By Tanya Krien, Vice President, Early Childhood Education, Administration and Operations
Mother’s Day is a special time at our Head Start centers. Even children as young as 3 understand how much Mom means to them and enjoy the opportunity to express it.
At The Child Center of NY, we strive to honor moms every day, in ways that will impact not just their children, but the moms, themselves, and even The Child Center as a whole. One of the ways we do this is to prioritize hiring moms from our programs and the neighborhood.
This is a key part of The Child Center’s whole-child and whole-family approach. When a child walks through our doors, we look not only at the interrelated parts of the child’s well-being, but also the interrelated parts of his or her family, and how we can help each member grow and thrive.
So many of the moms whose children enroll in our early childhood education programs want to enter the workforce, but they just don’t feel capable. It’s hard to embark on a journey when you don’t speak the language or have the requisite tools. For example, the simple sentence, “Submit cover letter and resumé” sounds simple enough, unless you don’t have a computer and have never seen a resumé, let alone crafted one (never mind what to do if you literally don’t speak the language of English). Most of our moms also have home situations that would require more flexibility than they assume most employers would allow. It all can start to seem hopeless before they even take the first step. That’s a shame, because most of these moms have so much to offer.
Take, for example, the case of Sasha, a mom who had two preschoolers enrolled in our Early Head Start program six years ago. Sasha had phenomenal organizational skills, and a strong desire to contribute financially to her struggling family. But she also had two young children with robust personalities who required care, and she was going through a separation from her partner. Our staff helped Sasha with the issues her family was facing. When the situation had stabilized, we committed to helping Sasha look for part-time, flexible work. As luck would have it, we didn’t have to look very far. Our Corona Head Start/EarlyLearn had an opening for an assistant cook, which dovetailed nicely with Sasha’s natural strengths and offered the flexibility in hours that her situation as a mom of young children still required. Sasha has been a huge asset in the Corona kitchen, ensuring the program is aligned with all requirements and regulations, ordering food, and keeping track of the inventory (“Her administrative skills are flawless,” notes Senior Program Director Lillian Rodriguez-Magliaro). And when Sasha is ready to take that next step toward her career goals, we will be there to help her achieve them.
These efforts have an obvious benefit for the moms and their families, but they also have a clear benefit for The Child Center. Hiring people from the communities we serve, as we do across our programs, means that there is a deep level of understanding and trust between staffer and client that there is just no substitute for. And when we hire moms from our programs, there is a personal motivation to see families succeed because they know the impact the program had on their child; they do everything they can to pay it forward and help other families succeed.
Our job is to empower families and help them progress toward their goals, and I’m proud that helping moms enter the workforce is a part of that. For any parent who expresses a desire to enter or return to the workforce, we do whatever we can to help them find baseline, entry-level positions that fit with their interests and strengths; that are accepting of their current situation, realizing that whatever situation that is (especially having young children at home) will not last forever; and in which they can grow.
Yessenia Rodriguez, now a social worker in our Early Childhood Corona mental health clinic, is a perfect example of how this benefits everyone. When Yessie’s son David was a Head Start student, Yessie began volunteering in our program and showed a natural talent for working with kids, as well as a strong determination to do it well. Soon she was elected as Vice Chair of our Head Start Policy Council; about a year later, she was hired as an assistant teacher. Not long after that, Yessie became a family worker, serving eight years doing intakes and program management. With staff guidance and assistance, she managed to earn two degrees, the latest a master’s in social work (all while raising four sons!). She hopes to continue growing within the agency, which she credits with changing her life. And you can bet her clients credit her for changing theirs. Yessie began in an entry-level position at her child’s program, but she didn’t stay there, and we are all better off for it.
I, myself, have benefited from this kind of support. Twenty-some-odd years ago, I was a young mom who had always wanted a career in education. I graduated high school the same year my daughter was born and struggled to balance child care, my pursuit of higher education, and the need to work. Fortunately, Marie Mason, now VP of Early Childhood Education here at The Child Center, worked at Community Program Centers of Long Island, where my daughter went to school at the time. Marie took a chance on me and offered me a teaching position, affording me the flexibility to pursue my education and care for my child. I was able to obtain my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I’ve now been in the field of early childhood education for more than two decades, and during every day of every one of those years, I have strived to give both parents and children the opportunity to build a better future, as I had been given.
Every person of every background brings something to the table, and we all benefit when we invite people from as many walks of life and perspectives as possible. That includes moms who may have limited flexibility at this particular point in their lives, moms whose children are grown, and those who are not parents at all but have the training and heart to do what they do fully and skillfully.
Everyone deserves access to opportunities that life may not have presented them with in the past. It’s been my experience that most moms make the most of these opportunities when given—just like our children.
The Child Center is more than an agency — it’s a community. Every role is vital to our partnership with the families we serve. Whether you’re just getting started or looking for a career change that will allow you to make an impact on your community, We are on the lookout for new talent.