Over the last several years I have had the privilege of knowing several home child care providers in our community. At times these individuals have been part of various caregiver groups, currently there is a group, typically consisting of about ten local caregivers, who meet monthly for curriculum and program planning, and professional development opportunities. The membership and format have evolved with the group, but the resolve of the members to support caregivers and children in our community has not changed. I am sharing this story, because I want people to get ideas of how they can do their own “grassroots good”, if they commit to making things BETTER for children. Why is this group important and why is it important to making things BETTER for kids? The majority of children in child care arrangements in Canada are in some form of home based care, most are unlicensed/unregulated. There are a lot of reasons for this, one factor is a lack of comprehensive national child care policy, other issues relate to the accessibility and flexibility of home based child care arrangements. So why is this a concern for purpose of this blog? Caregivers working from home are often isolated (especially in rural areas) and lack access to programming and resources in the communities. In Ontario, the Day Nurseries Act prohibits home based child care providers from forming “playgroups” or sharing services such as music programming if it takes place in a private home. In many cases local support services do not recognize the importance and impact of home based caregivers with funding for resources, or programming targeted to their unique needs.
This brings me to the local group I mention in the beginning, called KIDS (Kemptville Independent Daycare Services). As a group, the shared goal is to promote high quality home based care, through self-sourced resources and programming. We have been very lucky to have been able to receive support from the staff of the Ontario Early Years Centre, Literacy Specialist for Leeds and Grenville, Preschool Language Express, and the public library (to name a few) in the form of workshops, meeting space, and presentations related to making things BETTER for the children in our community. As a group, we also make efforts to reach out to the larger home daycare community through events such as Make’n’Takes and Caregiver Café. In doing this we are making things accessible to home child care providers who otherwise may be isolated, and in turn providing them with information and resources for the benefit of the children in their care. Ten people potentially impacting hundreds of children in our community for BETTER during the critical early years, now that is “grassroots good”.
Is it hard to form a group like this? In the beginning it may be difficult to locate people, especially people who are willing to meet regularly if you are interested in program and curriculum planning, because that does require a regular commitment. Home caregivers are by the nature of their work, sometimes a bit hidden in our communities, but usually it does not take long to locate others. It may be easier to start with something more informal, such as a coffee night and find out what people’s interests are, and where there may be some “gaps” in what caregivers need to meet the needs of the children they care for. If you want to do program planning, you probably need to keep your group small to make it manageable and keep everyone accountable, we found ten members was a good number. If you want to have guest speakers and things like make’n’take events, you might want to build a bigger group.
Do you need to rent meeting space? Not necessarily. A small group can take turns meeting at each other’s homes (also a good way to “tour” different home daycare set ups), or you may find that there are organizations or public buildings that are willing to donate meeting space. If you group is getting larger, you can always consider charging meeting “dues” or annual “dues” to cover rental of a meeting space.
Does this type of informal organization make things BETTER for children? Without a doubt! The professionalism, commitment and support that come out of a group like this benefit everybody - the caregivers, the parents, and most importantly, the children! Within our own group we all have different set ups within our homes, different education, different experience, different approaches to our daycare day – but I have no doubt that something good happens in each of those daycare settings every day, because of something that was learned, or borrowed, or started at a group meeting. I challenge other home child care providers to make their own group to make things BETTER!
So if you happen to live near Kemptville, Ontario and you are a home child care provider (or are thinking about becoming one), you are invited to the next KIDS Caregiver Café event.
Where: North Grenville Public Library, 1 Water Street, Kemptville
When: May 29 2013 from 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Come and meet other caregivers in the area.
Nicole Clark will give a short presentation on the importance of ELECT (Early Learning for Every Child Today) and play-based emergent curriculum in the home child care setting. Come and learn some new ideas that may help you when talking to parents and working with children. Library Sue will also give a presentation on what is offered through the library.
Everyone is welcome!