We Are The Champions!
Vicki Caramante, 3.29.2019

Merriam-Webster defines a champion as a warrior or fighter; an advocate or defender; one that does battle for another’s rights or honor. These words aptly describe Rockland’s “Children’s Champions” - our early child care teachers, partners, advocates, and supporters who work every day, little by little, facing failures and successes, to ensure every child has the greatest opportunities we can offer. 

 “We are the champions, my friends. And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end…”

An anthem often heard at sporting events, these empowering lyrics move and inspire us to come together to dream big, to celebrate success, to strive for something more.  Note, though, Freddie Mercury doesn’t declare himself a champion, he doesn’t stand alone in the spotlight – he calls attention to the collective, the “we.” Our Children’s Champions do the very same, day after day. They work with the collective, pulling together partnerships and resources to ensure every child and their family is loved, nurtured, and educated.

Child Care Resources of Rockland annually recognizes those who are true Children’s Champions. Purposefully hosted during April, the “Month of the Young Child,” CCRR’s Children’s Champions Dinner is a phenomenal opportunity to celebrate those warriors, advocates, and crusaders. I invite you to join us Wednesday, April 10th beginning at 5:45 PM at the Nyack Seaport as we honor our 2019 Children's Champions:

Phyllis Helbraun Award: Ileana Eckert, Superintendent, North Rockland Central School District
It Takes a Community Award: Janet Fenton, Director of Children's Program, One to One Learning
The Dynamic Group Award: Youth Services Librarians, Library Association of Rockland County
Champion in the Trenches Award: Donna Dorvil, Infant Lead Teacher, Campus Fun & Learn Development Center
Rookie of the Year Award: Maria Rodriguez Vega, Owner, Growing Together Family Child Care

Blog post archives can be found here.   

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Momazonians Demand Backup Child Care!
Vicki Caramante, 3.15.2019

This past week you may have seen the news stories about the group of 1800 moms working for Amazon calling for company CEO Jeff Bezos to provide some kind of back-up child care for those days when someone is sick or school closes. They’ve also asked the company’s human resource department to collect data about child care challenges.  Thank you, Momazonians!

Business-oriented press outlets like Bloomberg and Fox Business picked up the story, as did tech-oriented outlets like Geekwire which writes, “The employees are collecting evidence that shows how not providing backup daycare stunts career growth for female workers at Amazon…hop[ing] to convince Amazon…the benefit would help Amazon retain and recruit talented female employees.”  Amazon is one of the world’s largest companies, with over about 250,000 in the U.S. – it is a powerhouse. We know the influence Amazon has – imagine if that power is brought to bear on the issue of early care and education. I have posted, tweeted, and blogged about child care being an economic development issue as much as it’s an education issue, as much as it’s a family issue.

Getting the kids off to school and yourself off to work can be a complicated juggling act. When a child falls ill, or school closes for a snow day, many parents cannot afford to take a day off – just call in sick, or ask for the day off to care for a child. Backup child care arrangements are important. Think of the peace of mind, knowing a safe, quality, licensed drop-off program is available in a pinch. As a parent, I am comforted. As an employer, I am happy my employee will be productive and no work time is lost.

Oftentimes, the reliance on child care is taken for granted because most often, child care programs are open and operating. We should not take it for granted. In this parody video, “A Day Without Child Care” becomes a reality. While humorous, its message is stark.

Good luck Momazonians – thank you for lending your collective voices and advocating for smart, effective child care policies!

It's Working! The voices of early care and education advocates are being heard! More importantly, action is being taken.
Vicki Caramante, 3.1.2019

Child care was back in the news this week. You may have heard that Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposed the “Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act;” and Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott reintroduced the Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA).

The former calls for a system where parents, earning no more than twice the poverty line (currently $24,600 for a family of 4) can avail themselves of child care while simultaneously addressing the need to improve the quality of care and addressing the low wages of child care workers..

The latter is a legislative bill which would, according to Child Care Aware of America (the national organization of child care resource and referral agencies), allow “(F)amilies with children ages 12 and under afford high-quality, flexible child care, as well as after-school and summer care. Under the CCWFA, families earning up to 150 percent of their respective state median income (SMI) would be eligible for assistance and would spend no more than 7 percent of their income on child care, no matter how many children they have.”  

Building on the incredible investment made in early care and education in the last Congressional session, including a $2.37 billion increase to the Child Care and Development Block Grant, investments in the new Preschool Development Grants Birth through Five, and continued investments in Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership grants, these proposals are opportunities to make great strides for our child and their families, to ensure our next generations get the same quality start to life.

Now is the time to speak up and to keep early care and education on the minds of lawmakers and stakeholders. As an advocate, I am thrilled the media is stimulating the national discourse. Let’s keep talking about what quality early care and education looks like, what ensuring a livable wage looks like, the decisions parents have to make in order to get to school or work. Let’s keep Tweeting, posting, and sharing. Let’s keep advocating!

Quality, Affordable Child Care: The Time is Now
Vicki Caramante 2.15.2018

Jennifer, a full-time county employee, and her husband John, a supermarket manager, together earn $142,800 a year. They pay $280 per week for their two-year old to be in full-day child care - $14,000 a year for 50 weeks. That’s just about 10% of their annual income. The child care program closes for two weeks in the summer, so Jennifer has to take five of her 10 vacation days to stay home one week, and her husband does the same for the second week. They don’t have a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu; they don’t treat themselves to dinner out more than twice a year. They put off going to the doctor when they’re sick because of the high cost of their deductible, and they certainly don’t take sick days because they save them in case their child is sick.

This scenario is all too common for families in New York where, according to the Economic Policy Institute, New Yorkers pay an average of $14,144 a year for one child to attend a child care program. In a February 10, 2019, New York Times OpEd, Katha Pollitt cites the EPI and this statistic.

On February 11th, Jordan Weissman published a piece for Slate Magazine entitled America’s Insanely Expensive Child Care Is a Serious Economic Problem. He says, “Something people tend to ignore about the high price of child care in the United States is that it’s not just a burden on individual families; it’s really a weight on our entire economy.” Weissman goes on to say that family-leave polices and the high cost of child care often keep women out of the job market – women with the potential to discover a cancer drug, or to manage a farm assistance program, or to broker a land development deal with foreign investors.

Locally, the River Journal, which covers news in several Westchester villages, also published a piece February 11th by Howard Milbert in which he reported on his travels to Albany with hundreds of others on February 4th for State-wide Early Childhood Advocacy Day (the topic of my last blog) to meet with legislators to talk about solutions to what is becoming a crisis for so many.

The good news – people across the nation are noticing. Many voices are calling for changes to family leave and tax credit policies. Together, advocates, providers, parents, and the business community are calling for assistance for families to afford quality child care and for assistance to providers to improve program quality and wages.

We are putting a generation of children at a disadvantage because parents who want or need quality, affordable child care can’t access a program. We know the proven return on investing in early care and education for children birth to school-age. Let’s do something about it now.

Advocating for Smart Investment in Early Care and Education
Vicki Caramante 2.1.19

On Monday, February 4, hundreds of child care advocates from around New York State will gather in Albany to meet with scores of members of the NYS Assembly and the NYS Senate. Their goal - ensuring equitable access to affordable, quality child care for all working families with a smart investment in early care and education.

We know early care and education is important to our economy. We know the early care workforce is underpaid. We know providing early care educators with professional development, training, and technical assistance supports the delivery of quality care. We know ensuring children have access to affordable, high-quality child care and early education from birth means giving children and families a solid foundation upon which to grow and thrive.

If you saw CCRR’s January-June 2019 Newsletter, you’d might have read my introductory article. “I Am An Advocate, And So Are You,” where I write about the power of the collective voice to speak up, to write about, and to share support for children and families. Monday’s Advocacy Day is a clear, strong example of a collective voice. Yet, even if you cannot spare a day away to join the incredible folks who trek to Albany, you are part of that same collective voice when you share with legislators, policymakers, friends, and family your support for investment in early care and education. Some specifics:

  • Expand access to child care for New York’s families by increasing State funding for child care subsidies to expand equitable access to quality child care to more working families.
  • Increase State funding to stabilize the child care workforce to mitigate providers’ increased operating costs. Expand access to child care subsidies.
  • Fully fund one truly universal full-day prekindergarten for all four-year-olds in New York. There are several funding streams for different part-day and full-day PreK programs. And yet, this year, approximately 80,000 four-year-olds in NYS still do not have access to full-day prekindergarten.
  • Increase the reimbursement rate for Preschool Special Education. Inadequate state reimbursement rates for preschool special education make it nearly impossible for programs to recruit and retain appropriate teachers and staff, creating a crisis for children and families.
  • Invest in child care resource and referral agencies (CCRR is one of 34 statewide) that support child care and early education.

Reach out to us and to your elected officials. Join us in advocating for children!

Breastfed Babies Are Welcome Here!
Vicki Caramante, 1.18.19

Imagine a world where moms can nurse their children in a clean, quiet space without worrying about finding a place to sit comfortably, or away from ogling or disparaging looks.

Imagine a world where lactating moms can work in places of business that encourage and support expressing milk while in a clean, quiet space, and not in a restroom, free from pressure or feeling their boss wants them to hurry up and get back to work.

Imagine child care programs having the tools and supplies always on hand to support nursing moms and their babies.

Child Care Resources of Rockland, Inc., is working toward these very goals. In February, 2017 we were designated a subcontractor to the Rockland County Department of Health’s Creating Breastfeeding Friendly Communities. The objective of the project, funded by a 5-year, $948,640 grant from New York State, is, “…to establish a breastfeeding friendly care continuum from pregnancy through infancy to increase breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity, and duration…to ensure that women and families receive ongoing high-quality breastfeeding education and support.”

Part of this grant enabled CCRR to create a breastfeeding friendly space in our office for both our employees and the general public. It has also enabled us to focus on guiding and supporting breastfeeding mothers in child care settings. Priscilla Blanco, CCRR’s Program Standards and Support Services Coordinator, is working with ten providers to guide them through the process of becoming “Breastfeeding Friendly” designated sites – the first eight below are almost complete and latter two are in the early stages:

  • Rosa Garcia, Group Family Child Care
  • Charmaine Emundson, Charm’s Daycare, Group Family Child Care
  • Noelia O’Leary, Nelly’s Nest, Family Child Care
  • Stephanie Acevedo, My Tiny World LLC, Group Family Child Care
  • Chana Twersky, Kids in Action NY, Group Family Child Care
  • Clara Ungar, Group Family Child Care
  • Andrea Bogin, Campus Fun & Learn Child Development Center, Inc., Child Care Center
  • Maria Ceci, Rockland Worksite Daycare, Child Care Center
  • Jamie Naddeo, Bright Beginnings of Rockland, Inc. (New City) – Group Family Child Care
  • Gabrielle Regueiro, Bright Beginnings of Rockland, Inc. (Pomona) – Group Family Child Care

Sites are eligible to receive a FREE two (2) hour training and the necessary items to create a cozy breastfeeding space in their program. Child care programs also may use the designation as a marketing tool - the child care center/home-based child care program will be listed on the NYS DOH website as Breastfeeding Friendly, and the national NACCRRAware Provider profile. In addition, meals containing breastmilk are reimbursed by the federal Children and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

With the positive word-of-mouth and supportive environment, designated Breastfeeding Friendly child care programs provide an encouraging atmosphere for mothers and staff members, alike.

Contact us if you want to work with us to become a breastfeeding friendly child care site so you can say, “Breastfed Babies Are Welcome Here!”

Meet, Meet, Meet. Advocate.
by Vicki Caramante, 1.4.18

Happy 2019!

New Year, new start – or at least to re-group and look to where and how to make an impact without getting overwhelmed.

I have been a bit overwhelmed the past few weeks – and I am sure the CCRR staff has been, too – because of the sheer number of meetings in which I’ve participated. Don’t get me wrong, they are important, and I am learning something new at each one. But my color-coded calendar (yes, I am one of those people) is a daily rainbow. At least it looks pretty.

Often after these meetings, or later on in the evening when I’m thinking about how my day went, I wonder how we can strengthen the partnerships CCRR has and how we can create new partnerships.  What should those partnerships look like? What can we accomplish together?

Several nonprofits in Rockland have taken to using the hashtags #WeAreRockland and #CommunityUnity when sharing their partnership successes via social media. How simple. How effective. We are all in this together and should celebrate our common goals. So CCRR will join on social media with our counterparts and use the hashtags #WeAreRockland and #CommunityUnity as a celebration of nonprofits.

Of course, many of our partnerships revolve around advocacy – for the people we serve, for the programs we assist, and for ourselves. As we look to state budget season, our advocacy will focus on the Governor’s proposed budget. Hopefully, it will clearly state that quality early care and education is a priority. With our statewide and local advocacy partners, Child Care Resources of Rockland will be a voice for children. I invite you to join us by sending letters and emails, making phone calls, or even posting or reposting something about quality early care and education on your social media platforms. Learn more about advocating in CCRR’s latest newsletter. The cover article entitled, “I Am An Advocate and So Are You,” sums up how we can all do our part for children, families, and Rockland. #WeAreRockland #CommunityUnity

Is It Best For the Children?
by Vicki Caramante, 12.21.18

At the end of next week, Jane Brown’s tenure at CCRR comes to a close. I hope Jane truly realizes the impact she has had on the world and the impact she has had on each and every individual with whom she has come in contact. She inspires us all to be better and do better, and I will always aspire to ask, as Jane always does, “Is it best for the children?”

Doing what is best for children has meant meeting with our state elected officials to advocate for sound child care policy and a state budget that reflects those policies. We, along with our statewide resource and referral partners, are asking for $5 million of additional funding to train those who work with infants and toddlers, and to build capacity and quality in programs to serve those children.

Doing what’s best for children has meant meeting with school districts to discuss the upcoming pre-K application process for the 2019-2020 school year; discussing the inquiry-based pre-K curriculum that emphasizes constructive, purposeful play; and advocating for funds and policies that support a truly universal pre-K program for all four-year-olds across New York State.

Doing what’s best for children means licensing new programs; providing regulatory oversight; providing guidance and training for programs and families on how to reduce sodium intake; working with partners to set up breastfeeding-friendly spaces (we have one in our office!); and closely reviewing our budget to ensure we are on target and meeting our goals.

As one can imagine, the last two months have been jam-packed as Jane and the CCRR staff have shared with me a smidgen of their expertise.  As a Board Member for 10 years, I had a good understanding of how the staff executes CCRR’s mission and vision. As I’ve learned, the depth and breadth of their responsibility and knowledge is boundless, and I have learned so much more about the impact CCRR has on Rockland and beyond.

The drive to do what is best for children comes from the inspirational leadership of Jane Brown. There have been parties full of laughter and tears as we celebrate our accomplishments and celebrate Jane. We will always be inspired by her, and we will always ask ourselves if what we are doing is best for children. Farewell, Jane. Thank you.

Here’s to 2019.

Partner With Us
by Vicki Caramante, 12.7.18

I have been thinking a lot about partnerships the past couple of weeks as I’ve attended dozens of meetings. If we think about our relationships, we are all effectively partners with each other. One of CCRR’s most valued partnerships is with those who offer their time, share their expertise, and support us financially.

You have by now received our Annual Appeal in the mail or your email. These seem old-school to me – and in a good way. Having that card arrive in the mailbox is a tangible reminder of the important work nonprofits provide to our community – especially as government funding stays stagnant or is reduced.

Nonprofits have always relied on the philanthropy of others. I know when I give money I want to know those funds are being spent on something tangible – so here's a list of a few of the things CCRR does with your donations to cover costs outside our contract requirements: 

  • Child Care Tuition Scholarship Program 
  • Conduct compliance visits to early care and early education programs, ensuring children are safe and well cared-for
  • Create workshops and accompanying materials on topics such as child development; health and safety; creating breastfeeding-friendly spaces; and curriculum development
  • Provide reading materials for our Tales for Tots classrooms and program volunteers
  • Subsidize the true cost of training for child care providers and early educators 
  • Subsidize the cost of student materials for UPK programs 

CCRR has produced three short videos that explain a little bit about why quality child care matters; about the economy of child care and the bottom line; and how CCRR helps families looking for child care. Please take a look at them and share them.

We know investing in children from the age of birth to five yields a return of 13% on that investment. Where else can your money do that?

Please partner with us and donate to our Annual Appeal.

Thank you.

Executive Director Blog
by Vicki Caramante, 11.23.18

‘Tis the time of year to reflect on what life has given us the past year. We’ll hear a lot about being thankful, about being grateful. Maybe we’ll donate some time to a soup kitchen or a food pantry or a hospital. We are and should be more aware of how we can help others; how we can give our time, talent, and, very importantly, our treasure to those in need. Child Care Resources of Rockland, Inc. is one of those very important organizations in Rockland for whom donations are vital because the need to support early care and early childhood education is crucial. Please consider celebrating #GivingTuesday by donating to CCRR.

I am an introspective person – always have been. Considering what I have done to impact the world, to be a better person, to be open to giving and receiving positive and negative experiences helps me to be better. I am grateful for constructive criticism because it makes me a better person. I am grateful for my interactions with people who are not the same as me, who have had different life experiences, because I learn from them.

This year I am very fortunate to be a part of the Leadership Rockland’s Class of 2019. Last week we took a deeper look at multicultural communities in Rockland. It was an emotional, impactful day as we discussed oppression, racism, sexism, religious diversity, the immigrant experience, and the LGBTQ experience. First-hand, first-person conversations. I have a new perspective, I am seeing the world differently, and I am grateful.

As I move to completing my first full month at CCRR’s Executive Director, I find myself reflecting on the world in which I live: the big wide world; my smaller, local world; and my immediate world - co-workers, friends, family. I am incredibly grateful to the hundreds of volunteers I know for giving of themselves because giving is so very necessary. I am grateful for my friends and family, for the love and support they give me. They are my world. Not everyone is so lucky, as I was so clearly reminded. We should remember to look people in the eye and say a kind word, give a pat on the back, or give a hug to those needing a bit of encouragement, a bit of support, a bit of humanity.

What a Week!
by Vicki Caramante, 11.9.18

Today marks my first full week as the new Executive Director of Child Care Resources of Rockland, Inc. And what a week! In addition to meeting with staff individually and in groups and attending external meetings with our community partners, I attended CCRR’s 44th Annual Early Childhood and School Age Conference at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill on November 3rd. Underwritten by the generosity of Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, who secured grant funding for the event and other professional development initiatives, we saw over 100 teachers, child care providers, and early educators come together to learn more about their profession.

In her opening remarks, Jane Brown reiterated that what we do is for children – children who cannot wait for policymakers to figure it out. We have to revel in our passion for children, share it, and ignite it in others! Yes!

In her keynote that morning, Cindy Terebush, an Early Childhood Consultant, Presenter, and Author, focused on the need for children to play – how simple. And eye opening. Just allow kids to be kids and play. Allow them to pick up a block and decide what it is; to look at a flower an ask questions; to make up their own stories about a playground adventure or nature walk. Because we know that’s how they learn – through play. How simple.

I sat in on a good portion of Cindy’s morning workshop Project, Craft and Art – They Are Not the Same! She engaged participants in a fantastic discussion about how these common tools used in preschools. I was particularly intrigued when Cindy described project based learning – a deeper dive into discovering. We know this type of learning builds connective synapses in the brain that support the 21st Century skills. This was particularly exciting to me because my children have benefited from project based learning in our school district. I can see in them the critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills they have built – all soft skills needed for future employment. Hearing about the foundations for these skills being built in preschool is so exciting. In this NY Times article about the maker movement, the notion that handing a preschooler a lump of clay and allowing them to figure out what it is or what it could become is exactly what Cindy was talking about.

Another popular workshop that I sat in on was Developmental Discipline: An Individualized Approach to Classroom Management with Quality Improvement Specialist, Educational Consultant, and Author Eileen Flicker. She reminded us that young children especially, communicate with their bodies and will display both positive and negative behaviors. So observing them for clues about what they are thinking and feeling is imperative to developing strategies to help them express those thoughts and feelings. How powerful!

In my first week here at CCRR, I am constantly reminded there is so much we already know about children, and we have so much more to learn about them and from them. It serves us well to try looking at the world from a child’s perspective – simply.