them plan for college, and make sure that out-of-school activities are constructive, their children do better in school (Henderson and Mapp, 2002).
Even better, family engagement has a positive impact on all families regardless of income level, family culture, race, or otherwise. While many families are already engaged and supporting their children’s learning success, research shows that programs that support family engagement actually affect behavior to have significant impacts (Jeynes, 2005). This evidence supports interventions, awareness campaigns, and programs like Book and a Bite that encourage family engagement. Thus, Wyoming Kids First encourages those who work directly with families and children to celebrate the important role of families and to continue efforts to engage families.
Wyoming Kids First is excited to be a part of bringing “The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of our Nation” to Wyoming! “The Raising of America” is an awareness and engagement effort that aims to reframe the way Americans look at early child health and development. The effort includes a five-part documentary series, an engagement campaign, a companion website with additional information and resources. Check it out here.
The documentary depicts the inadequate state of early childhood in America through interviews with experts and families alike, looking specifically at how our social infrastructure fails to support parents in their important roles. Ultimately, the documentary calls for action to ensure a prosperous future for today’s young children and society at large.
Wyoming Kids First cohosted the first documentary screening in Sheridan with the Wyoming Community Foundation and Sheridan’s High Five initiative. Almost 100 people—including legislators, business leaders, early childhood providers, and parents—attended the two-hour event. Participants watched the first episode and then reflected on the documentary’s message, discussing its implications for Sheridan. Wyoming’s and Sheridan’s data on young children and families had been compiled and shared to help guide the conversation about where we are at locally. This initial screening and dialogue is meant to be the first in an ongoing discussion that ultimately leads to action and improved outcomes.
Wyoming Kids First and community partners hope to bring “The Raising of America” to communities across the state. This event is already STARS approved. Interested communities only need to provide a venue and help promoting the event. For more information, contact Becca Steinhoff at 307-575-2443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
–From WY Quality Counts
Which grows faster: kids or plants in the spring? May is here and your kids are growing like weeds. They’re developing at an amazing rate (and it can be a little intimidating trying to keep up with them). But don’t worry: WY Quality Counts is here to help you keep your little ones engaged and learning!
WY Quality Counts’ mission is to raise awareness about why quality child care matters for Wyoming’s children, their families and our future.
Our favorite resource for activities is our 2016 “When I Grow Up” calendar. It’s not too late to get your copy of this fun and useful calendar—with hundreds of activities for infants to kindergartners—to keep your kids engaged and learning. We also offer a digital version of the calendar that you can sync with your personal calendar online for easy and convenient access.
The program promotes quality education opportunities, preparing children for success by using developmentally appropriate teaching methods and materials to develop cognitive, language, social/emotional and motor skills. So they’re fun to do and help brains grow!
The calendar also includes helpful features, like a map of Wyoming’s child development centers offering early intervention and developmental preschool services and their contact information. You can learn about all the great calendar features (and order your own copy!) by visiting our website here.
To learn more about WYQC or access our other resources, visit our website at wyqualitycounts.org or find us on Facebook at facebook.com/WYQualityCounts and on Pinterest at pinterest.com/WYQC.
2016 Cowboy State Early Childhood Conference
August 4-6, 2016 in Riverton
The Cowboy State Early Childhood Conference returns this August with over 50 unique workshop offerings. Keynote speakers will include Jillian Balow, Superintendent of Public Instruction Wyoming Department of Education; Dr. Steve Corsi, Director of the Wyoming Department of Family Services; and featured speaker Tiernan McIlwaine. All workshops are STARS approved and PTSB credit will be available. You must register here by July 17.