**This article represents a new feature we are making a regular happening. We are spotlighting one early childhood professional who is currently working and making things work while highlighting a part of early childhood education and care that is important right now. This quarter, meet Jeri Normandin of Clatsop County. Jeri receives a Lakeshore Learning Gift Certificate as the Spotlight Provider. If you are interested in being in the spotlight, let us know!” –NW Regional CCRR- firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fifty-eight professionals in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook Counties hold Registered Family (RF) childcare licenses making it the most commonly held license in the region. By contrast, there are only four Certified Family (CF) professionals; two in Clatsop County; one in Columbia and one in Tillamook. The largest difference between the two licenses is that a RF can care for a maximum of ten children, depending on ages, while a CF can serve 12 (16 with individual approval from the Office of Child Care). Still, few professionals make this move. Last fall, after learning one of her families was expecting a baby, Clatsop County RF provider, Jeri Normandin began exploring the process of changing from RF to CF. Let’s meet Jeri now.
Since joining the childcare profession thirty years ago, Jeri has been caring for children of all ages. “Three-and-a-half months is my youngest right now and seven years the oldest,” reports Jeri. “I started babysitting when I was young,” Jeri continues, discussing her journey to a family childcare career. “I have been a nanny; worked with special needs children for thirty years and coached Special Olympics for nine years. I have a medical background and I am a children’s author. I write books teaching children about kids with special needs. I have always loved working with children.”
Jeri’s pleasantly green, country location east of Astoria on Highway 30 houses her Registered Family (RF) business, Jeri’s Starfish Minis In-Home Day Care making her one of the region’s fifty eight RF professionals and a critical, vital part of Oregon’s overall childcare picture. Center and non-residential programs employ more professionals and care for greater numbers, but can lack flexibility and the homey vibe of family childcare. They can also have high turnover, high prices and long waiting lists. Many families, like the seven Jeri serves, rely on family childcare for scheduling flexibility. For example, Jeri’s hours in the NACC database show her willing to start her care day at 4:00 a.m. and to stay open until 7:00 p.m. and for many holidays! Value in pricing and the ability to have siblings in the same program are other popular reasons for choosing family childcare. In fact, Jeri began exploring the transition from RF to CF when she learned that one of her families was expecting a new baby. This long-term relationship keeps many families in home-based care. “A childcare provider is not (only) a babysitter,” declares Jeri. “They are part of a child’s family and support system for parents.”
Though still home-based, Certified Family Childcare’s structure allows possibly caring for more children and hiring staff; something outside the usual limits of RF care. Most providers who look into it do so for the same reasons Jeri did: to explore ways to increase numbers in infant care. Infant/toddler care is in high demand across the state and the nation should make it possible for a family childcare provider to grow her business. But the time and labor-intensive nature of infant/toddler care limits the total number of children a provider can accommodate. Certified Family licensing sometimes means an additional infant, but it also carries increased compliance, training and restrictions.
“I read through all the different rules,” says Jeri of the process “and I would have to put a bigger fence all the way around my yard. I just don’t have that kind of money. And all the extra inspections cost more money and they are every year instead of every two. Then you have to hire an extra person and that would take all the extra profits from the extra three kids I could have.” Jeri is talking about the fact that Certified Family childcare providers must renew their license every year instead of every two like RF. They also must undergo an Environmental Health Specialist inspection in addition to regular health and safety inspections. Furthermore, increasing the numbers of children is dependent on square footage of the space; as center-based care does. And child/caregiver ratios mimic center-based care rules as well. These additional considerations can be daunting to RF providers like Jeri. “A lot of extra money for very little return. I would love to do it,” she adds, “but they sure don’t make it easy to take just three more.”
Frustrations like these don’t keep Jeri from running a great program and enjoying her work. She has a continuous spotless compliance, inspection and health and safety record up to and including her last inspection in October. She is also the only childcare provider that is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce! And it isn‘t boring. When asked about a typical day, Jeri says, “we do Daily Sign Time (sign language lessons) and yoga; arts and crafts; outside time, weather permitting. We go on field trips to the park and beach. I do preschool lessons with the children three and above. Plus singing, dancing, reading, and, of course, free play!”
Busiest times of day? “Before lunch and after nap!”
Favorite thing about the job? “Watching children grow and learn new things!”
Most important qualities in a childcare provider? “Patience. Empathy. Good communication. To love what you do is a very important part of being a childcare provider.”
Most challenging part of the job? Building relationships with families means putting your heart on the line. And that comes with many ups and downs.”
Happiness and satisfaction with her work? “I have devoted many years to taking care of children. I love what I do very much.”
Thanks, Jeri. Well said.
**has been read by provider and content verified and approved for accuracy by her.