Executive Director's Message
As the calendar turned to January 2019, we had fully transitioned my tenure with CCRR. Over the course of the following twelve months we embraced new initiatives and new challenges, which you will read about throughout this report.
Rockland is a small county, as we know. Its proximity to NYC gives our residents many opportunities to join a global workforce and the salaries that can accompany those positions. Yet, 14.2% of our residents live below the poverty line. The median income in Rockland is $88,276, yet from the United Way of Rockland County's ALICE Report we know almost half of Rockland’s residents live in poverty or are asset-limited. We also know that the average cost of child care in New York is $15,000 for an infant and $12,000 for a preschool child – twice as much as a SUNY college tuition – creating a gap families can find impossible to overcome.
In cooperation with our partners at Early Care and Learning Council, New York Association for the Education of the Young Child, National Association for the Education of the Young Child, Child Care Aware of America, Winning Beginnings, Schulyer Center, RaisingNY, and PCANY, we continued to advocate at the federal, state, and local levels for smart, effective policies for children and families with a focus on child care. We wait patiently for recommendations from the Governor’s Child Care Task Force, convened at the end of 2018.
I have learned so much this past year – from the Board of Directors, from staff, and from connections and experiences which also brought me a deeper insight into Rockland as a county and its place in the region. I also watched my oldest children, twins, graduate high school and embark on their college careers – bringing home for me the importance of CCRR’s mission and vision. From my first newsletter message as ED: “Each interaction, each meeting, each initiative in which we participate solidifies for me the need to promote, support, and enhance the healthy development of all children…to give every child the best chance at seizing every opportunity to be remarkable...”
Vicki Caramante, Executive Director
Board of Director's Message
We are honored to support Rockland County's children and families and dedicated child care providers as CCRR's Board of Directors. Ensuring access to high quality early care and learning for all children is a community effort and we are grateful for the many partnerships with individuals, educators, elected officials, businesses, and organizations. Reaching our goals would not be possible without CCRR's staff members whose perseverance and commitment is truly an inspiration. Together we will continue this important work and be a strong voice for all children.
Board President Phyllis W. Tucker
Executive Committee Stephen M. Fromson, John Gregory, Christopher Jensen, Donna Perreca
Directors Christine Cahill, Kathleen Cuneo, Nancy Cutler, Una Diffley, Vickie Frelow, Jan Jason, John Lagana, Anne Nissen, Debbie Roth, Scott Salotto, Nycole Smith, Ira Steinberg, Ann Taylor, Jessica Werk
Our Board of Directors
With the guidance of the Board of Directors, CCRR effectively carried out its mission, vision, and Strategic Plan. CCRR has a strong history of partnering with Rockland’s economic development and businesses groups to discuss and promote the importance of access to quality child care for both employees and employers while recognizing child care providers as businesses themselves. We strengthened those connections through our memberships with the Rockland Business Women's Network and Rockland Business Association.
We offered our sincerest thanks to Ira Steinberg for his term of service ending June 30, 2019, and we welcomed two new Board Members, Deborah Roth and Jessica Werk as of July 1, 2019.
CCRR’s staff is the essence of this organization. Their passion, knowledge, expertise, and dedication to CCRR, its mission, and to children is unparalleled.
In 2019, we bade farewell to our long-serving Director of Finance and Human Resource Services Gerd Schubert; our Special Needs Coordinator Ellen Mitchell, and our Program Standards and Support Specialist Haiana Doro. We welcomed Tiffany Davis as our our new Director of Finance and Human Resource Services and Jenny Spampinato as our Infant Toddler Specialist.
Finance and Human Resource Services
Tiffany Davis, Director
Kathleen Siuro, Finance Coordinator
The Finance and Human Resource Services Department (FHRS) is responsible for the overall financial and employee management of the agency: developing, managing and tracking our agency and individual contract budgets; processing tuition scholarships for families; administering employee benefits; payroll; and facilitating both internal and external trainings.
In June, the Department transitioned to a new Director upon the mid-year retirement of Gerd Schubert. Tiffany Davis was hired and onboarded: “My first five months with the agency have been a whirlwind of excitement and great learning opportunity,” she said.
FHRS has worked diligently to fine tune the annual budget, analyze and forecast expenses and revenues on a deeper level, and refocus efforts to make for a more effective operation and engaged workforce.
Within the first few months of Tiffany’s tenure, the team successfully completed the 2018-2019 annual finance audit; various Human Resource and insurance audits; facilitated Sexual Harassment and Workplace Health & Safety Trainings; as well as suffered and survived an agency wide server crash.
Noticing a need to engage staff, FHRS encouraged employees to provide exercise tips, healthy recipes, join a group of colleagues for a walk outdoors as well as to share positive acknowledgements through our Wellness Wednesday program.
They also worked with Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator Lisa Kreisel to facilitate a Fitness Friday for any interested colleagues. These programs were intended to and proved successful in creating new awareness around our own individual physical and mental health while in the workplace.
Tiffany concludes, “All of these things have presented me with an extraordinary growth opportunity and enabled me to really dive in to discover the inner workings of the agency and experience its uplifting and supportive culture.”
Family, Community, and Operations
Karen Ross, Director
Christina Espindola, Resource and Referral Coordinator
Lisa Kreisel, Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
Jenine Valentino, PreK Coordinator
The Family, Community, and Connections Department is responsible for providing child care referrals for families looking for child care; information and resources for families and providers; connecting and educating families and community stakeholders; coordinating and managing events and fundraisers; marketing, communications, and publications; data collection and reporting; administering our Child Care Tuition Scholarship and Respite Services programs; administering Universal PreK; managing the technology and administrative needs of the board and staff.
Family and Community Connections
CCRR holds contracts with the NYS Office of Family and Children’s Services and with the Rockland County Legislature to provide funding for our resource and referral services – connecting families with child care that meets their needs. In 2019, CCRR made 851 referrals to child care, 83% by telephone. Of those, 143 reported their income below 200% of poverty ($50,200 for a family a four), making them eligible for Child Care Subsidy, and 100 requested nontraditional hours (evenings, overnight, or weekends).
CCRR also holds a contract with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to assist families of children with special needs access appropriate child care and appropriate respite care. For respite services, CCRR distributes a tuition scholarship to offset the costs of care for families. In 2019, 10 children received scholarships for the entire year, and five for part of the year with $30,800 distributed.
Parent and Community Engagement
Engaging our families and the wider community helps them learn about and understand critical child care and child development issues. Under the OPWDD contract, CCRR also offers workshops for parents and families on topics such as, “Behavior Basics,” “Building Resilience in Our Children,” and “De-stressing Children.” And with a generous grant from Assembly Member Ken Zebrowski, we offered four free workshops during the Month of the Young Child (April) open to all.
Another incredibly gratifying way to engage families and the community are visibilities. CCRR staff and Board members attend events throughout Rockland to share CCRR’s mission, vision, and accomplishments. In 2019 we connected with over 1000 families at several opportunities such as:
- Library Association of Rockland County (LARC) Youth Librarians Monthly Meeting
- Health Fair at West Street
- Healthy Haverstraw Day
- Orange & Rockland Utilities Lunch and Learn
- Palisades Mall Halloween event, Mall Management team meeting, Holiday Story Time
Marketing and Communications
With guidance from CCRR’s Marketing and Communications Committee, we began looking at and thinking about how we communicate with different stakeholder groups, refining our messaging and better targeting the reader. We created several new videos to promote our programs and services and to highlight the importance of safe, high-quality child care.
Social Media In 2019 we focused on increasing our social media presence and added Instagram as another platform for engagement. By year's end we had gained 200 Instagram followers and were excited to reach 1000 Facebook likes! In October, our first Facebook Live event, Ask the Nurse, provided an opportunity for parents and child care providers to submit questions to CCRR's Health Care Consultant, Kristin G. Saunders, RN, BSN, about any early childhood health concerns.
CCRR in the News As the only agency in Rockland County providing child care resource and referrals for parents; services and information for employers; and support and training for child care professionals, we are proud to be called upon for our experience and expertise and for the platforms in which to share that knowledge with the larger community. We are committed to making child care work in Rockland County and to advocating for policies that will improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of child care nation wide.
PreK By the Numbers
- 7 School Districts
- 6 Parent Information Sessions
- 1100 Applications
- 832 PreK Slots
- 37 Participating Child Care Providers
- 76 Classrooms
- 1350 Hours of Technical Assistance
For over 23 years, CCRR has coordinated PreK in Rockland for seven of Rockland’s eight school districts. CCRR manages the application and placement process, compliance, and provides technical assistance for teachers on the classroom environment and curriculum, meeting NYS Office of Early Learning’s guidance for, “…purposeful, play-based instructional strategies that assist children in developing critical foundational skills.”
Highlights from 2019
- CCRR continues to advocate for fully funded, truly universal statewide PreK.
- NYS budget included another $15M expansion grant,
- assisted NRSD in applying for additional funding
- Facilitated and participate in a fact-finding discussion and tour of PreK programs in Rockland and Westchester with Assembly Member Tom Abinanti, (D-Greenburgh), Assembly Member David Buchwald, (D-White Plains), Assembly Member Sandy Galef (D-Ossining), Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern), Assembly Member Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, (D-New City) as they joined together in support of fully-funded PreK.
- CCRR successfully assisted the four school districts offering Statewide Full Day PreK with a NYS Education Department Audit
- Participated in NYS Birth-5 Initiative Orientation on K Transitions
- Facilitated a conversation between PreK teachers and the Kindergarten Team at South Orangetown Central School District (SOCSD)
- Attended information sessions for SOCSD’s incoming K parents.
In the Spring 2019, CCRR’s management team began the process of reviewing the various data points the agency collects and why, and how it is analyzed and reported. We quickly realized one of the barriers to effectively managing the data was technology. No strategy existed to upgrade hardware or software, much if it nearing the end of its life, or for training staff on ways software might bring efficiencies to workflow.
About the same time, CCRR connected with VolunteerNY! and the Taproot Foundation on a pro-bono opportunity to analyze our data management needs. Working with staff from the Westchester-based pharmaceutical company Regeneron’s Data for Good initiative, we identified two goals: to develop simpler, more streamlined data collection and reporting processes that would allow CCRR staff to more effectively maintain and analyze data sets; and to receive a phased set of recommendations that would allow CCRR to prioritize short-term data collection improvements as well as investments in longer-term, sustainable solutions for data management and analysis.
The recommendations provided by the Regeneron team led the Board of Directors to discuss and approve in early 2020 the financial investment in our technology infrastructure. Unfortunately, in November, we suffered a malware attack which locked about 20% of our files. We worked closely with our IT consultant to resolve the issues while further investigating hardware and software investments, eventually engaging a larger IT support firm, Tech Impact, to meet our growing needs. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Professional Development and Quality Enhancement Services
Debbie Silver, Director
Rachel Ambroziak, Quality Enhancement Specialist
David Del Campo, Quality Enhancement Specialist
Bonnie Parsekian, Quality Enhancement Specialist
Maria Rivas, Quality Enhancement Specialist
Jenny Spampinato, Infant/Toddler Specialist
This year saw many positives for our PD/QES team, though we also faced some challenges. In the Spring, our department Director was out on extended medical leave, just about the time we received word our application to serve as the lead for the Region 6 Pyramid Model Hub was approved. At the same time, we had just hired Jenny Spampinato as our new Infant Toddler Specialist under the expanded Region 6 Infant-Toddler Regional Network contract. Not surprisingly, staff came together and overcame those challenges.
Professional development, training, and technical assistance for child care providers, teachers, and school age program staff is vital to enhancing and improving quality child care. CCRR’s Trainers and Quality Enhancement Specialists share tools and insight in both English and Spanish our early care and school age professionals need to meet the needs of young children and their families. Almost 2000 hours of Intensive Technical Assistance and hundreds of hours of training were provided by our staff in 2019 under contracts with OPWDD; OCFS; Rockland County; and seven school districts.
In November, in cooperation with the Rockland County Office for People with Disabilities and the County Executive’s office, CCRR organized a screening and panel discussion of the movie “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” at Rockland Community College, a true highlight of 2109. Over 70 people representing government, community based organizations, and schools viewed the movie and participated in a discussion of the effects of trauma and toxic stress with Daniella Jackson, Chief of Planning, Research, and Staff Development for the Westchester County Department of Probation; and Dr. Andy Bell, Program Director, Children's Mental Health, Westchester County Division of Children’s Mental Health. Next steps include facilitating this discussion with child care providers, with families, and with the larger community.
- We began diving in a bit deeper into the work on PreK to K transitions and deeper into the technical assistance for PreK teachers around the Creative Curriculum.
- Attended the NYS Statewide Early Childhood TA Alignment, an effort of the NYS Council on Children and Families and statewide partners to examine the system of training and technical assistance.
- Continued our partnership with the RC Department of Health to implement the Creating Breastfeeding Friendly Communities and Sodium Reduction in Communities contracts
- A total of 33 students completed the spring Child Development Associate (CDA) class and enrolled the 2019-2020 class; 13 providers received their certification.
- Throughout the year we focused on three major projects: the NYS Pyramid Model Hub, the Infant Toddler Resource Network, and Power to the Profession. Follow the links below to read about this work.
Program Standards and Support Services
Elaine Trotta, Director
Priscilla Blanco, Program Standards and Support Services Coordinator
James Callahan, Program Standards and Support Specialist
Haiana Doro, Program Standards and Support Specialist
Teresa Ortega, CACFP Coordinator
Ines Ortiz, Legally Exempt Enrollment Coordinator
Edna Saravia, Program Standards and Support Specialist
Kristin G. Saunders, RN, BSN, Nurse
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) has strict regulations for all four regulated early care and education and after school care modalities. The registration staff at CCRR, Priscilla Blanco, Edna Saravia, Jim Callahan and Haiana Doro, assisted 34 family providers and 35 after school centers with either acquiring their initial certificate to operate or renewing their existing certificates. In addition, these staff members monitored all programs through announced and unannounced inspections at least three times a year. During these inspections, crucial safety items such as clear egress and valid up to date Red Cross training was verified and technical assistance was offered for program improvement.
Those child care situations exempt from being regulated by OCFS are enrolled and monitored by our Legally Exempt Coordinator, Ines Ortiz. Frequently these situations consist of a grandparent watching children during extended hours or overnight. Legally exempt parents must qualify by being income eligible with the Rockland County Department of Social Services Subsidy Unity. In 2019 the Legally Exempt Coordinator assisted 87 providers and parents in this process and made random monitor visits to 20% of qualifying providers.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program, CACFP, helps providers and programs feed children in care by reimbursing some or most of the cost of food. In 2019, As a result of this funding, 1,116 children received breakfast, lunch, dinner, and nutritious snacks. Our CACFP Coordinator, Teresa Ortega, made three or more monitoring visits to 82 group family and family child care providers giving them technical assistance on nutrition, food preparation and safe storage of foods in child care settings. In addition, training was provided for all participants on CACFP.
Our nurse, Kristin G. Saunders, RN, BSN, assisted multiple programs with health care plans and trained 43 providers and program staff to administer medication so children with special health care needs could attend these programs. In addition, Kristin researched and responded to a variety of medical questions on everything from lice to the measles outbreak.
Rockland County experienced the first case of measles on October 1, 2018, and the outbreak was declared over on September 25, 2019. During this time, CCRR staff worked effortlessly to disseminate general measles information and information regarding free immunization clinics to child care providers and parents. This was accomplished by social media postings, email blasts, and staff providing hard copies of flyers during site visits, trainings, and when the public visited the office. All child care programs in the County had access to Kristin for technical assistance during this outbreak. Kristin coordinated with providers, registrars/licensors, and the Rockland County Department of Health to initiate procedures and protocols for tracking and documentation of immunization statuses, exclusion from care due to vaccination exemptions, improve daily health checks practices and documentation procedures, and ensure immediate reporting of any suspected or confirmed cases. Services were also provided to parents/guardians of children in child care by hearing their concerns, answering questions and providing appropriate resources and services as needed.
All of the Program Standards and Support Services staff addressed questions about child care issues not only from child care professionals, but also from parents and the public at large. They helped to problem solve a variety of situations in order to improve the safety and quality of care in Rockland. As staff observed reoccurring trends in the field, they shared their concerns with other agency staff who then designed and presented professional development opportunities with a focus on ways of addressing these problems.
As we look to 2020, we must learn from the challenges we faced, be resilient, forge ahead. We must stay true to our mission and strategic plan. We must continue to be a voice for children and those who care for them. Every child, no matter the circumstances into which they were born, deserves a right start. Education opens incredible opportunities for success and for the future - theirs and ours. Investments in quality early childhood and school age care give children that right start.
Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.
- Marian Wright Edelman