Quarantine changed the way we do things – maybe forever. People are grappling with what their day-to-day lives should look like and making the best decision for their famiiles. When it comes to child care, parents have always been faced with many questions and had to make tough decisions: Should I put my child(ren) in child care? Where do I find child care? How do I pay for child care? Will the provider accommodate my schedule? Will they honor my culture and work with me if I don’t speak English? Can I afford care if I work or if I do not work?
Even before the pandemic, nearly 75% of children 5 and younger in Washington state were cared for by family members, friends or neighbors rather than by licensed providers in child care centers. This is also known as family, friend and neighbor care and the numbers are even greater for families of color and low-income families. FFNs allow kids to be raised with their home languages and cultures and can be wonderful for building ties within communities.
Using an FFN can be a great option for many but can, in some cases, leave children unprepared for kindergarten and can leave caregivers feeling isolated.
So when the pandemic hit, Child Care Resources, whose vision is to make sure every child has a great start in school and life, shifted their focus to providing support for adapting child care needs in the community. One of the organization’s goals is to have an equitable early learning system, and for this to happen they knew they had to support all forms of care – especially those preferred by communities of color.
Supporting the Brothers and Sisters Program that offers free training to FFNs through small community organizations became more of a priority in the quarantined world. The program is designed for middle and high school youth, usually about 14-18 years old, who take care of young family members and neighborhood kids. According to Zivit Sheckter Nissim, a program manager at Child Care Resources, the course provides eight, 2-hour trainings that teach the following:
- Child development.
- How children can learn about math and science through everyday activities.
- Home safety.
- First aid and CPR.
- Basic care and nutrition.
- Behavior management.
- Mindfulness and self-care for the caregivers.
- Guidelines for how to use technology with children.
- How children learn through play.
- How caregivers can pursue a career in childcare or child development.
“We’re empowering these young caregivers,” Sheckter Nissim says. “They’re providing child care because they need to and there’s not a lot of thought about if they should or why. They’re providing important value and this program gives them the confidence to do what they need to do in a more intentional way.”
Child Care Resources reaches out to the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community to find small local organizations like Mission Africa, First Five Years and Beyond, and Childhaven, to find facilitators. Then they train these facilitators and provide the materials and technical support they need to teach. With local facilitators, the course can be taught in the caregiver’s native language and honor the culture and tradition of families.
When the program is complete, each participant is given a bag with some essentials needed to care for younger children as well as toys, ideas for play, and craft ideas.
“Brothers and Sisters helped me change my perspective on children, and they helped me understand how they grow and why they do the things they do,” says participant Sarah Coulibaly.
In the last year, program participants said they were more prepared to handle an emergency involving a child in their care and 97% of participants said the information they learned changed the way they care for young children.
Child Care Resources believes that investing in children — all children — leads to a better future. That’s why our vision is that every child has a great start in school and in life.