Home-based child care providers who have had limited access to professional development opportunities have been getting connected through Focused Child Care Networks—culturally specific professional development groups funded by Early Learning Multnomah (ELM). As of last week, 41 of the participating child care professionals have submitted portfolios to Oregon’s child care quality rating and improvement system, Spark, and 10 have already received a 3- or 4-star rating.
Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) of Multnomah County leads these professional development groups to boost the skills of child care providers who haven’t had access to training programs and tools, usually because there aren’t enough available in languages other than English. The goal is to get more of the providers who serve children and families in priority populations achieving the highest level of quality within the Spark rating system, Oregon’s current benchmark for quality child care.
Altogether, there are four culturally specific Focused Child Care Networks: one for African American providers in N/NE Portland, one for Latino/Spanish-Speaking providers, and two for Slavic/Russian-Speaking providers.
The program has been transformative for participating providers, many of whom—due to limited access—had fewer than 20 hours of documented professional development prior to joining the networks. Now, in the program’s third year, most of the participants have logged more than 100 additional hours of training.
“The level of professionalism and intentional teaching in the programs is unbelievable,” said Christine Waters, Director of CCR&R of Multnomah County. “What I notice most is how much confidence each provider has now. They are excited to attend trainings and are reporting strong feelings of accomplishment, self-worth, and professionalism. They have documented their quality in new ways and are able to articulate how they help children and families on a whole new level.”
The networks provide more than just training. Providers meet bimonthly with a quality improvement specialist and about a dozen other providers who share their language and cultural knowledge. They get personalized coaching and benefit from peer mentorship as they make improvements to their programs and prepare their Spark portfolios.
One provider, for instance, went from providing child care in a room with nothing but a couch and a television, to creating a program with a full curriculum complete with toys, materials, and books—and no TV. She now reports having more fun with her job and having fewer behavior problems.
“It is hard work, but I can see it in my kids,” said another provider about her participating in the network. “They are happier and now I know they will be ready for kindergarten. I know that I am helping them learn for their whole life.”
We have loved seeing these professionals grow and improve their programs in ways that best serve families in their communities. We can’t wait to continue learning from them and seeing how they transform in the coming months. Keep up the good work!