Jul 25, 2017
Milton, Vermont — Laura Butler, the owner of a home-based child care program in Milton, was named Accredited Family Child Care Provider of the Year by the National Association for Family Child Care at the association’s annual conference in Alabama on July 22.
Laura has been operating a family child care program in her Milton home for over 25 years and was one of the first Vermont child care providers to become accredited through the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). NAFCC is the only professional association dedicated specifically to promoting high-quality early childhood experiences in the unique environment of family child care programs.
“What I love about having a small, home-based child care program is that we’re truly like a family. It’s an honor to be a part of their lives and to be able to influence kids as they grow,” Laura said.
Laura cared for Amanda Mobbs when she was a baby and now she’s caring for Amanda’s 3-year-old daughter Avery. Amanda said she feels good about leaving Avery with someone she trusts and that she appreciates the family environment. “It’s like Avery’s coming to her second grandparent’s house.”
Amanda, who is a preschool teacher at a child care center in Georgia, said she appreciates Laura’s commitment to continually improving the quality of her program.
In addition to her NAFCC accreditation, Laura’s program has five stars—the highest possible recognition level—from Vermont’s voluntary quality recognition and improvement system for early care and learning programs, known as STARS.
“Quality is important and you have to feel good about what you’re offering your children and your families,” Laura said. “I mean, we’re talking about these little brains that are going to go out into our schools and into the world. It’s important we give all our kids a strong start.”
Parents Hilary and Chris Schmid, who both work as elementary school teachers, agree that quality early care and learning during the first few years is critical to success in school and in life. Their 2-year-old daughter Annabel has been coming to Laura’s child care program since she was six months old and she’ll soon be joined by her six-week old sister Lucy.
“People don’t realize how educational a child care program like Laura’s is. The kids learn so much and it really makes a difference when they get to school. I can teach academics but it’s so much harder to teach those basic social skills,” Hilary Schmid said.
Laura said she’s thankful for the support she gets from her families. “The parents are supportive of what I do—they’re my biggest cheerleaders. They understand the importance of brain development and their kids getting quality care,” Laura said.
The children in Laura’s program range in age from two to eight years old and there are about five kids there on a typical day. Her parents say they feel lucky to have found a child care setting they love, especially since they know quality child care is in high demand and short supply in Vermont.
“Almost half of Vermont’s infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to any regulated child care programs and nearly 80 percent don’t have access to high-quality programs. That’s why it’s so critical that providers like Laura get the support they need to stay in business and to continue focusing on quality,” said Let’s Grow Kids Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire.
Laura said she’d like the wider community to understand that child care providers are professionals and that providing quality care takes resources. “I don’t think the community understands the true cost of care,” she said.
Laura mentors other family child care providers through a statewide peer-to-peer mentoring program administered by Let’s Grow Kids’ sister initiative, Vermont Birth to Five. Laura said she sees her mentoring work through Vermont Birth to Five as one important way she can encourage other providers to focus on program quality.
“Laura’s professionalism, passion and patience make her an incredible mentor to other providers and a true champion for young children and their families. It’s gratifying to see her getting national recognition for the incredible work she does every day,” said Vermont Birth to Five Executive Director Janet McLaughlin.