Community Women Prepare Children To Go From “The Cradle To College”
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
ORANGE COUNTY - Over 4,000 registered and licensed Family Child Care Homes are located in the state of Florida. Over 40,000 of young, impressionable children are being cared for and educated in regulated family child care homes.
These care homes are run under The Florida Family Child Care Home Association (FFCCHA). Created 25 years ago with the 4 main goals of promoting the development of high quality educational programs, supporting the education concerning quality home child care, participating with policy-making to provide high quality child care for all children, and fostering the development of local association chapters.
In 1994 they were granted IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and in 1996 they were able to offer group exemption to local associations. This encouraged the growth of Chapters with 100 % membership in FFCCHA.
Under the umbrella of the FFCCHA, the Multicultural Family Child Care Home Association of Orange County “unites family child care providers, one home at a time”. With Chapter President Rendy Bethel-Avila at the helm, it began servicing the Orlando area nearly 5 years ago. Since then trained women from the parramore, tangelo, and other nearby communities have opened their homes to children.
“We do everything like a normal center,” said Bethel-Avila. “We just have less children because we are in a home. So we can have 5 toddlers and 5 after-school children. In the morning most of us just have 6 children.”
All Mentors accepted into the program must currently operate a licensed family child care home and be a chapter member of FFCCHA. Inc. Additionally, one must have been licensed for at least 3 years, have a CDA or NAFCC Accreditation and have 30 hours in service training within the last 2 years. An application is required.
There are three categories in this program: Mentors, Mentor Instructors and Mentor Instructor Trainers. In addition to these three categories, there are three levels of Mentors available, each level having higher qualifications and training requirements. Mentors are required to meet specific criteria, including 16 hours of initial mentor training and 16 hours of additional training annually. All are required to re-certify each year, which include specific on-going training requirements and updates on their child care license and credentials. Instructors are required to meet the same requirements as Mentors, but receive an additional eight hours of instructor training as well as on-going training for each mentor curriculum approved by the program’s Advisory Board. Prospective Mentors and Instructors are solicited through local chapters of FFCCHA, Inc.
Family Child Care is a home-based service where child care is provided in the caregiver’s home. The home must be licensed or registered according to county and state laws.
“The purpose and mission of what we do is to give the child and the parents a foundation, to get them ready for school,” she added. “Most of the kids we watch are infants thorough 5 years old. We introduce new concepts to them because during these years they learn so much.”
Parents must submit a membership application. Dues include quarterly issues of The Grapevine which features a Parent’s Page. The cost is $10.00 year for each parent. Parent members can also join and support the National Association for Family Child Care for $40/year.
To assist the instructors on staying up-to-date on teaching and caring techniques, the chapter members meet every 2nd Saturday of the month at the Orlando Downtown Recreation Center. Additionally, there are quarterly meetings held in Ocala, they network with surrounding association members, and they offer 2 hour quarterly workshops that teach skills relating to child care and education to their members.
“We just had one [a workshop] about lesson planning. Right now we are in the fall so we are focusing on how to use the pumpkin. We talk about the amount of seeds it has, what vitamins we get from it, and we let them explore the texture and taste. At the end we will let them carry home a pumpkin with candy in it,” said Bethel- Avila.
In addition to the lesson planning workshop, last month they held a workshop regarding the use of music in early childhood education. Both workshops were facilitated by veteran music and kindergarten teacher, Gloria Green.
“I really wanted the women who attended the workshop(s) to gain knowledge in making their lesson plans. Things like using music to teach the kids,” said Green. “Kids can learn anything through music and they learn faster through music too because they really connect with it.”
In addition to their workshops and meetings they hold fundraisers: a walk with Commissioner Samuel B. Ings in December, an annual tea party in March, and the upcoming Walkathon. This local chapter is ran by six officers. As previously mentioned Rendy Bethel-Avila serves as the President. She was a member of the Rosen Program, caring for children 2-5 years old for nearly 17 years, she has attended Valencia College, she earned her associates degree in Early Child Care Education at Penn Foster, she also received an associate’s degree from JCOG Theology Seminary College, and she attends quarterly board meetings with the Early Learning Coalition (ELC) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The other members of the executive board include Treasurer and Representative Kissha Ballard, Fundraiser Kathy Harp, Secretary Stephanie Minus, Membership Chairperson Sharon Dennis, and Hospitality Heads LaCretia Pickette and Lelia McClough.
On the state level, each year the FFCCHA holds a conference, usually during the month of June in Clearwater, FL. The 2018 Conference will include workshops, Pre-Conference Training: Mentor Essentials and Certification, and more.
To connect with the Multicultural FFCHA of Orange County visit www.familychildcare.org