CFLE in Context: Child Care Resource and Referral

by Jane Wirth, CFLE
Content Area
Families and Individuals in Societal Contexts
Family Law and Public Policy

I work in the Child Care Resource and Referral Quality Department at The Children's Cabinet in Reno, Nevada. I attended the CFLE-approved program through the University of Nevada, Reno where I earned my bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies in 2009. The CFLE program was announced early in my college career. I immediately changed my emphasis and entered the program with the help of Dr. Jeanne Hilton, PhD., CFLE. Together we devised a plan and upon graduation I submitted my paperwork to the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) and received Provisional Certification as Certified Family Life Educator.

I started with The Children's Cabinet in November of 2009. I was hired as a Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) specialist, which is a very multi-faceted position. One of my many responsibilities is to help families find affordable, quality child care. Our agency assists families by matching providers with their criteria (location, type of care, etc.) and following up with important information about how to find child care. We discuss classroom ratios, health and safety issues, provider education, and encourage parents to ask a lot of questions. We utilize a database of licensed child care providers to generate a list of referrals; we do not recommend any one place or person. It's up to the family to make that decision. We describe the types of care available and explain the importance of visiting each place to get a feel for the environment, the teachers, and caregivers before making a choice.

Empowering parents is one aspect of this job that I love. We believe in a parent choice model and reassure parents that they know what is best for their child. We give parents tools such as a child care quality checklist, information about licensing and ratios, and how quality care links to school readiness. Through our consultations, we offer parents ways to advocate for their needs and let them know who their elected officials are and how to contact them. It is our goal that parents feel ready to begin their search armed with information and resources to find affordable, quality care. We supply information to support them in raising healthy children and families. This includes offering free parenting classes, giving information about locating health care, providing clothing vouchers and much more. Parent education is key in this agency.

My training as a CFLE has been vital in my position. Family Systems theory in particular has improved my skills in conducting referrals. When I truly understand that the client's needs involve more than the child or children needing care, I do a better job. In the referral interview, I gain information about the whole family: the job situation (or lack thereof), the dynamics that make the family work, the individuality of each child, etc. With this information I can better assist each family to find appropriate care that meets their needs. When children are safe and happy and the parents or guardians are comfortable with the caregivers, family stress is significantly reduced; and that is a positive step on the path towards achieving work-life balance.

Another of my job responsibilities is to conduct research-based training for child care providers so they can meet Nevada's 15-hour annual training requirement. We also collaborate with other agencies to assure child care providers are offered a variety of training topics within our community. All trainings are evaluated by participants and the data is used to keep our classes up-to-date, interesting and offered at times requested by providers. Child care provider trainings have become somewhat of a passion for me. I offer training in SIDS awareness, preschool curriculum activities and assessment, and other provider-requested classes. In addition to my work at The Children's Cabinet, I contract with the Nevada Pre-K Standards program, offering classes in utilizing the Pre-K Content Standards. My training as a CFLE, 14 years' experience as an early childhood educator, and the knowledge I've gained working for a CCR&R has enlivened my presentations immensely. I am now in the position to excite others about early childhood education and its merits. I find myself expounding on the virtues of the profession and offering sincere gratitude to those who work daily with young children. This also allows me the opportunity to promote parent involvement, and share statistics about the value of best practices.

The Children's Cabinet is quality assured by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) . Our agency goes through a rigorous self-study and validation process to assure fulfillment of best practice standards. These processes are also used to improve services. I assist in locating evidence by gathering information from our many published data reports, searching educational materials, citing our policy and procedures manual, reading meeting minutes, and much more. It's rather like a treasure hunt for documents that verify we meet the standards. My college courses in methodology, research, and outcomes have proved invaluable for this facet of my job.

Additionally, I assist fellow CCR&R staff with their professional development goals by ensuring they have the training opportunities needed to more effectively serve the families and providers in our service delivery area. Technology is now playing a big part in how we share information. With the use of audio and video conferencing, staff training and professional development opportunities are more readily available to our ruralNevadastaff members as well. Course studies in research and methodology taught me how to recognize reliable research sources and eliminate resources that are less trustworthy. This knowledge helps me find best practice training materials and resources for a variety of job functions in our agency. I also use this skill when analyzing training evaluations in order to prepare or locate appropriate training materials and opportunities for staff members.

Working at The Children's Cabinet has brought me full circle in my educational/career pursuits. As an early childhood educator, I developed curriculum, observed and assessed children, conducted parent conferences, and physically cared for preschool children. While attending school, I gained knowledge about research and methodology, theories of practice and how this relates to family life education. In my current role as a CCR&R specialist, I appreciate how essential my background has been in helping families to find quality, affordable care, as well as assisting in compiling data to show the importance of having access to affordable, quality care. I am able to look at child care needs in a broader sense by gathering information from an educational and economic standpoint as well as a family system perspective. I understand the early care and education field more fully now and realize the overall importance child care choices have on the family system, the community, and society as a whole.

As CFLEs we are all advocates for children and families. I now am in the position to "walk the talk." During child care provider classes, I stress the importance of the first five years of life and discuss how appropriate activities help brain development. I love to encourage early childhood professionals to make a habit of getting families involved in their children's education from the start and how role-modeling communication skills could set the stage for successful parent engagement in the future. I also enjoy talking with parents about their children; empowering them to make positive choices that will lead to the success of their children, the family, their community and society as a whole. When parents, communities, and businesses take hold of the significance of the first five years of life, and begin investing in young children, I believe we will see a positive change in high school drop out rates, juvenile incarceration and the need for supportive services. We will see a rise in successful children and families.

Jane Wirth, CFLE, is a Child Care Resource and Referral Specialists in the Child Care Resource and Referral Quality Department at The Children's Cabinet in Reno, Nevada.