Mary Claire Babula  June 5, 1950 – December 3, 2015

Mary Claire Babula June 5, 1950 – December 3, 2015

Mary Babula

Mary Claire Babula

The world of early learning in Wisconsin has lost a rare and fiery gem; Mary Babula, recently retired WECA Director of Membership, a dear colleague, friend and mentor has died.

Within two hours of her passing a local child care program came to our offices with a line of jacketed and mittened small souls to sing to us as they do a few times a year.  “ABCD, EFG…” it was only fitting that their little voices escorted Mary on her next journey.  Without knowing, their presence was cathartic.  Their bright smiles, their wide eyes taking everything in, their fidgeting little hands; they are why Mary did all that only Mary could do so very well in her own Mary Babula ways.  For Mary knew, deeply and completely, the work of nurturing, caring for and educating our youngest children to be the most important and worthiest of work.

Mary’s career in early childhood education began as a teacher/director at Christian Day Care Center in Madison in the 1970’s. Later she became the director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association which grew under her leadership. Mary was an advocate for children’s and teacher’s rights. She challenged law makers and modeled patience and understanding for all.

Mary was someone with many passionate commitments. She was active in music through Womonsong, international travel through Friendship Force, and issues of equity for women and families through the Wisconsin Womens Network. She loved traveling, camping and canoeing and frequently visited the Boundary Waters and many other wilderness areas.

She is survived by her domestic partner, Mary Mastaglio, family members, many many friends and her WECA family to which she gave so much. WECA, together with the Babula and Mastaglio families are discussing how best to honor Mary’s significant legacy and impact with the financial gifts that friends and colleagues have made in her name. In early 2016 we look forward to sharing more details with you.

Reflecting and Acting: Worthy Wage Day-May 1, 2015

Reflecting and Acting: Worthy Wage Day-May 1, 2015

Since its inception in 1992, Worthy Wage Day has been a time to raise public awareness of the low wages earned by early childhood educators and the negative effects it has on young children.

WECA has always been involved in this grass-roots campaign-advocating on behalf of the child care workforce. Recently, WECA released Starting Early, Starting Now: Investing in Teachers to Grow Child Care Quality. This report addresses the need for fundamental changes in how child care is financed in Wisconsin.

We sent this report to all members of the Wisconsin State Legislature. WECA staff met with members of the Joint Finance Committee to discuss the value of investing in early childhood education and the necessity for a worthy wage for this workforce.

Soon, WECA along with the Center on Wisconsin Strategy will conduct an early childhood workforce study. It will examine providers’ educational levels, experience, job satisfaction, turnover, retention, and compensation. It will also study why child care providers leave this field and where they go.

Worthy Wage Day depends on child care providers sharing what the impact of earning a low wage has on themselves individually, their families, and the children they care for. Here then, are perspectives from the field.

Andrea Tallacksen“I have been working in the child care field for 14 years and while I have a college degree, I make significantly less than almost all of my peers with a degree. It can be very depressing to know that I work in a field that I love and know is incredibly important, but I make less than someone handling bags at the airport. I handle something way more important every day. We need to have those in power, those who make decisions about how money is allocated, to recognize the importance of high quality child care and decent compensation.”
-Andrea Tallacksen, infant/toddler teacher at Woods Hollow Children’s Center.

Joan Klinkner“I was fortunate to have a husband with a good paying job, or else I wouldn’t have been able to work as a child care teacher and raise our two daughters. I would like to believe that things have changed, but I still hear the same kind of comments from the general public. These comments show a lack of recognition for the importance of the work of early childhood teachers as well as lack of appreciation for the difficulty of the work. We need to strengthen and reinvigorate our efforts to advocate for the child care workforce.”
-Joan Klinkner, former child care teacher, instructor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Annette Wilburn“I have always served low-income families who are eligible for Wisconsin Shares. Yet, my work situation has changed in the last five years. I had to downsize my business and make changes in my life due to the limited income I was able to earn as a family child care provider. I will not give up the fight for what has become my passion. And I have been praying. If we providers today had a mind set to change things like in the past we could work together for change.”
-Annette Wilburn, licensed family child care provider in Milwaukee.

Speak Out Now!

There are many opportunities for Wisconsin child care providers to raise awareness on Worthy Wage Day. Social media can be a prime avenue to use. Here are a few suggestions on what you can do today to help raise awareness of worthy wages for worthy work:

1. Become a Forward for Kids Advocate. Receive email updates on additional advocating opportunities and become a voice for early childhood education.

2. Participate in the #WorthyWages Twitter Storm-Friday, May 1st Noon-1:00 pm.

3. Not on Twitter? Extend the storm on Facebook. Write a post, share your story, or start a discussion on your profile about Worthy Wage Day. Social media has become a strong communication tool. Let’s use it to our advantage.

We Must Do Better in “The Raising of America”

We Must Do Better in “The Raising of America”

Recently, WECA co-sponsored a screening of The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation, a PBS documentary that studies brain development in infants and the importance of quality early care for all children. The film revealed disconcerting statistics about child well-being in America.

overall child well-beingSource: Unicef 

How can it be that America ranks so low when it comes to ensuring quality early care for children? Following the film, a panel engaged the audience in discussion. Here are their perspectives: Ruth Schmidt, Wisconsin Early Childhood Association “The film places a fragile system of child care front and center in the discourse of what we need to improve as a state and nation to ensure that all our children get the best possible start in life and enter public school equally ready to succeed, regardless of socioeconomic status. Until we figure out how to make high quality child care affordable for all families we will continue to pay the later costs of remedial education, high school dropout rates, public assistance dependence, teen pregnancy, incarceration and health disparities.”

Raising of America panel

The panel (from left): Dr. Susan Ehrlich, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Fabiola Hamdan, Joining Forces for Families, Ruth Schmidt, Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, Quinton Cotton, Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families and Dr. Maria Stanley, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Dr. Maria Stanley, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health “I don’t think that there is one magic answer, but we need to look in a global way at how we support families. Looking for example at mental health resources for parents and good access to medical care and providers who understand and care about children and do appropriate screening and support for families. It’s also about good childcare and making sure that this can be a reality by paying people enough to do that work,…by valuing the work.” Quinton Cotton, Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families “One of the key issues is the availability and accessibility of information for young families. It’s very difficult for new parents to identify resources and feel comfortable operating in new situations. Often times they don’t know where to start and they may have questions about which programs are appropriate for them. We all share a responsibility in assuring that young children and their families have the best possible start that they can. I think there is some important contribution that we all can play.” Your Thoughts? Did you attend the screening?  We want to hear from you! What direction do we need to take to make our children’s path to succeed a better and healthier one? What are the issues that take precedence? Share your thoughts by commenting below. We thank American Family Children’s Hospital and sponsors for providing this opportunity and initiating this important forum.  We look forward to advancing the well-being of children and families through collaborative efforts such as this.

Testifying for child care provider professionalism and quality care

In support of child care providers throughout Wisconsin, WECA Board member Dr. Dipesh Navsaria recently submitted testimony to the Wisconsin Legislature. Under review was Assembly Bill 698 – legislation proposing a new protocol in how child care providers manage the sleep needs of infants and toddlers.

Simply put, it is WECA’s position that a child’s individual needs must always be addressed with competence and good judgment. Good communication between parents and providers must be ongoing.  Therefore, we feel it unnecessary to legislate a practice (determining a child’s sleep needs) that is by definition changeable, even on a daily basis.

Read Dr. Navsaria’s full testimony here:

 As a practicing pediatrician and a board member of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, I am opposed to AB 698.  While on the face of it the bill may seem reasonable, but the fact remains that with young children, the assessment and experience of a child care provider to determine the rest and sleep needs of a child in their charge is key.

This bill essentially takes away the partnership and trust between a parent and child care provider by allowing for a blanket instruction to override the experience and judgment which needs to be applied in any individual situation.  Young children vary greatly, sometimes even from day to day.  By this bill, a child care provider who feels that a child may need rest due to a minor illness or other condition would potentially be left in a position where their best judgment would be overridden by written instructions.

WECA has always supported child care providers attentively listening to and responding appropriately to parental needs and views.  We hope that any concerns or guidelines around any aspect of child behavior and care (including sleep) would be part of a flexible and trusting relationship, with ongoing communication between the parent and child care provider, not reduced to legislatively-imposed fiats that run the risk of not serving the best interests of the child.

Early Education Op-Ed in the NY Times: “Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons?”

In an October 26th New York Times Op-ed titled, “Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons?”, Nicholas Kristof shares that early education is one of those rare initiatives that polls well across the political spectrum.

Kristof writes that 84% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans support some type of national early education initiative according to recent polling.

Touting evidence from a new study from Stanford University that the achievement gap begins as early as 18 months, Kristof makes the case for a national early education initiative.

Kristof ends the op-ed giving us a choice: Preschools or prisons?

Look, we’ll have to confront the pathologies of poverty at some point. We can deal with them cheaply at the front end, in infancy. Or we can wait and jail a troubled adolescent at the tail end. To some extent, we face a choice between investing in preschools or in prisons.

Read the New York Times op-ed “Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons?” >>

Q&A: Celeste Swoboda on Wisconsin State Journal child care cover story

The following Q&A is in response to the Special Report on Child Care (read: pt.1, pt. 2) published by the Wisconsin State Journal.

Celeste Swoboda is a WECA Board member, former president of the Wisconsin Family Child Care Association, and a T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship recipient. She owns Teddy Bear Totland child care, a 5-star rated program in Chippewa Falls, WI.

Q: You’ve been a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipient. Tell us a little about your T.E.A.C.H. experience. What advice do you have for child care providers thinking about applying for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship?

A: My first T.E.A.C.H. experience was with my Infant/Toddler Credential. Having the scholarship gave me an opportunity to go back to school and not worry about the expense of the classes. I have enjoyed working on my Administrators and Leadership credentials and Associate’s Degree through T.E.A.C.H. My advice is to call WECA—they are very helpful with any questions that you might have. I found that I have learned so much going back to school and the children in my care have benefited from the steps I have taken.

Q: What school courses have been most valuable to your career as a child care provider? Continue reading

Poverty as a Childhood Disease: A View from Wisconsin

Recently, Perri Klass, M.D. wrote an article on the New York Times blog titled “Poverty as a Childhood Disease”. Dr. Klass shared that at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, there was a new call for pediatricians to address childhood poverty as a national problem, rather than wrestling with its consequences case-by-case in the exam room. To further Dr. Klass’s discussion, WECA board member Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD wrote the following blog post.

“Poverty is neurotoxic.”  Yes, those words should make you sit up and take notice.  I’ve been saying them for about a year now.  It’s a conclusion I’ve come to after seeing the dramatic studies which show substantial deficits in learning among children who have experienced adversity early on in their lives — and with few or no strong, supportive relationships to buffer the effects of that adversity.  I am proud to be part of both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academic Pediatric Association, who are calling attention to the concept of poverty as a childhood disease.

Dipesh Navsaria, MD

WECA Board Member, Dipesh Navsaria, M.D.explains the importance of early childhood education on brain development.

I’ve seen this as a problem throughout many areas of Wisconsin.  I’ve noticed it in Native American populations when I’ve worked with them.  I saw it in the hospital as a physician-in-training.  And in my clinical practice at Access Community Health Center in South Madison, I evaluate many children for “school issues” or “behavior problems”.  They are rarely straightforward cases. When I “go digging” in their histories, I find that early exposure to adversity has left a legacy we don’t want children to have: lifelong impairment in learning, thinking, and emotional skills.  Even worse, if we examine the data, we find that traditional medical illnesses also may have significant roots in these issues. Continue reading