By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
When Yimma Davila-Castro’s youngest son was born, she put him in a family care center for daycare. He loved it there, Davila-Castro said. Inspired by her son’s contentment and education, Davila-Castro began asking what’s involved in a family care center.
That was six years ago. Now, Davila-Castro is the owner of Yimma’s Bright Beginnings Daycare, a child care center she operates in her home.
Last week, Davila-Castro participated in the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s On the Table discussions as part of it’s campaign, “A Milwaukee For All.” The focus this year was early childhood education.
The event featured Rhian Evans Alvin, the CEO of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and Sherri Killins Stewart, the director of state systems alignment and integration for the BUILD Initiative. Following remarks from the keynote speaker, participants split into eight different chatrooms to learn about various topics related to early childhood education.
Davila-Castro along with Paula Drew of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association and Willie Smith of Northwest Side Community Development Corporation focused on the business of child care.
Operating a child care center from one’s home isn’t as simple as it seems, Davila-Castro explained. The center must comply with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. At Yimma’s Bright Beginnings Daycare, Davila-Castro must ensure she has the correct food, lesson plans, number of children and so on.
Davila-Castro, who is a board member for the Proveedoras Unidas Association and member of the Milwaukee Early Childhood Education Civic Coalition, has expenses to pay if she wants to continue operating her child care center, but she doesn’t always get paid enough.
The biggest challenge is the Wisconsin Shares Copayment, which is meant to help parents cover the cost of child care. The problem, she explained, is that it doesn’t cover enough.
If a parent must pay $100 a week but can only afford $25, then that’s what they’ll pay, she said.
“They come to you because your family based and they think because of that you don’t have expenses,” she said. “So many of our colleagues, that’s what they’re doing so their income is lower.”
There needs to be more support, she said, people think it’s easy because it at someone’s house and it’s not.
During the On the Table discussion, Davila-Castro learned about available resources that will help her and her fellow family center child care operators. She hopes that participants were able to learn and understand a little more about the business side of the child care business.
Another breakaway room featured Bernard Rahming of the Literacy Lab and Calvin Lewis from Milwaukee Rising – Common Ground. The two led a discussion on “attracting men of color into the early childhood education workforce.”
Men of color are vital to the early childhood education environment, Rahming said, and yet they make about 2% of the teaching workforce.
Programs such as Literacy Lab’s Leading Men fellowship recruit young men of color between the ages 18 to 24. The participants learn how to be literacy tutors and engage students, then they work with pre-kindergarten classrooms for year.
“We’re working to change the narrative of what men of color can be,” Rahming said.
The program creates a sense of belonging, he said. The age range of 18 to 24 is a critical time in a young person’s life, he said, it is a time of transition and it’s important that young men of color feel a sense of belonging. By supporting the fellows, the fellows in turn are able to help students feel a sense of belonging as well.
During the discussion, participants talked about the barriers facing young men of color when it comes to entering the education workforce. Part of the problem is recruiting young men to the field, Rahming said. Furthermore, while programs such as Leading Men create a pipeline into the education workforce it can be hard to raise awareness and maintain sustainability.
There’s a crisis in terms of educators and the workforce, Rahming said, and as the world continues to return from the pandemic it needs to support and raise up pipeline programs.
Synovia Moss, who represented Moving Families Forward, and Jessica Namaste of COA Youth & Family Centers led the discussion on families as partners in early childhood education.
Greater Milwaukee Foundation has a history of supporting early childhood education efforts, Moss said.
By participating in the On The Table discussion, Moss hoped to emphasize the importance of family engagement, look at current efforts and discuss how stakeholders can support the effort.
“One of the things we wanted to be mindful of is early childhood education is important for all of us,” she said.
A child who receives an early childhood education is likely to do better in school overall which prepares them to do better economically. Parents should reach out and be open to suggestions, Moss said, and stakeholders can work on listening and adapting to the needs of the community.
“Education is a two-way street, it takes all of us as stakeholders to take action,” Moss said.
High quality child care centers are needed, Moss said. It also means having reliable transportation, affordable housing and so on.
“Everything begins at birth,” Moss said. “We want to ensure that children have a great start so they can have a great future.”