YES! It finally has happened. A8827A/S3895B has been passed by the senate and signed by Governor Patterson. Our legislators are starting to "Get It". When I first heard the news, I immediately felt a sense of gratitude, pride, and accomplishment. I know how hard NYS providers, their families, staff of CSEA and OCFS worked to get this much needed change into law! This new law will not only increase capacity for family and group family home providers; it will add more flexibility in our enrollment. It will help reduce the chance that we can’t enroll a sibling or the child of a parent referred to us.
Families searching for quality child care won’t so often be turned away, ending up with illegal care because there was no room in our programs. As a group family provider, I can now say yes and enroll a couple school age children who attended my program and need to arrive 15 minutes before my assistant. With this change, some of us may now consider and offer part time care to families. We know how important it is for families to have access to quality child care that meets their needs – especially in these hard economic times. Family providers can say yes and enroll another toddler or preschooler when they have an infant or two already enrolled.
New York State will save much needed revenue as the licensing renewal period extends from 2 to 4 years. Our inspectors will assist us in maintaining standards for inspections and training requirements. This change brings more accoutability to us as providers and professionals. We are part of a working team. We strive for quality. Working together, we know that VOICE/CSEA and the OCFS Child Care Division get the job done right.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to a room full of Congressional Staff in Washington DC about the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The Bill that governs the application of the CACFP is being amended and re-funded. I was honored to be asked to speak on behalf of VOICE /CSEA, AFSCME and family child care providers across the country. The CACFP has caused a lot of frustration for us in New York and for providers other states across the country. I was excited to be able to address our frustration and how we can make it work better for providers, kids and families.
I flew from Buffalo to Baltimore where I was met by an AFSCME staffer who accompanied me to Washington, DC. I met with a representative of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's office and spoke about some of the good things that CACFP does. It does provide funding for a much-needed source of food for children.
I am personally seeing more children come to my child care program truly hungry. They are looking to eat as soon as they walk in the door. As parents struggle with the challenges of a changing economy, their food budgets simply have to tighten and many children and providers need to rely more on the CACFP. I have to provide for second helpings but now I also have to provide for third helpings. I simply can't fill some children up, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays. We need to increase the amounts off monies paid to participating providers (for each meal and snack), allow for a third meal, eliminate tiering, and relieve some of the paperwork burden. This is what I told our elected officials and their staff in Washington.
After I spoke, New York Representative Paul Tonko (NY-21) spoke about CACFP. He co-sponsored The Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act of 2009 (S.2749) along with U.S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY). I was impressed that Representative Tonko truly knows the "ins and outs" of the program and understands how important it is. U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4) helped organize the Congressional staff briefing too.
We need to get involved and keep involved. VOICE/CSEA is all about providers. Belonging to CSEA/AFSCME, we have an amazing resource. We come together across our state and with providers in states across the country to work with skilled lobbyists in Albany and Washington who help us make sure our elected officials know what is important to us and do the right thing. Get involved! We can’t all go to Washington about every issue, but everyone can send a letter or an e-mail, make a phone call, and visit our legislators in their home district offices.
Make sure we have your current e-mail address so that we can keep you informed and give you the tools you need to weigh in with your elected officials about what’s important to our VOICE members and the families we serve across the state of New York.
(Debbie is a Nationally Accredited provider and Vice President of the Capital District Family Day Care Association in addition to being a VOICE member.)
Quality Training through new partnership
I recently had the opportunity and pleasure to attend a training given by the Capital Region PBS station WMHT-TV and, our child care providers' union, VOICE/CSEA. The training was part of a pilot program called "Ready to Learn" and it teaches the "View, Read Do" technique used to enhance learning in early childhood.
The purpose of the 15-hour training was to prepare us to go to providers and present this new method, giving an option for training which satisfies some of the required 30 hours every two years and offers a new teaching method which we found quite helpful.
Although the training required three Saturdays of my personal time, it was well worth it. The instructors were welcoming and knowledgeable. I came home from each class with new ideas and resources to improve my program.
I had the opportunity to network with other providers, some I already knew and others I had the pleasure of meeting and forming friendships with.
The class consisted of both family and group family providers, including several husband/wife teams. It was so wonderful to exchange stories and ideas in such a personal way. It was more than worth my time and energy and I look forward to being able to pass on what I learned to other providers.
VOICE Providers are working tirelessly to bring us new legislation, benefits, respect for our profession and now have added quality trainings to the list. I have been involved with VOICE since we began organizing and feel very strongly that all of us need to get involved and show our support in whatever way we can.
This is our union and, as we all know, there is strength in numbers, so get involved and stand up for what you need and want. It is your VOICE, so use it!
Hi my name is Wendy Cronk, and I run a group family daycare in Oswego County, I have been involved with VOICE for about a year now and have attended meetings and met with the Commissioner of DSS for Oswego County on 2 separate occasions. I feel the meetings went well but to tell you the truth we need more people to help out, make phone calls or come to meetings.
We are the most important workers in our nation today. We protect and shape and guide our children even before schools, and we need a strong Union that will work for our best interest.
Some may think they're too small and really don't need a union.
Finally, we have some hope for childcare in Suffolk County!
On November 28th, VOICE providers held a Town Hall meeting to express our concerns, and to request answers to the $6.2 million in childcare rollover money that was lost here in Suffolk County. The DSS commissioner and her staff were at our meeting along with many county legislators. More than 70 providers came out even though we had pouring rain that evening. Parents and children were also there. We were disappointed that County Executive Steve Levy did not attend or respond to our invitation. He continues to show his lack of support for childcare and the plight of providers.
Providers told DSS how cuts were negatively impacting our businesses. We heard stories of families having to go back on welfare because subsidy applications were no longer being accepted or processed. Providers told of how enrollment is down and we are having problems paying our bills. There was applause when providers told the panel it was not fair that providers and families were being penalized because subsidy money was not spent in a timely manner. DSS Commissioner Janet DeMarzo didn't have many answers, but she heard first hand the impact that these cuts were having on childcare providers and low-income families. We are looking forward to DSS respecting providers as contractors and working with us in a professional manner.
I am so amazed and proud of what we accomplished! We worked together to put this meeting together and it was a success! We finally had the opportunity to speak to the County powers and get answers.
Because of our meeting, Suffolk County agreed to increase the 2009 childcare subsidy by one $1 million! That is the power of unity! We realize this is just the beginning and we will not stop fighting until we providers and families receive the dignity and respect we are entitled to.
Having been involved with VOICE from the very beginning, it is most exciting to be on the negotiating team. If you had asked me at the start if this would work, I don't believe I would have been this positive about what is now happening in New York State.
Surprisingly, the representatives from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services have been very responsive to undertaking the task of these negotiations. Their respect of us as professionals has been overwhelming. Our discussions include everything from "soup to nuts."
After all our years of frustration in dealings with OCFS, I believe "fighting City Hall" has finally paid off. It has, at times, been a totally uphill climb, but progress is being made. Actually, HISTORY is being made!
These negotiating sessions have allowed me to meet providers from all around New York State and to realize that our problems are not unique to one area. We are all experiencing the same difficulties. It has also given me the opportunity to meet the OCFS officials and have frank discussions with them. At the negotiating session in June of 2008, the draft of legislation to change many things in the regulations, such as equality between family and group family day cares, and changing the infant definition to 18 months instead of 2 years old, thus opening up many thousand infant spots in New York State! Individual committees have been meeting regularly and I feel sure we will have some new information soon.
Our moniker is so very appropriate "VOICE" We are now many voices and we are speaking loudly and clearly and finally we are being heard. There is power in numbers and we are now proof of that.
As providers, we all feel that we are making a great difference in the life of every child who comes through our day cares. If we can but make a difference in the life of every provider as well, we can hold our heads high and feel successful.
What could be one of the best feelings in the world if you are a childcare provider? How about sitting down at a table with your county's DSS Commissioner and the head of the county's childcare unit to discuss childcare concerns? Well, that is exactly what happened in Oneida County this past July 31st.
I joined with four other providers from the local VOICE chapter to meet with the Oneida County DSS County Commissioner and the head of the Oneida County Childcare unit to discuss the issues that the local providers are concerned about. We discussed timely payments, children's absences and payment for them, fair payments for every provider, and the possibility of bi-weekly payments.
We also discussed the idea of a contract or memorandum of understanding that would be written between the Oneida County DSS and the local childcare providers. This contract would allow both providers and the DSS to have an outline that we can follow together. The Commissioner told us that she would be glad to see our ideas to consider what we, as providers would like to see in the contract. We may not all agree on the same things, but at least we were able to sit down together and work it out, instead of the County making decisions without input from providers.
Finally, the Commissioner and the head of the childcare unit have both agreed to meet with us quarterly, and we are already tossing around a few dates in late November early December. Not only have they agreed to meet with us, they also agreed to meet in the evening so it does not interfere with our daycare hours.
I feel that childcare has a great future in Oneida County. If DSS can understand that a joint effort between the agency and our union will provide a much happier environment for children, then providers can begin to see DSS as an ally rather than a problem. This meeting was a great step in helping us to really have a voice in shaping daycare in our local community. I can't wait for our next meeting.
Early in August, I went down to the Oneida county DSS department to ask if DSS would pay me the market rate going back to the beginning of July. I did this after talking to other providers and learning that I was not receiving the market rate. Without those discussions, I would have never known that the rate I was receiving for five children was not correct. I have missed out on about $600.00 dollars in the last year. I am glad that I found out this information and was able to correct this situation myself. I am very grateful that VOICE/CSEA helped me.
My name is Joanna Zwink. I am a group family provider in Albany County heading into my 6th year. I have a dilemma! In September, I am losing a child to kindergarten. I have the perfect brand new baby girl to take my open slot...now comes the dilemma...I can't take her. Here is my story...
I am without an available full time assistant so I have been keeping my numbers at 6, calling in part time help as needed. In September I will already have my infant spots filled, one of the infants being 21 months. Being group, I cannot request a waiver for a third infant as a family provider can. (That, folks, is a whole 'nother story!) Now I feel compelled to do all I can to take this new baby because her mom is a single parent, who, unexpectedly, has to go back to work in 6 weeks as required by her employer. I think all hearts reading this can empathize.
When I met with her a couple of months ago before the baby came she was frazzled. She had been on several interviews and was shocked to see the lack of quality care out there. She was amazed at the amount of TV children were watching, the unbalanced, unhealthy meals being served, and she had a huge concern over children not getting enough movement. We shared the same passions and immediately she said she would take the spot. In June, I lost a child unexpectedly and financially had to fill the slot ASAP. That messed up my age and number ratio for this new infant in September.
Now...I was thrilled when I received an email from VOICE last Spring informing us of the legislative proposals. They were good proposals, especially the one that would change the infant age from 2 years old to 18 months. Beautiful! As a professional I know for a fact that my 20 month old and many 20 month old children can follow direction and walk (almost) as well as a 2 year old. I laugh because at 18 to 20 months all they do is follow you around and by 2 they are running away from you due to their awareness of independence.
A funny story...recently I was out in the yard rounding up the gang to come in. I was standing at the door with it open just looking at the gang to see who saw me standing with the door open...I wasn't calling anyone in...slowly they saw me and one by one just came in. As routine would have it they took off their shoes and began washing their hands. All of a sudden the 20 month old realized she was almost alone in the yard, not seeing me standing just behind her. She spun around and with a look of panic and excitement all at the same time and with the sight of me took her little legs as fast as she could and made it to the door just as one of the last ones was coming in. In writing this, I thought of that story and need to add, had that been a 24 month old, that child would have looked at me, the almost empty yard and the door, and run the other way!
Here is my thought...at 18 months old a child is able to walk, follow simple directions, hold hands comfortably, making it just as easy to get out the door for fire drills (or worse). When looking up any information on development, age breakdown is always 18 to 24 months. I have been in childcare for many years and have seen 18-month-old children way beyond their "supposed" milestones.
My point is simple: Wouldn't this 18-month change in infant age make our lives a little better? I know if it doesn't get passed soon I will be out financially and an awesome mom will be back out looking for care once again!
My name is Amy Yencer. I have owned and operated a group family day care in my home for almost 9 years. I have always had many concerns with different aspects of DSS.
We are finally moving in the right direction thanks to dedicated Providers working together.
VOICE has already made a difference and will continue to help us make changes that have been needed for a long time.
My name is Theresa Allsopp. I have been providing childcare for 7 years in my home in Elmira, NY. I first began day care as a legally exempt provider and decided to become a licensed group day care provider. I believe that children deserve quality care, so I went back to college to get my CDA credential and my Associate's degree to enhance my home day care.
For years I have taken care of several children through the Chemung County Department of Social Services. As a professional provider, I have major concerns with how Social Services handle their contracts with providers and our payments.
My other major concern is with the Office of Children and Families' (OCFS) Regulations. As a childcare provider I understand regulations are very important to protect the health and safety of children. However, I feel there are regulations and violations that are unfair and end up taking us away from valuable time we spend with the children in our care.
My complaints had fallen on deaf ears until now. I have had the opportunity to be introduced to a Union called VOICE/CSEA for childcare providers.
I am so excited and fired up about our Union. I feel like I have just won the lottery! With VOICE/CSEA, we have a powerful Union that can be heard in Albany and make positive changes in the childcare field.
I have been a registered Family Child Care provider for more than sixteen years. Before that, I was in public education for more than seventeen years. I was never a strong supporter of the union as a teacher, but my experiences as a self-employed early childhood professional have made me reconsider that position. I can think of no other profession where the professionals are treated with less respect then the one we have chosen. We can, and I hope, do, educate those few parents we may come in contact with who do not respect us for our knowledge, skill, dedication, and professionalism, but it often seems there is no hope of our changing the opinion of many of the bureaucrats we must deal with, in order to conduct our business.
My overriding concern is the lack of flexibility, which is not a part of the regulations we must abide by, and the lack of recourse we have if we disagree with the findings of an inspector. It disturbs me greatly when an inspector from a regional office sees no problem with answering a straightforward question concerning the regulations with "That depends on how your inspector interprets it." That is the exact answer I received at a training on the regulations. My husband, in his business, deals with regulations from several departments of both the state and federal government, and believe me, none of them are open to interpretation by his inspectors.
We are working in an environment where the cards are stacked against us. No matter how conscientiously we abide by the regulations, an inspector can always interpret a regulation in such a way as to put us in violation. We need VOICE to speak for us in Albany; someone to defend us against unwarranted hassles; someone with the clout to insist we be treated in a professional manner. We need VOICE.
As a member of the VOICE Negotiating Team, I have been honored to witness TRUE RESPECT that all Day Care Providers in New York State deserve! It has been an amazing trip to get to the "table" with OCFS. It has taken a few years but worth all the efforts of many providers who were able to "see" a better future.
The representatives of New York State, who meet with us at our Negotiating Sessions, have been willing to hear our concerns and even share some of our very specific desires to make changes! We are on the precipice of real, true, and positive changes in our profession.
At each negotiating session it is an honor and pleasure to speak as a representative of all providers in NYS. Please remember that our union consists of providers. We are all highly regulated. We are all working to "grow" strong and healthy children. We are all independent business owners. Any one provider's issue, no matter how small or how incredibly large is a major concern for all of us. That is what VOICE is. It is the vehicle that will bring changes to the regulatory processes, payment issues, lack of respect, and the understanding that we are truly Professional.
Our careers are extremely important in our local communities, allowing families to work without fear and with confidence that their children's needs are being met in a warm and loving home. Senator Joe Bruno said it eloquently; "You are the foundation for all working people in New York State." We work with our clients, often forming a supportive "Day Care Family" that these families need as well as work as independent small business owners. No wonder we deserve respect.
In the last 18 years, I have seen my career change with overwhelming regulations, general lack of respect (you are just a "babysitter"), subjective inspections, and paperwork that has become oppressive and taken me away from the children. I have heard many stories from my colleagues in Niagara County and New York State that have angered and frustrated me to the point of action. Let's reach out to each other, our colleagues, rally around "our" issues, and show each other the respect that we all deserve.
We are 7,500 strong in New York and our future is calling. We have great strength in these numbers. And remember New York State is listening!
My name is Damaris Samolinski. I have owned and operated a group-family daycare in Suffolk County, since 1998. Since opening for business I have witnessed many changes. Although, I strongly believe that regulatory changes are necessary for the health and safety of our children, I find that some of the regulations and violations are a bit extreme and unfair to the provider. Although some of the regulation issues concerned me, the biggest challenge I faced was with the Suffolk County Department of Social Services.
I was receiving payments 57 days after services were rendered. It became a huge problem. I was late on all my bills and even my mortgage. This problem threatened my whole life because my daycare business is my life. I started to think about closing down my business and making a career transition. I became very depressed at the mere thought of closing because working with children is my passion and is the field of work that I enjoy.
I joined an organization called Voces Latinas Marcando La Diferencia which is an organization formed by Hispanic daycare providers that were facing the same challenges I was facing, and in addition, were facing a language barrier which made their situation even tougher. Through my involvement with Voces Latinas, I met Brenda Reid, Ed Gresco and Bob Compani. I was asked to be on the negotiating team for VOICE/CSEA, an organized union for Childcare Providers. I would be a part of history in the making and I could not pass that up, so I accepted. My experience with VOICE/CSEA has been extraordinary. I feel so blessed to be part of such a strong union. I have met so many providers across the State of New York that are facing the same challenges as me. I feel that I?m not alone, that help is just a phone call away.
I have a different outlook on things now. I was afraid and had lost hope. VOICE/CSEA has given me back my power. I feel stronger than ever, and I have faith that my future will be a bright one. We all fall down and require a helping hand to get back up! That helping hand has been the many childcare providers and members of my Union VOICE/CSEA. I feel that through all the challenges I faced, something amazing came out of it that is, that I made changes to my career without having to make a career change.
I continue to work with children, which is my passion, but now I can also advocate through my union for all Child Care Providers whose voices are not heard. I thank all the strong women and men who represent this union. Because of all of you, I am now a stronger person capable of achieving my goals. This has been my experience with VOICE/CSEA.
VOICE/CSEA Negotiating Team Suffolk County
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing, which you think you cannot do."-- Eleanor Roosevelt.
It's been a long road, but with CSEA leadership, we providers have been ready and willing to keep our eyes on our goals. And now, with the groundwork laid, twenty plus providers from across the State of New York have met face to face with the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to communicate OUR problems, concerns and goals. And guess what?! After several meetings we have yet to encounter fear stopping us from doing what we need to do.
Together, WE will forge ahead and for those who will defeat those obstacles; WE will be successful in every sense of the word! And so, WE continue to unite and show our solidarity. No longer will we hide from opposition or let any agency intimidate us. We support one another and strengthen our role as professionals and get problems solved as a union. This is indeed a celebration of a different kind of birth, unlike any other we have experienced before.
Provider to provider I say, never take your eyes off OUR goals. The next mailing, phone call or email is meant for YOU! Professional, family childcare providers in NY, the time has come for you to speak and be part of OUR VOICE.