Do you work with children and families? Having a better understanding of how trauma affects people of all ages can make your services more effective and engaging. Check out this Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services from the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, the Administration for Community Living, the Offices of the Assistant Secretary for Health and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at HHS. Additional resources can be found on the CDC website and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.
When Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) funded 20 staff from their member agencies to attend the “Training of Facilitators for Positive Solutions for Families” in April, 4-C Referral Specialist Ruth DeNure from Madison was one of them. The training, a 6 to 8-week parenting curriculum, guided attendees in how to support children’s social emotional growth, and provided free social emotional themed children’s books to participants. Ruth left with the books, but also with an idea to use them in guiding parents at 4-C Play & Learns to better support their children’s social emotional growth.
“I wanted to use literature as a way to support social emotional growth, and to not just think of a book all by itself but as an avenue to start discussions,” said Ruth. “A book can actually be a conduit for that.”
With the ideas and materials from the training, and support from the SFTA Family Engagement Specialist, Ruth created a series of Literacy Backpacks that parents participating in 4-C Play & Learns can check out and take home to use with their children. Each backpack contains activities and ideas focused around a children’s book that addresses social emotional issues. The handout included in each backpack reads,
“Parents/caregivers who read to their children every day and talk about what they are reading together promote a joy of reading and literacy achievement. Literacy Backpacks encourage reading at home and support the role of parents as educators.”
Ruth has currently completed eight literacy backpacks, so that the program can officially kick off in September with four backpacks for each of the two teams of teachers at the 11 different 4-C Play & Learn sites. Creating the backpacks and their content has proven fairly cost-effective, since Ruth primarily used the books from the training and materials from the 4-C Resource Room and Play & Learns. As the program moves forward Ruth plans on evaluating and expanding the program based on its reach and feedback from participants.
What’s Inside a Literacy Backpack?
Each backpack contains a book, 4-5 story extender ideas for parents/caregivers to do with their child, and a folder with additional story extender ideas and materials explaining the importance of early literacy and the purpose of the Literacy Backpacks.
Sample story extender activities from the “David Gets in Trouble” Backpack:
- “How does David feel?” activity: Pictures of David from the book are provided with different facial expressions. Children can match his expressions to the correct emotion, then parents can ask children questions about that emotion in their life (a.k.a. When was a time you felt happy? How do you feel today?)
- Feelings Bingo: Bingo cards offer children different situations where children have to guess what emotions that situation would cause. For example, how might a girl getting a surprise party feel? Children can place a Bingo piece on the emotion listed on their game card that they think fits the situation.
- “The things I can do” activity: Children work with their parents to identify ways they can help around the house. For instance, feeding the fish or putting away their things.
- “Faces show feelings” activity: The object of this game is to have fun while learning about feelings and facial expressions. The child and parent each choose a marker. Each player rolls the die and the person with the largest number goes first. For younger children: When the child lands on a face, they must make a face like the one they land on and tell about what makes them feel that way. For older children: When the child lands on a face, they must tell about a specific time when they felt that way. The first person to the finish line is the winner.
- Auditory Discrimination: Parents can read the book in a happy, sad or other emotionally charged tone. Children can share the differences in how they felt about the story when it was read through different emotions. Parents and children can talk about how our tone can reflect our feelings, and how that can affect others.
Stay tuned to the 4-C website for more information on this program and other services that 4-C provides.
Check out this great resource for Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC); an effective intervention strategy for building parent/caregiver capacity to support young children’s social and emotional development and to address challenging behaviors. Click here for the printable PDF.
Check out and print fliers for some of Wisconsin’s upcoming Parent Cafés. Learn more about what Parent Cafés are all about, and find other upcoming dates, here.
In Green Bay, WI:
In Montello, WI:
In Fond du Lac, WI:
In New Richmond,WI:
It is a typical day at one of the ten Wisconsin Child Care Resource and Referral agencies when the staff gets the news. Two more child care providers in their region have closed, leaving families who depend on them for child care scrambling for a replacement, and even fewer options for families to choose from in a dwindling pool of regulated providers.
This is the story playing out across Wisconsin. Despite a national increase in the number of child care programs (Forbes, 2014), Wisconsin has seen a steady decrease in the number of regulated child care providers, with a loss of 1,250 such providers from 2011 through 2014.
Why does regulation matter? Regulated providers are accountable to someone for the skills and knowledge they have and the care that they provide. Whether that means their program is certified or licensed, they must meet certain quality standards annually to maintain that status, ensuring a safe and healthy environment for the children enrolled. Furthermore, they are given vital supports to do so, including—depending on whether a program is certified or licensed and on their participation in the state’s child care quality rating and improvement system, YoungStar—opportunities for continued education, micro-grants to improve their program, parent referrals to their program from their local Child Care Resource & Referral agency, the ability to accept children participating in Wisconsin Shares, and to take part in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Child care programs that operate without regulation, and possibly illegally, have not met verified standards and do not have access to formal supports. Regulated programs adhere to stronger standards that keep children safe and are more likely to prevent tragedies, like the recent death of an infant in an unregulated WI child care and similar stories that continue to crop up across the state.
Basic safety aside, early childhood is a crucial period of rapid brain development. Studies show the experiences and education that children receive at an early age will help to determine their later success as adults, and as members of our communities. Children with strong, positive early supports and education have been proven to have higher graduation and employment rates, lower rates of incarceration and need for public assistance, greater social emotional stability, and an overall higher rate of success. Knowing this, do we really want Wisconsin children’s early experiences to be lacking?
Wisconsin needs regulated child care providers. Yet we are losing them at a steady pace. The question is, why, and what can we do about it?
While there is currently no single confirmed reason as to why regulated providers are decreasing in Wisconsin, there are a few challenges to the field that could be behind the shift.
- The cost of quality care is high—for parents and providers. Building a quality child care means that a provider is investing in improvements to their environments, cultivating their knowledge and education in early childhood, purchasing materials for the classroom, food for meals, etc., not to mention still having to pay themselves and any staff. Quality does not come easy or cheap. As such, higher quality programs cost more to attend, and the bulk of that cost falls on parents. While there are definitely supports in place to assist both providers and parents (Wisconsin Shares) in affording quality care, it is not enough. According to the 2014 Parents and the High Cost of Child Care national report, Wisconsin is in the top ten of the least affordable states for center-based care. This is likely because in Wisconsin, there is just not enough money in early education to go around. Providers struggle to achieve quality and sustain their business while families who are from lower and even middle income brackets struggle to find the money to send their children to high quality child care programs. Some providers may find it easier to give up on providing regulated care and either turn to a new career, or provide unregulated or even illegal care. Meanwhile parents are forced to choose between a high quality care that strains their budget or a lesser quality care that they can afford. Many will have to choose the latter, meaning higher quality programs lose that business and children lose out on a quality program.
- Child care providers are grossly undercompensated. Quality in early education means quality providers. You do not hire the 6-year-old down the street to do your taxes; you certainly do not want an unqualified person caring for your children. Staff participating in YoungStar, Wisconsin’s Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement System, are supported and encouraged to go back to school, to earn further credentials and knowledge, and to apply that within programs. Yet, more education means a higher pay rate—or at least it should. The majority of child care providers continue to be underpaid, earning an hourly rate in line with a retail or fast food worker. The truth is that many programs, group or family, do not have the money to pay themselves or their staff what they are worth; which is a lot. They can hike enrollment rates, putting the financial burden back on parents who may not be able to afford to stay, or, as many do, they can deal with staff turnover as they lose people to higher paying careers. Now those programs have not only lost quality providers that they have invested in, they have to start all over again building quality with someone new.
There is ultimately not enough funding invested in early education to keep quality, regulated providers incentivized and supported, and in the end it is our children that lose out.
You may not think this is your issue. But as we lose more regulated providers for our youngest citizens, we are not only short-changing future generations, we are short-changing ourselves by limiting the opportunities they have to grow and accomplish great things in the communities where we reside. The solution here is simple: Invest in early educators, invest in Wisconsin children and families. Every child should be able to access quality care. We should be growing quality, regulated child care providers, not losing them.
A series of Parent Cafés, coordinated state wide by Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) and planned locally by some of our member agencies, have kicked off with the first café of the year in Tomah, Wisconsin. The Parenting Place did a fantastic job with their café on the theme of “Taking Care of Yourself,” starting off with a healthy family breakfast for children and parents to eat together before children went to another room where child care was provided, so parents and caregivers could engage in peer-to-peer discussion. After getting to know one another through active listening, parents participated in several small group discussions guided by a parent or agency staff member using a parent café tool kit that focuses questions on building the protective factors. Eventually the goal is for all café discussions to be led by parents who are familiar with the process. At the end of these discussions parents shared some final thoughts they gained from the café:
- I realize that there are others around you who are strong and can be a source of support
- Often children of different ages pose the same challenges
- I am not the only one dealing with different issues within my family
- It is important to be my best self to be the best parent I can be, and everyone wants the best for their kids
- It is okay to do for myself (self-care)
- You are not perfect and you are not expected to be
Closing words shared by participants proved the café a success, expressing their café experience with sentiments such as “community,” “perspective,” “comfort” and “balance.” A few lucky participants went home with gift certificates from local businesses to pamper themselves, and children took home an art project they worked on about healthy bodies. Here are a few of the decoration and other ideas from this café, to inspire your own:
Interested in attending a parent café in Wisconsin, or learning more about parent cafés? Check out the SFTA website.