Daniela Caserta, early childhood services director for Family Center of Washington County, Montpelier, VT
May 09, 2018

Parenting has been one of the most stressful endeavors I have ever experienced. I often doubted my ability to be a good parent, stressing over questions like:

  • Am I feeding my baby well enough?
  • Am I playing with my baby enough?
  • What if she doesn’t nap?
  • Will I ever be able to leave the house with my newborn?

I remember the first night home with my eldest daughter, when I sat in a corner and cried wondering why the hospital let me leave with a tiny little infant that was totally dependent on me. I was in the depths of despair when my sister came over, told me to take a shower while she held my baby, and made dinner for me. It was in that moment that I realized that I couldn’t parent alone—that I shouldn’t parent alone.

Aricha Drury, early care consultant for Child Care Resource, Williston, VT
Jun 16, 2017

Parenting, even on the best days, is hard work. When life throws in challenges, it can be difficult to manage the stress and keep parenting well. When we are stressed, we are less likely to use positive discipline and be available to our kids when they need us. If stress and problems become overwhelming, it increases parents' risk of using overly harsh punishment, being inattentive, or even abusive or neglectful of children. This creates a toxic stress environment for children, which disrupts the structure of the developing brain, increasing the likelihood of poor outcomes for the child. Therefore, it is critical that parents are supported during stressful times so that their children are given quality early experiences.

Strengthening Families is an approach to working with families that encourages the healthy development of children. The Strengthening Families protective factor, Parental Resilience, helps parents navigate challenges in their lives in order to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.

Chloe Learey, executive director of the Winston Prouty Center for Child Development, Brattleboro, VT
May 19, 2017

One of the less obvious standards of high-quality child care to consider is the presence of strong leadership and management. Making sure the person at the helm of an early care and learning program is able to provide teachers with the support they need is critical to ensuring the program can offer the high-quality care the children need to build a strong start.

Effective leadership and management of a program helps to build and maintain a stable infrastructure for high-quality care and learning. 

Let's Grow Kids
May 05, 2017

Is Act 166 specifically helping more children from low-income families access pre-K? That’s an important question and one that has been the subject of much debate this legislative session and recently in the news. In April, the Agencies of Education and Human Services issued a report to the Legislature and took a stab at answering that question. But their incomplete and inconclusive data brings up more questions than answers.

It only takes a visit to local communities to hear stories from providers and parents of how the financial relief provided under Act 166 is helping children from low-income families all over the state access high-quality pre-K in ways that aren't reflected in numbers—especially inconclusive numbers. How do we know this? Because visiting local communities is exactly what we've been doing. 

Cookie Cummings, licensed pre-K teacher and owner of Mountain Road Preschool, Addison, VT
May 05, 2017

Like so many others in the early childhood education field, I’ve taken the nontraditional route to get to where I am today. In high school, I completed the Human Services course at the vocational center and two weeks after graduation, I became a child care provider. While raising my kids and working fulltime, I obtained my associates degree from the Community College of Vermont and then my bachelor’s degree from Johnson State College.

In March, with support from the Northern Lights Professional Development Center, I earned my early childhood teaching license from the Vermont Department of Education, which had been one of my goals for many years. One requirement for the license was that I document all of my experiences from 30 years in the field, which allowed me an opportunity to reflect on my career. I’ve worked with every age group—in the school system as a special educator assistant; in centers as lead preschool teacher, lead infant teacher, early childhood program coordinator; and now as a registered family child care provider in my own home.

I love being in my own home, not just because it’s a smaller environment, but because it feels more personal. I’m here at 7 AM when kids come in so that I get to touch base with the parents to see how the children are doing. And I’m here at 5 PM when kids go home, which allows me a chance to talk with parents about how each child’s day went. This frequent communication helps me establish a mutual trust with families, allowing for a deeper understanding of the child’s needs and interests and an opportunity to design my curriculum and space to nurture them.

Elizabeth Reed, teaching and learning consultant, White River Junction, VT
Apr 07, 2017

Early childhood educators know that one of the best ways for children to learn is through play. This is why the physical environment—the space in which children play—is often called “the third teacher” (with the parent and classroom teacher as the first and second teachers). A high-quality child care program provides a physical environment aimed to foster learning and development. This is accomplished in a number of ways.

A healthy environment includes plenty of opportunities for choice. One choice children can make is whether to play with others or independently, and there should be room available for both scenarios. Providing young children opportunities to interact with others as well as time and space to learn how to take a break from others when needed encourages the development of strong social and emotional skills, which lay the foundation for success in life.

Michele Campbell, director of education, Saxon Hill School, Jericho, VT
Mar 30, 2017

When Saxon Hill lost its longtime home in Jericho’s Red Mill Park area in 2015, we scrambled to relocate. We wanted to stay in the Jericho area because our roots were here and because there weren’t a lot of early education programs around. The process was challenging and many families were panicked, so when the Chittenden East Supervisory Union came to us and said they might have a solution to our problem, we couldn’t believe our luck. School age populations have decreased and the merger of our school district in 2015 left some buildings with empty classrooms. CESU offered to rent out two of their classrooms to Saxon Hill.

CESU was welcoming and made it clear to us that this was our own space. So we took down white boards, painted, moved our playground and made this our new home. In our first two years here, it’s become clear to us that this is more than just a home. We’re also building a village ...

Kimberlie Buxton, Children’s Integrated Services Specialized Child Care Coordinator, Umbrella Inc., St. Johnsbury, VT
Feb 28, 2017

The notion that “it takes a village to raise a child” rings especially true in today’s society. For the 70% of Vermont children under age 6 who have all of their parents in the labor force, child care is a necessary fixture in their lives. Community agencies and services become a further extension of the child’s village by helping child care providers and families offer safe, supportive and positive environments for all children.

By supporting the whole family and incorporating the community into child care programs, community agencies and services are ensuring high-quality early care and learning opportunities for children at a time in their lives when quality experiences are critical to their healthy development.

Patrick Walters, principal of Orwell Village School
Feb 27, 2017

Orwell, located in the beautiful southern Champlain Valley, has 1,250 residents, and its centerpiece, the Orwell Village School, has roughly 14 students in each of its grades. We are a small school in a small Vermont town. But we have grand aspirations and I am proud of the lengths to which this school, its staff, and this community have gone to ensure that our children are prepared to meet the challenges of today’s world and succeed in life. This includes acknowledging the importance of and the need for quality early care and learning opportunities for our youngest children.

Michelle Fox, Early Education Coordinator for the St. Johnsbury School District
Feb 03, 2017

Like many other places in Vermont, St. Johnsbury is struggling with opiate addiction and poverty. More than thirty-five percent of Caledonia County families live under 200% of the poverty line, and St. Jay’s substance abuse program, BAART, has seen the number of clients for drug addiction treatment programs increase from 75 to 248 in a little over a year. What’s even more alarming is that 111 of those 248 individuals have children under the age of 7.

Quality early experiences are critical to ensure that children have a strong start in life. We wanted to give all of the children in the St. Johnsbury School District an opportunity to succeed regardless of their home life. Because 90% of the brain is developed by age 5, that meant providing the children with quality experiences before they entered kindergarten.

The EEC’s goal is to align curriculum for all early childhood centers; strengthen the transition between early childhood programs and the St. Johnsbury School; develop early intervention programs for children who need them and their parents; and increase parent, family and community support for early care and learning. Here's how we're working to achieve these goals.