M.A., CFLE , Director, Joliet Township Infant Childcare Center, and Adjunct at Governor State University
Caring for infants/toddlers/twos in mixed age classrooms is not only best practice for them, it is best practice for practitioners. Please join us to learn about staffing, supporting, and creating opportunities for learning for both the infants/toddlers/two’s and the people who care for them. Practical examples that can be used immediately will be provided in a lively interactive format.
My first experience with mixed aged caregiving was in 2007, due to having too many infants enrolled. Mindsets for both practitioners and parents were skeptical at best and plagued with fear of harm at worst. It has now been 12 years providing care this way and the results are in. Mixed aged care for infants/toddlers/twos is vitally important for holistic development. Our youngest children have role models for crawling, walking, and talking, and our oldest twos learn to nurture and be gentle while at the same time being challenged to grow in all domains. Practitioners see themselves as competent in care of all ages. Families do not keep siblings of different ages on different sides of home environments. Our children in care deserve a natural family environment with trusted caregivers who stay with them from program entry to release. Our parents/guardians deserve to trust in consistent practitioners who develop relationships to ensure optimal outcomes.
This work is hard and it should be. We, as a society with good intentions, tend to do what is least expensive and least difficult for adults even if it is not what is best for children. It does not have to be this way. Our children deserve better. We must expect more from ourselves. With an open mind to the person a child is, instead of our comfort level with specific age groups, mixed age care is rewarding and what is best for everyone.
Debrah Clark, M.A., CFLE, is currently an infant childcare center director with 24 years in service to families. She leads a team of dedicated childcare practitioners providing family services to teen parents, including parent education; support groups, parent and child play groups, and high quality, licensed childcare. She is a Certified Family Life Educator and has a Master’s Degree in Parenting Education and Support from DePaul University. She serves on a variety of agency boards in the community in which she works and is humbled daily by parents and practitioners. Their “can-do” attitudes, even in the hard times, inspire her. She also teaches Early Childhood Leadership Principles and Management at the university level.
Passionate about education, family inclusion and the possibility for positive social change, Ms. Clark provides trainings for agencies, schools and early childhood associations.