In their new book titled Relationships, the Heart of Quality Care, authors Baker and Manfredi-Petitt advocate the wonderful virtues of family childcare. The book is published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the world's largest organization working on behalf of young children with nearly 100,000 members, a national network of over 300 local, state, and regional Affiliates, and a growing global alliance of like-minded organizations. Within the pages of the book, you learn how imperative it is that childcare centers adapt the family model of care, to put relationships first, business second.
“In family child care, no other adult stands between caregiver and parent; the provider is owner, director, and teacher. Families and providers sustain their relationships as long as the child is in care, and often beyond. Children who come to a family childcare provider as babies often remain in care until they begin kindergarten, and any return to the caregiver’s home before and after school and over school breaks. When a baby brother or sister is born, that child often follows the older one’s footsteps into the provider’s home. The parent-caregiver-child relationship can continue for a decade or more, depending on circumstances. Friendships develop; some last a lifetime.”
“To safely relax, an infant literally needs to feel at home. What does this mean? In the words of a hypothetical baby: This is my place. I know these people. They know me and they like me; despite my crying and diarrhea and difficulty going to sleep. I can count on them to take care of me, to respond to me. I can be ME here with all my quirks and still be accepted. I will be safe here. What makes a feeling of home is that sense of familiarity, acceptance, and safety”
(Caring Spaces, Learning Places, Greenman).
“There is a growing body of research on children’s attachments and relationships with child care providers. Recent studies show that child care does not weaken the bonds between parent and child; moreover, secure attachments to consistent child care providers-especially when providers are well trained and care for a small number of children- have been associated with better cognitive and social development, greater language proficiency and fewer behavior problems” (The Florida Child Care Quality Improvement Study, Howes & Galinsky as sited in Rethinking the Brain by Rima Shore).
That sense of familiarity is of utmost importance. Parents should consider when looking into care for their child, trying to find a stable nurturing caregiver that will suit their childcare needs until their child starts elementary school. A child’s sense of comfort provides him or her the optimal opportunity for learning. Recent brain research has shown that children who receive erratic care have higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in their blood system. The presence of elevated levels of cortisol inhibits cognitive (thinking) abilities, and therefore drastically affects learning abilities (Building Children’s Brains, Lessen-Firestone Ph. D.). What this means in laymen’s terms is that when children are under stress, their brains do not function normally. For a child moved from place to place, they are so concerned (stressed) about the new environment, children and caregivers, that they loose any opportunity for learning that is provided to them.
Stable nurturing care is a quality that is constant in my home. Children are enrolled at birth, and have the same caregivers for their entire time enrolled. My staff and I are sincerely blessed to be able to form loving relationships with each child. We learn not only about the child’s obvious traits, but we strive to form a personal connection with the child’s family too. Children enrolled here at Little Tot’s are welcomed into my home as family would be. With this closeness, we get to know the children so well, that we know what toys and activities they most enjoy, what might cause a temper tantrum, what foods they love the most, what to do or say when they are having a sad day, we honestly know them as if they were our own family.
I strongly believe in the importance of family, and preserving the family structure. For families enrolled here at Little Tot’s, family unity is respected. Older siblings learn right alongside their little brothers and sisters all day long. Children eat, play and sleep close to their siblings. On several occasions throughout my career, I have had siblings as well as cousins, neighbors and close friends all enrolled at the same time. I have been fortunate enough to watch unrelated children raised together since birth form loving friendships that have lasted long after their time at Little Tot’s is through. I liken this experience to the ‘olden’ days when extended families spent countless hours together, and children played side by side. Many years ago, the family structure was solid, and extended families were just as common within the household as immediate family. It is my hope that by promoting strong bonds between siblings and families that I can help influence a change in the present way of caregiving. I have witnessed family unity, the difference that truly close family relationships make in the learning, growth and behavior of young children, and have never found any other influence in a child’s development as strong.
The separation of children from their siblings and other family members is not natural. It is one thing if your little one is an only child. It is yet another to place children of the same family each individually in different rooms, where they will be right down the hall from each other, but have no contact or ability to connect with their brothers or sisters for the entire day. Now why, with all the knowledge, we have gained about stress and the way it hinders ones learning ability would we take away a child’s siblings? It seems to me that the answer is because center ratios require that children be grouped by age accordingly. Centers are largely run by corporations. Childcare is a huge industry. The corporations that own the childcare establishments are concerned about the bottom line, not the preservation of family. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to accommodate ratio’s while keeping families together, it just isn’t done because it would cost the childcare industry to much money in staff wages.
Some may argue that siblings will be separated later in elementary school. However, from a child development stance, this analogy is like comparing apples to oranges. Older children have the ability to understand that they are in classes with other children to learn skills based on their age. By this stage in development children are secure, autonomous young individuals that have developed the confidence to be independent from their families.
Little Tot's LLC is owned and operated by Lisa Boni M.Ed. All information within this website is the sole property of Lisa Boni. Use of this information in any other form is considered copyright infringement and or plagiarism and will be treated as such. This copyrighted work may not be duplicated or distributed. Copyright 2014
Personal interaction is by far the most important aspect to take into consideration when choosing a childcare environment.
“It is the everyday relationship between the teacher-caregiver and the child –the greeting in the morning, the comments made when the child has drawn a picture, the affection and respect demonstrated – that is the single most important determinant of quality” (The Preschool Years, Galinsky & David).
It is the teacher’s role in an early childhood setting to create a comfortable learning environment where each child is valued as an individual.
I am confident that family childcare and education is the absolute best option available for working families. My own children had the great fortune to grow up together, to be raised together as they should be. Here at Little Tot’s I have been blessed with some wonderful families, who feel the same way. I can honestly say that with the knowledge that I have obtained through my relationships with young children and my education, that not for all the riches in the world would I ever change my desire to have my children experience life in exactly this way.
“Our field of early care and education is just beginning to understand the family model of child care and its emphasis on close, caring relationships. In too many centers the business and elementary-school models still dominate, with their focus on hierarchy, productivity, efficiency, and inclination to define people by their “jobs’ rather than by how they relate to others. In the business model, the director’s job is to make sure the center meets licensing regulations and is fully enrolled. She supervises staff and puts out each day’s inevitable fires. Teachers receive direction from the director and are expected to follow regulations, attend training, and perform duties assigned to them in the classroom. Parents are the consumers; their role is to pay for services provided. Children and their needs take a back seat to financial and staffing considerations. Relationships are secondary, cordial but formal. This model may be good for business, but it is inappropriate for raising young children. Research and experience show that if we want young children to thrive, they must be in places were the adults care about them and about one another.”
At Little Tot’s all children, regardless of age are cared for in the same environment from infancy to school age. Nearly every family who enrolls here at Little Tot’s stays from the date of enrollment until their child starts Kindergarten, so friendships between children are nurtured and stable for the entire length of their time in my care. Of course, my children and I will always be a part of Little Tot’s (try to tell my 7 year old that there is something wrong with having ‘preschool’ friends). And, thankfully, the average length of employment for my staff is over 10 years!
One 'hidden' benefit of care at Little Tot’s is the mixing of age groups. When young children are cared for in the same environment as children whom are older, they aspire to reach the developmental milestones of their friends. The skills they strive to learn in order to be more like the older children range from walking to feeding themselves, being able to build a tall tower to potty training.
Preschoolers and school aged children benefit from the relationships formed with younger children in a variety of ways. They learn valuable life lessons of compassion, turn taking, empathy and self-regulation. When they compare themselves to the younger children, they then understand that they are not their parent’s babies, but capable young people able to make their own decisions. Older children then begin to see themselves as very competent; they want to be thought of as ‘big kids’ they want to please and to be helpful. These moral skills are essential for proper development, and sadly do not happen in most childcare arrangements.
The next best place to home...
“High-quality family child care can teach us a great deal about care that is relationship based. In family childcare homes, relationships tend to resemble those in an extended family. Parent-caregiver connections are broad and enduring. The children in care generally get to know the provider’s own children, her husband and other family members.”
Baker, A. & Manfredi/Petitt, L. (2004). Relationships, the Heart of Quality Care. United States: National Association for the Education of Young Children
The sense of safety and stability is consistent at Little Tot’s. Because I provide care to children of all ages, children never have to experience the loss of their caregivers, environment or surroundings. They maintain the same friends and caregivers from infancy to preschool.
I raise my own children with the children of all of the families enrolled. Consistency of care, a child’s comfort here and their feeling of stability is of utmost importance to me. I love that my children have the same friends day after day, and that I know each individual family in my care. I like forming friendships with my clients, taking time at the beginning and ending of each day to talk about their child’s day.
It makes me feel good to be here for each family, and I would like to think that this familiarity helps make the transition from home to school easier for both the parents and the child.