The Madison Area YMCA F.M. Kirby Children’s Center held its First Annual Kirby Conference for staff members. The all-day event held on Monday, Feb. 18, exemplifies the Center’s commitment to providing programming excellence for the families it serves.

The F.M. Kirby Children’s Center distinguishes itself by providing staff members with professional development through regularly scheduled extensive in-service training with break-out sessions. Leading experts in their field are also brought in to educate the staff.  

Harriet McCarter, F.M. Kirby Children’s Center Executive Director, kicked off the conference with a discussion on communication and the importance of developing positive and impactful relationships with colleagues, peers, children and parents. Ms. McCarter also led “Partners in Prevention: Raising Awareness of Child Sexual Abuse.” An age-old tragedy that inflicts unspeakable pain and often irreversible damage on those unable to protect themselves, sexual abuse is growing to epidemic proportions and its insidious perpetrators often go undetected until long after it is too late. Ms. McCarter shared techniques on how staffers can protect the children in their care and ensure that others provide healthy and appropriate environments for children.

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The tragedy in Sandy Hook demands that every organization serving children reexamine whether its safety procedures are current and effective and whether staff are properly trained to enact them in an emergency. The “Keeping Children Safe: The New Code Blue” workshop, developed in conjunction with the Madison Department of Public Safety, provided the latest insights on appropriate procedures and practices.

Margot Tobias, M.S. CCC/SLP, a speech language pathologist, presented “Empowering Children by Facilitating Language in Infant & Toddler Classrooms.” Ms. Tobias discussed speech and language norms for children from 4 months old to 3 years old and offered recommendations for how teachers could make simple, thoughtful adjustments in daily classroom routines to give children the priceless gift of confident self-expression for later success in school and life.

Although autism can only be diagnosed by a specialist, teachers are often the first to notice when something just doesn’t seem right. During the workshop “Autism: Early Signs, Typical Behaviors & Appropriate Classroom Strategies,” teachers learned how to recognize the early warning signs of autism, how to promote and engage responsiveness and how to avoid activities in the classroom that could lead to failure and frustration. Teachers also received tips on how to open the right dialogue with parents.  

Other workshop topics included bus safety for childcare, assessing classroom environments, managing classroom budgets, learning and using technology safely and efficiently. Attendees also learned how to respond calmly and capably to medical emergencies.

The F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA is state-renowned as an early childhood development center and provides exceptional quality in childcare and curriculum based early childhood education.  As a former elementary school, the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center facility is specifically designed for children. It is situated on almost 3-acres of property, boasts a full-size gym and five state-of-the-art playgrounds to serve all age groups.