RAHWAY, NJ – Paulina Galấn Olguin, the coordinator for Grow New Jersey Kids and a Family Child Care specialist, recited The Ode to Day Care, “Little children come to me for hugs and books and such. I care for all their simple needs and I also fix them lunch. I pick up toys, I mop their spills and often dry their tears. I change their diapers, settle fights, and kiss away their tears. I tie their shoes, I button coats and push them on the swing. I really love these kids you see but there is just one more thing. Call me Mom or Aunt or Florence, and those names just might fit. But please don’t call me SITTER because I never get to SIT!

The audience was some of the 120 registered child care providers registered with Community Coordinated Child Care at the Provider Appreciation Day, always celebrated the day before Mother’s Day.

Community Coordinated Child Care is a non-profit agency that trains child care providers for families throughout Union County. To be registered, providers must complete 18 hours of training in areas such as health and safety, First Aid, and child abuse and neglect issues. The agency also includes Grow New Jersey Kids, launched in Union County in May 2016, a state-sponsored initiative to raise the quality of childcare and early learning throughout the state. It offers providers services such as tuition and school supplies reimbursement for college courses.

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“Our providers are dedicated,” explained Faheemah El-Amin, provider services manager. “It is really about quality. We want to provide quality to our children. I know it is a cliché, but they are our future.”

To provide that quality of service, Community Coordinated Child Care offers a variety of training. For example, at the brunch, Harnel Richmond, program associate for New Jersey SNAP Education, presented a program entitled Choose My Plate that taught nutrition tips.   

Since each provider is an independent business owner, free to take in five children and set her own rates, the second brunch speaker was Erica Rodriguez of UCEDC who explained the Learn More, Do More Initiative. Applicants must attend a three-day workshop that teaches the financial aspects of their business. At the conclusion of the workshop, the applicants receive a $500 “loan” that is paid by the sponsoring bank.  

While child care providers may be business women, they are essentially mothers at heart who love children, women like Elizabeth resident Soledad Aliaga. “I love babies. I love children. I can’t live without them. It is something I need,” said the great grandmother. “I take care of them from the beginning. Babies need a lot of attention and a lot of love.”

It is that love and unselfishness that Community Coordinated Child Care celebrated at the Provider Appreciation Day. As Subsidy Manager Veronica Weston Blalock told the group, “A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart. Thank you for every heart, mind, and heart you have touched.”