05/02/2013 11:17 am ET Updated Jul 02, 2013

Train, Support, Sustain: Changing the World by Investing in Our Communities' Caregivers

By Ana Rader, Child Care Policy Fellow, All Our Kin

Did you know that among rich nations, the United States ranks 16th for affordability of child care, 22nd for quality of child care, and 31st for availability of child care? The difficult and important work of caring for children -- so often assumed to be "women's work"-- is tragically undervalued, leaving parents and other caregivers unsupported as they seek to provide financially for their families and ensure the healthy development of the children in their care.

Enter All Our Kin. We invest in the communities' caregivers, giving them the resources to open their own family child care programs. Family child care programs are run out of a provider's own home. Since these providers are located in neighborhoods, and may offer second- and third-shift care, family child care programs are often more accessible for parents working nontraditional hours. Additionally, family child care often costs less than center-based care. These programs provide critically needed child care spaces without which parents, especially single mothers, could not enter or remain in the workforce.

Many women come to us as informal caregivers with a passion for caring for children, but lacking the tools and skills needed for success in the field. They work with All Our Kin to first obtain a family child care license. Once licensed, many providers welcome us into their homes, where we provide on-site coaching and consultation. Others regularly attend workshops where they can learn while getting to know other family child care providers. Still others commit to a series of intensive trainings. After working twelve-hour days alone caring for children, these women sacrifice precious time with their own families to improve the quality of the early learning experiences they offer young children.

In doing so, women find meaningful work as early childhood educators, run sustainable businesses that lift themselves and their families out of poverty, and become sources of strength and support for families in their community.

Remedios' story

Remedios* came to All Our Kin as an informal caregiver nine years ago. She, her husband José, and her young daughter shared a one-bedroom apartment, most of which was used for child care. She earned approximately $12,000 each year providing care, and her husband worked nights at a cleaning business. Through All Our Kin, first she and then her husband became licensed family child care providers. Making full use of All Our Kin's consultants, workshops, and trainings, they developed a high-quality program and thriving business. Recently, they fulfilled a dream by moving into a two-family home with space devoted exclusively to the two programs they run, one for infants and toddlers, and the other for preschool-aged children. Their daughter, who attends college, assists them in the family business, which now earns enough to support the entire family.

Today, Remedios and José have a thriving clientele of teachers and other professionals, and a long wait list for their program. But they remain committed to serving families from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. They feel that by giving young children from different communities the chance to learn and grow together, they are working to bridge divisions between communities often segregated by race and/or socioeconomic status.

Remedios and José work tirelessly to make sure the children's days are filled with engaging, hands-on activities that teach them about science, numeracy, and literacy. Their mission is to ensure that all the children in their care have the emotional, physical, and intellectual foundations they need to succeed in school and in life.

Remedios and José are experts at making the most of the resources they have, and finding creative ways to explore the natural world. Recently, they made homemade paint from flowers the kids had picked in a nearby field and used it to paint boxes that were turned into a "city" the children built over the course of several weeks.

According to Remedios, she and José would have never been able to turn their love for children and early education into such a high-quality, successful child care program without the support of All Our Kin. In a letter, she writes:

"As a provider, the change has been enormous from your coming to my house and putting a name to what I am doing. It gives me encouragement to be better every day. I assure you that I will never fail your trust. But over everything, I will not fail myself, nor my children."

Remedios and José's story summarizes, for us, what All Our Kin is all about. Because of All Our Kin, families like Remedios' succeed in the workforce; other parents are able to go to work feeling confident about the quality of their children's care; and children spend their days safe, loved, and learning.

*Names have been changed.

Said one woman at a recent All Our Kin workshop: "Besides ourselves, our families, and All Our Kin, there is no recognition for the work we do and our efforts to be more professional." Recognize their work. Recognize their efforts. Donate today.