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Home-Based Child Care Voices from the Field: Introduction to the Leaders and Their Work

November 22, 2021

Home-based education leaders Ruth Kimble, DeCarla Burton, Martina Rocha, and Erma Jackson contributed to this first blog in the Home-Based Child Care Voices from the Field Series.

Speaking Up: Leaders Use their Voice to Create Equitable Early Care and Education Systems

Without a doubt, talented, dedicated home-based child care (HBCC) leaders can be found all over the country. Despite obstacles and disincentives, these professionals have found ways to equitably support the educators in their community, filling a void left by early child care systems. They have been able to leverage their experience and relationships to become trusted leaders and partners, providing quality and business supports to educators and their networks and associations, all while supporting family and community engagement. Here we present just four of these change agents.

Ruth Kimble

I started my daycare in 1996 in the basement of my home in the Austin community of Chicago. As soon as I opened it, I felt something was missing: there was no guidance for home providers. During the 10 years I provided care from my home, I met other people who felt the same way about the lack of support that providers have. Starting with a group of five providers, our membership grew in the first year to 25. Now there are 50 providers in our network, 43 of them family child care providers and the other seven day care centers. Our networks are peer-led organizations that provide resources and build strong community collaborations to help support home-based educators, their assistants, and parents.

Over the course of my career, I have worked very closely with the community because the value of having relationships with community partners is evident; this relationship has brought us to where we are now – at the point of being able to scale up our operations using community partner funding.

I have worked closely with the other providers highlighted here. Our relationship involves us working together, sharing resources and information, and contributing in any way we can to ensure we all succeed.

DeCarla Burton

I’ve been a family child care educator on the south side of Chicago since 1998. My program, Jump Smart Learning Academy, is a group family child care program that caters to children ages two to eight. I’m also the founder of Supporting Professionals Network Association (SPNA), a non-profit whose mission is to ensure we are recognized as respected partners in child care and as advocates in the field. We aim to build meaningful collaborations in all communities, allowing us to make positive change in the lives of children and families.

I felt the same way Ruth did when I first started. It was not my plan to form a network, but the lack of quality and our mission pushed me to do so. I believed there had to be other professionals out there who felt, as I did, that all the decisions were being made at the top and that no one was considering what the people who actually do the work think, nor was anyone thinking about making us a part of the solution instead of just dictating to us.
SPNA started in a basement by 10 like-minded women. As our ideas and ability to reach out to others broadened, we formed a non-profit professional association that is now 125 members strong, and growing. We represent not just the city of Chicago, but the suburbs too. We continue to attract professional child care educators who are committed to offering quality early child care services and strengthening the industry.

Martina Rocha

I have been a child care educator since 2004. I’m a social worker, but I decided to start my own business because I love to work with families and children. When I moved to Lake County, I saw the need for resources for people who want to start a home business, especially those in the Hispanic community,. So, we started a small network that allowed us to gather and learn together about how to become better educators. We had almost no resources. In our search for support, I found out about Ruth’s network. From the start, she has guided me step by step on how to start my network.

Currently there are 352 members in our network. We share the belief that it’s important to keep learning and share knowledge. But the most important thing the group offers is the opportunity to be together. We have built mutual trust and a system that offers ongoing support. It’s not like calling an office and getting information. It’s a relationship. We offer different programs and trainings; we’re always training to be prepared to meet families’ needs. We are bridging the gap.

Erma Jackson
I have educated families on the west side of Chicago for 18 years. I work with Ruth. In fact, it’s because of Ruth that I do what I do. She cared for my oldest grandson and, from there, I worked with her at her center. Now, in my home, we assist educators with credentialing, including early childhood education, infant/toddler, and family child care. We help them meet their educational needs and goals.

Using the Network to Help Providers Meet State Requirements
We have formed three initiatives in our network the aims of which are to meet state credentialing and education requirements:

  1. ECE partnership with Malcolm X Community College. We meet with our early childhood educators monthly to discuss their specific challenges or strengths regarding academics. These conversations provide insights for us to share with our contacts at the college.
  2. Accelerate Cohort. We have hired an administrative coordinator to work with providers who are interested in achieving their infant/toddler credential or their silver or gold level.
  3. Kindergarten Readiness Program. We are working with preschool educators to align the curriculum with that of Chicago public school kindergarten teachers.

Better Home-Based Business Supports Equals Better Home-Based Care
We are very proud of the work we’re doing. Community partnerships and our legislators have played a large part in our success but speaking up is crucial. Our networks have provided us with a chance that the early care and education system has not – to engage in opportunities that give us a voice. These opportunities – and our voices — are essential to the creation of equitable supports for home-based educators.

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