Family child care (FCC) educators from across the state of Delaware gathered to further their professional development and build relationships with colleagues at the First State Family Child Care Conference hosted by the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC) this past November.
Housed within the University of Delaware’s College of Education and Human Development, DIEEC’s home-based child care team planned the one-of-a-kind conference especially for Delaware FCC educators — providing them a much needed opportunity to learn and connect with peers.
FCC educators operate more than half of Delaware’s early childhood education programs, caring for many of Delaware’s young children, ages infant through pre-kindergarten. They often work long hours with little or no time to network with peers or invest in their professional development. Held at UD’s Virden Retreat Center in Lewes, Delaware, the event featured learning opportunities designed to empower the educators and validate their essential work.
“Family child care is a culturally responsive way to care for young children,” said Kristy Smith, associate director of DIEEC’s home-based child care team. “With the declining numbers of home-based providers, both nationally and in Delaware, our focus is to provide tailored support, like this conference, that meets their needs.”
Alexandra R. Patterson, director of policy and strategy at Home Grown, a national collaborative of funders to improve the quality of and access to home-based child care, delivered the keynote address, with additional remarks by Rena Hallam, director of DIEEC and professor in CEHD’s Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, and John Fisher-Klein, director of early learning, Delaware Department of Education.
“Family child care is such an important part of Delaware’s early care and education system,” said Hallam. “DIEEC has made significant changes to better meet the needs of family child care programs. We are excited to launch this annual event and support FCC educators in providing high quality early care and education to Delaware’s young children.”
Georgette Minnick, a FCC educator from New Castle County, arrived at the event eager to learn. “I run a small family child care program and can’t wait to get ideas with others that own businesses,” she said
Minnick and nearly 75 fellow educators participated in seven DIEEC-facilitated training sessions focused on child behavior management techniques, kindergarten readiness and more. Many attended the two-part training “Flip It,” which focuses on teaching a four-step process to respond to challenging behavior in a positive way.
Participants also learned about available services and supports from Delaware early childhood education agencies, partners and advocacy groups in attendance, including the Wilmington Early Care and Education Council, Delaware Libraries and the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce.
“I loved the professional learning experiences and the entire event,” said Dorzet Short of Rainbow of Hope Child Care in Sussex County. “I’m so glad I came and I can’t wait for next year.”
DIEEC plans to hold the conference annually, rotating locations, to continue to provide FCC educators opportunities to share with each other, fine tune and develop new skills and receive tailored support.
DIEEC is a grant-funded initiative charged with improving the quality of care in Delaware’s early childhood education programs. The Institute offers various services including technical assistance and professional learning opportunities for early childhood educators.