Thirty years ago, Janet Walerstein was the director of a small childcare center that served working families. “I have always believed that every child deserves high-quality, nurturing and safe childcare,” Walerstein says. “But it wasn’t until I was in close contact with working parents every day that I began to appreciate that reliable and affordable care is the linchpin to building a better life.” After all, without this care, working parents have great difficulty supporting their families, and businesses are not most productive.
Walerstein realized that parents, communities and businesses needed a comprehensive solution. “It was clear to me that if parents, providers and employers could find a better way to work together and build an interconnected infrastructure, everyone would benefit.” At that time, no such infrastructure existed.
That’s when Walerstein decided to change things to help working families make ends meet. Operating out of a small attic space of the Bayshore childcare center where she worked, Walerstein endeavored to “take a leadership role in advocating for and increasing access for parents to high-quality childcare in Suffolk County.” She channeled her personal experiences, educational background, insight and passion to form a coalition of providers, policy makers and parents striving to advance a comprehensive childcare agenda.
By 1985, this loosely formed coalition evolved into the Child Care Council of Suffolk, Inc. Walerstein was named the council’s first executive director, a position she still holds today.
In its early years, support for the nonprofit came from then-New York State Assemblyman Patrick Halpin and the Suffolk County Legislature. As the organization matured, it came to encompass and add programs supporting its mission on many fronts. Today, the Child Care Council of Suffolk offers significant services for parents, providers, employers and policy makers, such as:
- Resource and referral services that help parents find appropriate care for their children, including those with special needs.
- Community education that focuses on developing strategies for positive change through outreach to both the public and private sector.
- The Parent Leadership Initiative, an innovative program designed to prepare parents from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds to take on leadership roles in their communities.
- Educational and technical assistance for childcare providers like the development or expansion of childcare centers and family childcare homes, as well as training for educators.
- A child and adult care food program, through which the council sponsors the reimbursement of food expenses for family childcare providers. Classes are also provided in nutritional meal preparation and meal planning.
- Registration and inspection services to ensure that family childcare homes and school-age childcare programs are compliant with state regulations.
- Services for employers, including childcare resources and referrals, dependent care assistance plans and seminars.
- Advocacy efforts that help Child Care Council of Suffolk to raise community awareness of pertinent childcare issues like those regarding regulations and funding sources.
Recently celebrating its silver anniversary, Child Care Council of Suffolk, Inc. has come a long way from its humble beginnings. And while 25 years is an impressive milestone, the organization is looking forward, not backward. Its continuing the mission to advance a childcare agenda that supports children, families and employers throughout Suffolk County, New York State and the nation.
Learn more about the Child Care Council of Suffolk by calling (631)905-0184 or logging onto www.childcaresuffolk.org.