Belinda Jones has dedicated her working life to early care and education (ECE).
“I love children. I love to take care of children. I’ve been doing it my whole life basically, for my own kids and for other kids as well, just like my mom,” she said.
As a youth, Jones’s mother ran a family child care, where Jones enjoyed helping her mom, as well as learning from her. That experience led to a 12-year tenure at a local center, after which she decided to go into business for herself. Several years ago, Jones opened Beloved Childcare in her Syracuse home.
For Jones, owning a family child care is a step on a longer professional path to opening a small center of her own.
“I see myself having a center,” said Jones, who is working to secure a new space to expand her family childcare business into a group childcare.
Jones credited Leading for Change, our professional development program that trains participants on how to lead for change and quality improvement in their practice, program, or in the field, with making her “want to move faster” to make her vision of center ownership a reality. Leading for Change is offered in upstate New York through our partnership with the Syracuse-based Early Childhood Alliance Onondaga, a coalition of community stakeholders with a shared vision for a more coordinated and strategic early childhood system and which is funded through Home Grown’s Building Comprehensive Networks initiative.
Though Jones had long thought of herself as an ECE leader and role model, the opportunity that Leading for Change provided Jones to meet and learn from her professional peers was motivating and clarifying.
“I’m just going to push more and put more into what I’m already doing,” she said.
What Jones is doing is ensuring that the children in her care have the strong developmental and educational foundation they need to be successful in elementary school and beyond. “I consider my home almost like the school district,” she said. “What I mean is that I give them the same education that they would get in the district, because that’s what they’re here for.”
Whether they’re going on to pre-K or kindergarten, Jones said the children are well-prepared and know what to expect. Jones added that she knows how important parents are to a child’s educational and developmental preparedness. With that in mind, Jones’s Change Project — a concrete action plan to lead for change in some aspect of ECE — was about increasing parent engagement at Beloved Childcare. She’s hosted family-style dinners. Parents are welcome to come for lunch or bring a snack or join Jones and the children on a walk.
“They’re free to walk in this door any time they want,” said Jones. “I’m just trying to get all the knowledge, all the resources, everything I can get for each child so that they can start here and become a successful doctor, lawyer—or just a person who’s happy about their future.”
To that end, Jones has also sought support and resources to strengthen her business from organizations such as Child Care Solutions, ParentChild+, and QUALITYstarsNY. It’s no surprise, then, that she jumped at the chance to participate in Leading for Change when she learned about it from a friend. “It was another resource I can use to build my own daycare and I’m glad I had the opportunity to be part of it,” she said.
Leading for Change in Early Care and Education was developed by the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston and anchors all of the Early Education Leadership Institute’s programs. Participants learn how to lead for change to improve program quality and promote equity in early care and education. Leading for Change is currently offered to early educators in Massachusetts at UMass Boston and also in partnership with the MA Department of Early Education and Care through its statewide network of StrongStart Professional Development Centers. Leading for Change is also offered to early educators in Maryland through the Maryland Early Childhood Leadership Education Program at the Shriver Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and in Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania Key and the Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development & Early Learning. It was offered to educators in California through a pilot program.