Child-care associations already offer voice
In the guest column by Julie Rustan on Dec. 13, she wrote "that time and time again child care associations have failed when it comes to advocating for our industry at the capitol… and for far too long we have trusted politicians and associations to represent us in St. Paul. They have failed us."
As licensed family child care providers in Olmsted County who make the choice to actively engage in our county child-care association, Family Child Care, Inc., (FCCI) and participate in and support Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association (MLFCCA), we join together as past and present FCCI board members to counter her inaccurate portrayal of associations. It is through our local associations that we are connected to MLFCCA so that providers have an active voice supporting and working on behalf of providers, children, and families.
MLFCCA’s nearly 40-year history on advocacy reflects their ongoing commitment to our profession. During 2011 alone, MLFCCA testified side by side with early childhood advocacy organizations at the capitol against reduced funding to the child-care assistance program. Their advocacy efforts reduced the proposed cuts to the assistance program that directly benefit working families.
MLFCCA and its associates successfully negotiated with the Department of Education for continued payments of the USDA food program reimbursements to child care providers during this past summer’s government shutdown. At the same time, MLFCCA along with a coalition of child care advocates successfully filed an amici curia with Ramsey County District Judge Kathlee Gearin regarding the need for child care assistance to be declared essential. Based upon this filing the program was deemed essential and child-care families were able to continue receiving assistance, and reimbursement payments to providers continued.
In this case, MLFCCA’s advocacy work was supported by its membership and contributing efforts of many local child care associations. FCCI and other local associations responded to Childcare WORKS and MLFCCA’s requests for stories describing the impact on families who would lose child care assistance. Childcare WORKS stated it was flooded with more than 200 stories, mostly from MLFCCA members.
Working with and supporting MLFCCA, FCCI offers accurate and up-to-date information to our membership. During the past legislative session FCCI kept providers informed regarding the issues at the capitol, urging providers to advocate on "the mitten bill" that would have added unnecessary regulation making it harder for children to enjoy outdoor time, a zoning bill that would have put 7,000 children out of care and many child care providers out of business overnight had it passed, and proposed child care assistance funding reductions. FCCI partnered with our local Child Care Resource and Referral to bring our children’s voices to the Capitol through the "Voices for Children" day.
In FCCI’s near 40-year history, we have met with legislators, county commissioners, and Olmsted County licensing staff regarding many issues. FCCI has sponsored a legislative candidate forum, conducted postcard campaigns to support or opposed legislation that would impact our profession, and FCCI leadership members served on initial committees of what is now the Quality Rating System. Throughout FCCI’s history we have maintained our local voice and extended it through our members serving as seated board members of MLFCCA.
Advocacy for our profession extends beyond what happens at the capitol. Over the years, FCCI has partnered with Childcare WORKS, First Steps, Ready4K, Olmsted County licensing, and Child Care Resource and Referral to advocate on behalf of our profession, specifically bringing information, resources, education, training, and support to our area providers.
The assertion that associations have failed our profession is erroneous and misleading to those outside of our profession. Child-care associations have been a driving force that has brought many measures of professionalism to this career and have been strong advocates for providers over the past 40 years.
Associations welcome all child-care providers to engage by membership or in leadership roles. They are here to support providers’ needs whether it is through education, peer support, or advocacy. The invitation is open, and Julie and all child care providers, who have yet to do so, are welcome to take advantage of what child-care associations offer and actively engage in the missions of each to ensure providers are represented locally and statewide.