How Richmond Raised the Standard For Mixed Delivery Care
The tour makes a virtual stop in Richmond, where host Gloria Riviera learns how the community has built a public-private partnership to help subsidize a mixed-delivery model of care that helps families find programs tailored to their specific needs.
This week we meet Cheryl Morman, a family child care provider and president of the Virginia Alliance for Family Child Care Association; J David Young, executive director of FRIENDS Association for Children; and Jodi Roberts, the director of early childhood development at Thrive Birth to Five.
Find out how this partnership improved outcomes for children, increased access for disadvantaged populations, and found unique ways to help improve educator pay. Plus, we hear about the important role Thrive Birth to Five plays in making these programs work.
Presented by Neighborhood Villages. Neighborhood Villages is a Massachusetts-based systems change non-profit. It envisions a transformed, equitable early childhood education system that lifts up educators and sets every child and family up to thrive. In pursuit of this vision, Neighborhood Villages designs, evaluates, and scales innovative solutions to the biggest challenges faced by early childhood education providers and the children and families who rely on them, and drives policy reform through advocacy, education, and research.
This season was made possible with generous support from Imaginable Futures, a global philanthropic investment firm working with partners to build more healthy and equitable systems, so that everyone has the opportunity to learn and realize the future they imagine. Learn more at www.imaginablefutures.com
This episode of No One is Coming to Save Us is made possible with support from Robins Foundation and VPM.
Robins Foundation envisions a vibrant and unified Richmond, in which our children are prepared for bright futures, our communities are culturally enriched, and our region grows as a positive and dynamic place to live. To learn more, visit www.robinsfdn.org.
As Virginia’s home for public media, VPM connects nearly 2 million people across Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley to insightful programming in arts and culture, history, science, news, and education. VPM’s mission is to use the power of media to educate, entertain, and inspire. VPM’s department of Early Childhood Care & Education is guided by VPM’s mission. We are committed to working towards ensuring equitable learning opportunities for all families in our community and advancing equity in Early Childhood Education. To learn more, visit www.vpm.org
Special thank you to VPM, and to the Institute for Contemporary Art for hosting our No One is Coming To Save Us watch party.
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Katie, Cheryl Morman, Jodi Roberts, J David Young, Gloria Riviera
Gloria Riviera 00:10
Welcome, everyone to NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US. I’m so delighted to be with you all. This is a very special bonus episode for season three of the podcast. And I’m so excited to be broadcasting this live on Facebook, especially to those of you who are joining us at that watch party in Richmond. I’ve never had a watch party. It’s already a huge success. So thank you to all of you for joining us. We really want to go big with this episode because there are so many exciting things happening in Richmond, Virginia, with regard to early childhood education. And we’ve gathered some experts, a big group of excited listeners, as I said, and today we’re going to look at how providers and advocates are really coming together to make childcare affordable, and increase access for families in Richmond, Virginia. Those words affordability and access. We love those words when it comes to early education. Before we start, I do want to mention that no one is coming to save us is created in partnership with Lemonada media and our dear friends and neighborhood villages. And really none of this we’re going to experience would be possible without the help of VPM and Robbins Foundation. Thank you so much for your support in helping to make this episode happen. So let’s get right to it. I would like to introduce you all to our panelists for today. The first person I’d like to introduce you to is J David Young. He is the executive director of the Friends Association for children. Friends is a nonprofit Child and Family agency that has served the central Virginia community for over 150 years. Welcome.
J David Young 01:56
Good morning, and thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Gloria Riviera 01:58
It’s a pleasure to have you. Also joining us is Jodi Roberts. She is the Director of early childhood development at Thrive birth to five, Jodi has worked with children in childcare settings, elementary school classrooms, and she’s really supported childcare programs across the board for over 20 years the work she does, it helps connect childcare professionals with resources. It’s such important work. Thank you, Jodi, for joining us.
Jodi Roberts 02:26
Good morning, and thanks for having me.
Gloria Riviera 02:28
We’re delighted to have you. Finally, I would like to say that we are welcoming Cheryl Morman. Cheryl is a family childcare provider. And she’s also the president of the Virginia alliance for family childcare associations. Welcome, Cheryl.
Cheryl Morman 02:45
Good morning. Thank you for having me.
Gloria Riviera 02:47
There we go. Look at this incredible group of people. Welcome to all of you. Joining us live virtually, or listening to the podcast for our show. No one is coming to save us. So let’s get right to it. I have so many questions for all of you. And I was so happy to speak with you briefly before this show started. I always like to start with a personal story. And Jodi, your quote about what side of the glass you wanted to be on? Can you just share that with us?
Jodi Roberts 03:12
Sure. When I started college, I didn’t know what I was going to major in, I had always babysat around the neighborhood. But I took an early childhood class just to see if that was something that might piqued my interest. And we were in a lab school situation. And I was on one side of the glass. The children couldn’t see me but I could see them and I was doing some type of research watching for something in particular. And I realized at that moment that I wanted to be on the other side of the glass. I didn’t want to be sitting on the outside looking in. I wanted to be in that classroom with those children on the floor playing and learning what along with them. So that’s when I decided to major in early childhood development.
Gloria Riviera 03:52
I love those moments that something so small can be so clear and set you on a path for your career. It’s so incredible. And Cheryl, okay, what comes to my mind? I’m just gonna say the two words cotton candy, can you share with us? It’s good. Wait for this everyone you will laugh too. Can you share with us the story about the cotton candy?
Cheryl Morman 04:12
Sure, I would love to. So growing up. My grandmother kept me in church and as a teenager. On our church events. You know, we would go to Kings Dominion and busch gardens and places like that, and I have never been one to ride roller coasters. My fun at Kings Dominion circled around cotton candy until this day, I love cotton candy. So all the children love to hang out with me and do the fun things are what I consider to be the fun things which was not dropping out of the sky from a roller coaster. So hence 23 years later I am still surrounded by children and just always curious about how they are able to grow and develop and become The doctors and lawyers and things that we have right here it starts in early childhood.
Gloria Riviera 05:05
It certainly does. I mean, what you’re talking about makes me think of the wisdom, small ones possess. And David, I know you have a beautiful story about how powerful that wisdom can be in changing our own perspectives and shifting where we are as adults, do you mind sharing it?
J David Young 05:22
Not at all. I’ll go back to college as well. For me, child psychology was the path that I had chosen and thought I would remain on from college to the rest of my career. Well, life has a way of kind of stepping in and deciding where you go and what you do. And so for me, the early years were around fundraising or working with men and women coming out of prison and doing a lot of other community oriented things. But I didn’t see that how it connected to children. Well, after my fundraising days, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work for friends. But it took me 1000 miles away from home. And I grew up in a very large family and in my neighborhood, lots of large families that we all interacted with. And I don’t want it to sound cheesy, but the saying about being raised by a village really applied in my life. So fast forward, I met friends, we lost one of the mothers of our village. And I couldn’t make it back home to pay my respects. So I didn’t want the children to see be in a vulnerable state because I was literally crying at my desk. So I got up and I walked through the neighborhood and thought, let me compose myself and come back and do what I needed to do for the day. Well, as I approached the playground, the children were all out there playing sliding doing what they do, and they happen to see me. And their reaction was just incredible. It was full of life and laughter Mr. Young, hey, this Mr. Young, and it just brought a smile to my face. But what it really did was lift that weight that I was experiencing at that time. And it, it made it okay. And so for me, the children gave me so much more that day than I’ll ever be able to give to them.
Gloria Riviera 07:11
Those words, they made it, okay. I mean, I think we’ve all we can all think of moments that we’ve observed, either as children, or in this work, where you come away with this tangible joy, that children, bring us all. So thank you to you all, for sharing those stories. They are so powerful, and I know so meaningful for our listeners, I mean, this work brings us all to a state of vulnerability. It’s hard work, we know that. I like to say the pandemic put early education and childcare into Technicolor it was a broken system before but the silver lining is that what was broken is now even clearer than before. So I’d like to start with David. And I’d like to talk about the idea of mixed delivery of care in Richmond and subsidizing care for those who need it. Can you explain to us how that is working or not working for families in Richmond, we’ve heard so much about this one story that stays with me as a teacher in early education who had to say no to a pay raise, because if she took that pay raise her child care subsidy would be revoked. What is it looking like today? What are you seeing?
J David Young 08:29
Well, there are still many challenges out there for the families we serve. And our friends, our families are from middle and lower income categories. But every parent, I don’t care what the income level is, what’s the same thing, they want the best for their children, they want their children to be safe, they want to make sure they’re learning and are being prepared for their young futures. And that begins with elementary school, and so on and so forth. mixed delivery is one of those opportunities that allows us to integrate children from various backgrounds. And I think that’s a that’s a positive, obviously, for the children because they’re they learned so much from each other. But it’s also a positive for the parents who are exposed to other families from different walks of life and different socio economic categories, all of those things. But it’s also good for the teachers who learn from each other and share experiences with from one family to another. So to me, this is a triple whammy. It’s a win win win for everyone. And organizations like thrive by five help promote that and create circumstances. So organizations like mine and Cheryl’s and many others out there can utilize these kinds of approaches. So for me, I think it’s, we’re on the right path. We can only tackle the challenges as they’re presented to us. And this is one that again, I can’t imagine anybody not wanting to take advantage of this and not seeing the benefit for themselves, for their family, and most importantly for their children.
Gloria Riviera 10:00
I agree. Jody, my question for you is do families know that? Are they aware of that? I know it’s sometimes difficult to help families understand what the options are out there, what kind of role does Thrive birth to five play in particular as this is rolled out.
Jodi Roberts 10:19
So, like you said, there are a lot of options for families, and most of the time, they don’t know about all of them. So that’s an important part of what we do is make sure that families understand all of their options so that they do feel like they have choice, that’s a big part of what we do is making sure families understand they do have a choice. Because a lot of times, if they’re put on a waitlist, they have to take whatever’s available. And it’s an it’s not, they don’t get to, you know, go to three and four places looking. So that’s what mixed delivery does is allows for lots of different options. Because they could take advantage of mixed delivery, they could take advantage of a subsidy program, they could take advantage of Headstart or VPI. So that’s part of the work that we do is to make sure that families understand all their options so that they can make an informed decision, because they all have different characteristics about whether it’s full day, full year. Sometimes if you’re if you’re thinking about Headstart or VPI. In a school setting, you know, you’ve got to worry about wraparound care for before and after school, you’ve got to worry about those summertime months. So you know all of them, it all depends on what the family needs. And once and if they’re working family, sometimes one option is is much better than the other for them.
Gloria Riviera 11:57
Cheryl, how do you see people taking advantage of the subsidies that are available? And I’m thinking in particular about the families that are really struggling? We’ve talked to people who are experiencing food insecurity, housing insecurity, the list goes on and on. Do you see families with the right information, taking advantage of the subsidies and getting their children where they need to be?
Cheryl Morman 12:25
Oh, most definitely. For many families, mixed delivery has been a godsend. Because the subsidy did not allow a lot of flexibility. If you are a parent that was unemployed, or a parent that was homeless, and homeless looks different. When it comes to mix delivery, you could be considered homeless, if you don’t have your roof over your head that’s, you know, yours even in apartment, but you’re having to live with someone else, maybe a friend. Because of the economy. Now you need three times your income in order to be able to get an apartment. And if you’re not employed, or you can’t find employment, because you don’t have childcare, mixed delivery helps support that because you your child can now be a part of that mixed delivery program where you have quality childcare, while mom or dad or dad is able to go out and get a job. So they don’t have to worry about what’s what did they do with their children when they can’t go out because there are not enough slots available. So opening up slots from its delivery, where infant to school age has just been a godsend. In the last week alone, I’ve had three families because of information that thrive the five has been able to send out to say this is the list of providers who do offer mixed delivery services. So I’ve had three families myself that has come knocking on my door that are homeless, saying please Do you have a spot? Do you have a spot available? So if I don’t have it, we can at least send them back through to thrive, be five with another list of providers that may have space available to them. So we definitely need more spots.
Gloria Riviera 14:21
I mean, I feel like three families in one week is significant. Jodi, is that a reflection you see happening over and over?
Jodi Roberts 14:28
Oh, yes. And we, you know, when we started this program, five years ago, we had six providers that were participating and now were, you know, way, way past that. We have 543 slots this year for MCs delivery and that’s in rural areas in the city and our two of our big counties all over our region. So we’re very lucky and we were able to expand with infant and toddler care this year which has been great. We know that is a huge need for families. The cost of that is As as much of as college tuition and most places, so it’s really important for us to be able to offer those opportunities for families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.
Gloria Riviera 15:11
And just really quickly, I mean, for us, what does it look like? How do you get the word out? I read about a meet and greet. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about. Yeah. Face to face, here are your options.
Jodi Roberts 15:20
Yes. So we have started having family cafes, it was an innovation grant that we got through the state. And so we’re starting to meet with families all over our region to talk about they they talk amongst each other about the challenges that they that they’ve had, it’s a great opportunity for us to be able to take those barriers back to the state and say, This is what we’re hearing boots on the ground with families and how they’re struggling. It’s great for them to, you know, to support each other peer to peer about what it’s like looking for childcare, then we’re able to share what those resources are that we can make available to them. We had our first one last night and a very rural area, we were able to sit down and help families look on the childcare were Virginia site for a list of childcare providers. And that that list can also tell them what kind of subsidies are available with those particular programs. So they can search if they have a particular subsidy, or need that they’re looking for. So last night was a great success, we were able to feed them, we offered an incentive for them to come, we were able to provide a little area for the children to play while this was going on. So it started out great so far. And I think it’s just going to be bigger as we as we move through the next couple of months with the rest of our camp family cafes.
Gloria Riviera 16:32
And can we just do a basic explanation of what mix delivery is season three of this show? I know, but maybe not everybody knows. So what do you tell families about mixed delivery? What does it look like?
Jodi Roberts 16:44
So it’s a way for families to take advantage of having their childcare covered completely for a full year and and full day, because not all subsidies provide that. And it’s it’s a private public partnership between our private programs, and our state. And we have some other government agencies that are involved. So that’s what makes delivery is it’s lots of folks coming together lots of different types of of childcare, so that we can provide lots of options for families.
Gloria Riviera 17:17
And, David, I want to go back to you because Jodi nodded to, you know, the fact that this comes together with a variety of people buying in, can you explain from your perspective, business owners? How do you go to them? How do you get them to participate in this, see that it’s critical, and become an active member of making it happen?
J David Young 17:38
Certainly, thank you for asking that. Because that’s a key component. And it’s created an opportunity for us. I’m on the actually on the board of thrive by five. And one of the my colleagues, there is the chamber President enrichment. And he was sharing at a just a casual conversation that at one of his small business meetings, he brought up the topic of early childhood and the impact that it can have on employers, and particularly the employees of various employers. And the response he got was kind of I’m trying to run a business here, why are you talking to me about early childhood education, not making the connection that these children have the employees that work for him are interested like every parent and making sure that their children have a strong foundation, academically, socially, all the things that make that child prepares that child to enter public school or private school or what have you. But really, it sets the tone for the rest of their life. So this is a tremendous opportunity to educate and inform and bring people who don’t feel like they need to have a place at the table to be a part of this conversation, and to help us because in the end, it impacts positively the entire company economy of our community. And so it really is a tremendous opportunity to provide information to share information and to educate those on the impact that this can have on their business on their employees. And that got their attention.
Jodi Roberts 19:07
Yeah, another piece of that, David, I’ll just add is, you know, if their employees don’t have a place for their children to go to while they work, that impacts what happens in their business. So that’s another piece of it that we’ve been talking about a lot is, you know, it does impact their business if their employees don’t have somewhere for their children to go.
Gloria Riviera 19:28
Yep. And I think Cheryl has something to add to that.
Cheryl Morman 19:31
Definitely. It also helps the employer assist small business owners to have that cost of care, consistent cost of care, so that we are able to hire and be able to offer a decent salary to employees to be able to have that continued continuity of care because staff turnover is so great, but when we are able to have that consistent income and mixed delivery helps with that we are able to get employed He’s in because we ask a lot of our employees, it’s a hard job. But it’s so worthwhile. And the right it takes the right people, those people that care that truly care about the children that we’re serving, and not just the children, but the families.
Gloria Riviera 20:15
Right. You know, we’ve been on a lot of different cities. And I’m thinking of our visit to Colorado recently, where we had lawmakers on the panel discussing, you know, how passionate they are about this work. Jodi, I guess the question is for you, but all feel free to chime in? How important is it in the state of Virginia to get permanent representatives in government? To be on board? Virginia has added a deputy superintendent of early care who is that? And okay, I’ll put you on the spot. You know, what, what do you make of their work so far?
Jodi Roberts 20:45
Well, you know, we were very lucky to have Jenna Conway come from Louisiana, where she had had started quality assurance. In Louisiana, she came here with lessons learned, she’s implemented that, you know, another, something that’s a little bit different about Virginia is our governors are only a four year governor, and they have to move on. So I’ve seen over the 30 years that have been doing this, that as governors come and go, so do policies and, and ideas that they have, and then they’re gone, and for years when the next person comes. And that’s been a great shift with this new Deputy Superintendent of early care, because that job is there, that position is not going away, based on what Governor is, is in charge. And so that whole department has been developed and to support this quality assurance that’s been implemented. And we’re very lucky to have her, we’re really focusing a lot too on data, and capturing data about what’s going on in early care. It’s never been done before, it was something that Louisiana didn’t even do. And that was one thing she said, when she came here, she wanted to make sure that she had data so that when she does go to those lawmakers and says, you know, this is what we’re seeing, this is what’s happening on on the ground and early care with zero to five. And this is how we can support them. They’ve also been doing surveys, workforce surveys with teachers and directors, with principals and the public schools, as well as family surveys. So they’ve been asking families, what are the barriers? What are the problems that you’re having? You know, how did you choose your last program? And then asking those teachers, you know, what do you need? What are your needs? And and to make sure that you can do your job? Well? Do you need more training? Do you need more coaching? You know, what makes you stay in this field? Why did you leave, they then survey in those those folks that have left the field? And so that all of this data has been important to be able to go back and talk to those legislators and say, This is what we’re seeing boots on the ground?
Gloria Riviera 22:48
Yeah, it makes me think of how important data is about how positive really education is for young children. Right. And you think about going back to David’s work with in the incarceration system, like those levels drop higher, high school graduation drops, I mean, all sorts of great, fantastic data that we have. But now we’re shifting the gathering of data to the educators, which is so important. And Cheryl, I want to go back to you to talk about the early educator Fast Track initiative, I know that you’ve spoken about how important is to break out of silos think holistically about how to support the entire family when they are seeking care. Talk to me about how the system is improving, and how the early educator Fast Track initiative is helping to make that happen.
Cheryl Morman 23:30
Well, particularly for family childcare providers, paying $17 an hour for a teacher and educator not that they are not well worth more than that. But it was a struggle. It is a struggle for family childcare providers. But what fasttrack allowed us to do was to peer together, so three of us decided to participate in the fast track. And we shared a person so that it took the responsibility off of one individual program. And we work together to see what hours we could use this particular person. And we ensured that they received the 40 hours of care, but that was split between the three programs. And fast track allowed us to do that. And that was working really well. That out of the box thinking knowing that we still needed we needed that consistent teacher, but we couldn’t afford the $17 and it also allowed for them to provide all of the training because we are in the classroom all day. So having to train as well was difficult. So that was already done through fast track so that they could come in and be ready to work.
Gloria Riviera 24:51
Right. So did you see a shift in quality? What did you see quality wise, I’d like to talk about that a little bit and then and then Go to David to get his perspective on it as well. But what are you seeing quality wise?
Cheryl Morman 25:05
The quality, there was more training that was needed, there was more educating that person that may had the desire to work in a program, but they just didn’t have the skills to do so. So that person that may not have even thought about working in early childhood before, now had the opportunity to do that, and to be able to experience that. So it definitely turned around the quality of care in our programs, because it was another set of eyes it was pandemic caused children to be out of care for a long period of time. So children that are coming in now really struggle with the social emotional development. And it takes more people in a classroom more educators in a classroom than it used to, to be able to give provide that individual care that our children need in order to prepare them for kindergarten. So that enhances that quality of care in our early childhood programs.
Gloria Riviera 26:10
David, do you have experience with looking at quality from from where you sit at friends? Can you talk about that a little bit? Because what I’m what I’m hearing is that things in Virginia are heading very much in the right direction. And my questions are, is this sustainable? This? It seems like we’re on an upward trajectory, which is positive, from where you sit, is it sustainable, and I’d like you to talk about quality as well.
J David Young 26:37
Absolutely sustainable. And I think one of the takeaways from this conversation that we’ve just had is the conversation is going on, it’s going in the right direction. All parents, I don’t care what age or what socio economic background, you have, want consistency need consistency and continuity and, and their parents are savvy enough to know that, as these programs start, will they be around next year, before I enroll my child into something, I need to know that it is dependable, and it’s stable, that it’s reliable. And then on the quality side, we were fortunate enough had friends, I’ve got some incredible teachers, some that have been here for over 40 years. So it’s not about pay, it’s about their their, their caring for those children wanting the best for them as much as the parents do. We were fortunate enough through a grant we received to participate in something called about the business of childcare. And there are many childcare facilities out there. Some are community based, some are home based, and some are faith based in churches, but not depending on where you are. Some are not eligible for some of the resources that are out there regarding whether it’s financial, whether it’s training, or advocacy or what have you. And this program took some of our seasoned teachers. It’s been around for many, many years decades. And not just through unfortunately, the COVID made us do some of this virtually, but it put some of our teachers in some of these other programs so that they could learn from each other. And it was not just again, I’m telling you what I do or how to do it. It’s more about come into my classroom and see it experience, participate in it. And I’ll come into your classroom. And then behind the scenes, there was some also some activities around financial planning and budgeting. And so these are businesses, we all run businesses ourselves. And we’re doing everything we can to take care of our staff and our employees, as well as our parents. But of course, our focus is on our children. So quality is the most important thing. And I think in here in Richmond particularly, we are doing some things that we’re seeing some some of the fruits of these efforts to raise quality not just in the established programs and centers. But across the entire community. As I mentioned in faith based and home base, no matter what it is, we want the best for every child going forward.
Gloria Riviera 29:15
We started this conversation talking about every family’s right to an informed decision, like the luxury of an informed decision, what will work for your family. And then we’ve moved to quality and now we’re at this place where we can ask in Virginia because there are people in government whose job this is to look after this along with the fine work that all of you do. I’m curious about what the future holds. What are we looking at? What’s on the agenda for 2024? Are we going to be able to move this forward for families? Jodi, I’ll start with you.
Jodi Roberts 29:48
So our state had the first PDG grant it was a pilot and that’s when they started this this quality improvement work. That’s when Jenna came and we started very small and this has been evolving into this new so system that they’ve adopted this year, we’ve been practicing for a couple of years. And this is the first year of implementation. And part of that it was another PDG grant that we just got last year, it was just for a year. And we’re going to be conducting roundtables all over the state in each region to bring together providers, families, business owners, and community partners to talk about where childcare is now, where do we see barriers and challenges, because the state is going to come up with a plan for us going forward, they created one back the first year that PDG was here. And now we’re going to step back a little bit reflect on the work that we’ve done in the last three or four years, and then come up with a plan going forward. I think everybody’s feeling good about how things have been going. We’ve learned a lot. PDG is the preschool development grant, it was a national grant that was made available to lots of states that applied. And we were lucky enough to get that first pilot and then we got the next three years. And then we circled back because they wanted us to do a little bit more in depth work about what we have done, what we’ve learned and how we’re going to move forward. So I think this plan that they’re getting ready to create is gonna be really good to give us a good place to start and have a good plan for going forward with quality assurances.
Gloria Riviera 31:16
Well, I like that phrase, a good plan for going forward. That’s what we all need. I want to take it now to our audience. We have a very special person in our audience who’s been gracious enough to say that they will go first. So I want to bring in Katy. Katy is a mom. Hi, Katie. She has a great story. And I just would love for you to share it with us. And move this conversation forward. It’s always so nice to bring in after our excellent panelists, somebody who’s living this every day.
My name is Katie, obviously, I live in Richmond, and I have a four year old son. And I have a question. I want to ask you all, but I’m going to provide some context so that it couches this question. We’ve had a long journey. So he turned one in March 2020, when everybody kind of went home for a little while for COVID. And at that time, he was, to my knowledge healthy, typically developing child very quickly after we sort of shortly after we all kind of went home, some health concerns and issues emerged. And we spent most of 2020 and 2021, seeking out a diagnosis for what became a profound physical disability. He, you know, eventually, we discovered that he has a very rare genetic condition called Accardi Gutierrez syndrome. And what that means for him is that he’ll use a wheelchair. He uses an eye gaze, speech communication device, so he doesn’t speak. But he’s intellectually intact. So, you know, the first year of COVID, I was fortunate to have a nanny share with a friend of mine, and it was great. And then in 2021, people started getting access to vaccines and our families, just you know, our friends decided they wanted to send their child back to daycare. So I started, I said, Okay, I’ll start calling around, it didn’t even occur to me, that I would have a hard time finding care for my son because of his physical disability. So I got on the phone, I called 1015 20. Senators here in the Greater Richmond area. And I spoke to, I want to be really clear, I spoke to so many kind people who genuinely wanted to help me, but for a lot of the reasons that we discussed broadly in the, you know, around the child care crisis, they couldn’t, they didn’t have an extra staff person to be focused just on Wes, which he needs, you know, he needs a one on one basically, you know, they didn’t have a physical setup in their space that could accommodate his wheelchair. I had one. I’m gonna give two examples just really quick, because I think they really illustrate some of the issues. So we called one place that actually employs a full time disability inclusion coordinator. And they told us no, which I was really that was a discouraging day for me, I will be honest, I when I asked why they said because we we go outside every day, and without one on one care. We don’t think that your son will be able to engage with the with our programming, and I said, and then and then we talked about well, and then they said, Oh, he can come but you have to pay the full tuition and the hourly wage of the one on one caregiver that he would need and I was desperate. So I said okay. And then they called me the next day and said the board of directors had voted, and that in actuality they were not going to let you know West join them there. So that was hard. And then finally I landed one that was going to take us these people were amazing. We had So many meetings, we had a plan, he had a start date. So now we’re into the summer of 2021. And then they called me and said, I just had half my staff get sick, I don’t know if they’re coming back, we’re hiring, I have to push back your start date, and that was one week, and then they called me again, I have to push back your start date again another week. And so I’m just eating my PTO, I work full time. And eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t use any more PTO. So we had to pivot. So all that to say, we ended up with a nanny, which was not ever really something I had planned, honestly, I and envisioned my son in a group care setting, always. And so we had this great, I think, example of all the barriers that parents face generally, and then hearing about all these barriers that providers face, plus this added layer of disability inclusion. And just like the difficulty of that, given all the other difficulties that providers are facing. And so we didn’t have few options, we had no options. And at that point, we didn’t yet have a Medicaid waiver, because we didn’t yet have a diagnosis. So we had no financial help with, you know, hiring a one on one caregiver in our home. Luckily, that funding came through sort of Levins our So Wes spent another year at home alone with a provider, which is not what I wanted. But he did. And so you know, whatever Fast forward to now he’s in a great situation with his caregiver, and a preschool program that lets his caregiver go with him to school. So that’s available because of his age. So he’s a little bit older, right? So there’s more options available generally. And frankly, my like, personal network and stacked privilege, socio economic privilege. I mean, there’s all kinds of doors that are open to my family that may not be open to every family. And so, you know, he’s in a good place now. But throughout all this, I just kept asking anybody, I could talk to other parents, providers advocates, where our children with physical disabilities, they are not at daycare. So where are they and the general consensus seems to be their home, mom quits her job, Dad quits their job, Grandma takes care of them, you know, families work it out. But you know, is that everyone’s first choice for care? Are all those kids thriving in that environment? You know, I think knowing what I know about how much work it takes to have a full time job, manage the medical care of my son, and then also coordinate his care his like daily childcare, I can see a lot of people giving up on gaining access long before they get their first or second or third choice for care. And so all that to say, with that lens. My question is, how can we make sure that we’re really intentional about including all kids, and just because it’s my heart, specifically those with physical disabilities, as we work to find policy solutions and industry solutions to address the overall childcare crisis?
Gloria Riviera 38:10
Katie, thank you so much for your story. I will say, my hat is off to you. Because I have been hoping since Season Three started that we would be in a place with smart people in this work and talk about children with disabilities, because from the get go, my college roommate has a son with spina bifida, very young, went through something very similar to what you describe. And I’m just grateful that we’re here with people who can speak to where we’re headed. And that our last question was, what is on the agenda? What are the plans? We could start with anyone? I’d like to start with David about your reaction to this story. And what you think the specific work ahead is to care for all children when it comes to early child care and education.
J David Young 39:01
Katie, thank you for sharing that. That was a tremendous story. And my heart goes out to you and your little one. I think one of the things that we’re doing we kind of talked about before by having this conversation and having the all the people at the table that need to be there. This is one wrinkle, that has not been addressed. And so I think going forward, this is this will allow us to consider what else we can do. But I think what has happening and what needs to happen first is to a strong foundation in our early childhood system across this community across the state, frankly, so that we don’t take on too much, and then become one of those where we’re not doing enough for anyone. So if we can establish the kinds of infrastructure that we need, with funding with quality programming with compensating the staff at a level that keeps them where they need to be, that will put us in a better position to move forward and bring in those other wrinkles that aren’t yet being addressed. And this is a perfect example of one. So again, thank you, Katie, for sharing that with us.
Gloria Riviera 40:04
I always think that in the States, you have the baby and see you in kindergarten, you know, good luck for the next five years. It’s it’s so wrong. It’s just so obviously wrong. God, do you feel like there’s, there’s space in the conversation that you’re having with folks to address this?
Jodi Roberts 40:26
Yes, it’s interesting that you bring this up, I have a lot of folks that come from the early special ed world around me at work and at home and in my past professional life. And so this is something that we’re all very passionate about. And so we continue to bring this to the forefront and all the conversations that we have with Department of Education, and with with our public schools, because there’s so much opportunity for them to place children in private programs that might have IEP s that otherwise might not be able to take advantage of early childhood special ed and the public schools, they have trouble with space there. There’s a huge gap with with teachers hires, in that space as well. And so we’re starting to have those conversations, we just had three of our big school systems come together and talk about inclusion, and really start having some serious conversations about what each of those school systems are doing around that, what it looks like for them to share ideas, because one person might be doing something that somebody else hadn’t thought about. And I think some of them were doing, we’re providing that that inclusionary care in private programs, and we didn’t even know about it. And I’m not sure that doe actually knew that it was happening. So we’re trying to bring people together to start having those conversations so that we can share ideas, talk about what’s working, what’s not working, and how we can move forward, because I think this is a conversation that will we need to continue to have. And I think we’re gonna see some great strides in the next couple of years since now. We’re starting to have those conversations. We’re not working in silos like we were anymore.
Gloria Riviera 42:07
Absolutely. The silos are the most problematic place to be Cheryl, do you see this and families that come to you? I mean, in addition to the trials and tribulations that they’re experiencing on a on a daily basis? Have you encountered families with even more issues that they have to find a way to solve?
Cheryl Morman 42:28
Most definitely, first, Katie, thank you, thank you for sharing your story, we need to hear more of it, it definitely needs to be told often. So that it is in the forefront, because even in our family childcare, I don’t think that people really understand the importance of early intervention, early intervention, it doesn’t start when they hit public school. It starts before that the importance of early childcare in birth to five, because some things can be addressed. Or we get we need resources out there that we can help bridge that gap before they get to kindergarten. We can’t solve everything. I do understand that. But I do feel like this is an area that if more resources are poured into early childhood, proper training with teachers and staff, so that we can help children honestly be prepared for when they start kindergarten. And that happens, again, birth to five, that some of those delays can be caught some of those challenges with autism, and just all types of of issues and concerns in a child’s development. If we only had those resources that in our early childhood field as well.
Gloria Riviera 44:00
Thank you so much, Cheryl. Katie, I just want to say I mean, I have I have seen so many people who are so passionate about this work. And this has been something that I’ve wanted to address for so long. So really, you’re such a value added story to be able to share today. And I’m so hopeful I’m so I’m inspired by the level of expertise that people across the country have had on this topic. And I think we’re ready. We’re ready. We’re at the moment where I hope there are never any more stories about calling 1020 places where it’s okay, we’ve got you we’ve got you Okay, now we have to push your start date. So my hope is that that changes for everyone that’s in your situation and for your little one as well. So thank you so much. And I will ask you, are there any other questions you see from the audience? We’re almost to the top of our hour, but if there’s anything else, you can put it in the chat and we can address it. We have a question. Okay, rows and rows. Oak, you’re going to get your moment, this is your time to shine. And this is an important question. What happens in Virginia when federal funding that’s currently in place? When that runs out? What is the plan to extend that? I can address that? Okay. Good. See, Rose, we have an answer for you.
Jodi Roberts 45:18
So the preschool development grant was something that’s been phased out. And there there was a plan all along. So what’s happened is some of that black grant money that federal funding that comes down from from the federal government has been shifted to move into work, this quality improvement work, and also that subsidy side of things where there are no wait lists any longer for children receiving subsidy through Department of Social Services, that funding that’s coming for mixed delivery is coming from there as well, because we’re all trying some some different things. And, and these were sort of pilot opportunities. So all of that funding was always there. And there has been a lot more added through the General Assembly with federal funding. So right now, I think everybody feels like we’re in a good place with replacing that preschool development, funding that’s going away. They’ve been doing their homework, they’ve been doing the research, they’ve got the data to show that it’s helping. And we’re tracking those children now through mix delivery, starting at three, so that we can see what the impact is when they get to third grade, whether those literacy skills are there. And their tests are where they need to be. So yes, there’s a plan in place. Janet Conway has done a great job and her team. So we feel confident.
Gloria Riviera 46:37
Well, I like that I like hearing that people in your position. And all of you on this panel feel confident. And that was a very positive answer. So thank you rose for the question. And I hope you’re happy with the answer. I’m happy with the answer. I feel very, I feel like there’s a lot of momentum here. And I’m grateful for that. That’s where we want it to be at the end of season three to feel like there’s momentum. So I will say to our audience, that is it for this conversation for this broadcast. I love this topic, I could obviously talk about it all day. And I want to share that I really thought season three would be tough, I thought it would be tough to do, I thought that perhaps one city wouldn’t really be invested in what another city was doing. And instead, what I’ve found is that there’s mutual inspiration out there, people are doing different things people are trying, as God just spoke about different things. And I’m so inspired by the collective work that’s being done across this country, because we have to change things we can’t, we can’t stay with the way things have been. I mean, my own mother in the 60s knocked on doors to say I need someone to care for my child so I can go to work. And that’s still what people are feeling today. So thank you to our partners at neighborhood villages, as well as VPM and Robbins Foundation for their support making this event possible today. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you also to our amazing panelists. Jay David Young, Executive Director of the Friends Association for children. Thank you for joining us.
J David Young 48:00
You’re welcome. It was a great conversation, and I’m so pleased to be a part of it.
Gloria Riviera 48:04
I also want to say thank you to Cheryl Morman president of Virginia alliance for family childcare associations. Thank you.
Cheryl Morman 48:11
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
Gloria Riviera 48:13
You’re wonderful. Enjoy your cotton candy. And a big thank you to Jodi Roberts, Director of early childhood development at Thrive birth to five. Thank you for your expertise in this topic. We appreciate you being here.
Jodi Roberts 48:25
Thanks, Gloria. Thanks for having us.
Gloria Riviera 48:27
And thank you so much to all of you who have watched this who have joined us. It means the world that you’re here and you are helping to keep this conversation going. It has a lot of places to go. And with your help, we’ll keep it moving forward. Thank you all for listening to this episode of known as coming to save us. We will be back soon with more. That’s our promise to you take care.
No One Is Coming To Save Us is a Lemonada Original produced with Neighborhood Villages. The show is produced by Kyle Shiely and Martin Macias. Our audio engineer is Noah Smith. Music is by Hannis Brown. Our VP of weekly content is Steve Nelson. Our executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer along with me Gloria Riviera. If you like the show and you believe what we are doing is important. Please help others find us by leaving us a reading and writing us a review. And most importantly, by telling your friends. Follow No One Is Coming To Save Us wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. Thanks for listening, and we'll be back next week. Until then, hang in there. You can do this.