Onondaga County program adding diverse child care professionals to workforce

Local News

Finding quality child care may be a challenge for some families.

Central New York leaders in the child care field say it’s an even greater challenge since the number of slots available have dropped.

Day cares are struggling to find good, qualified staff and at the same time, some potential employees are unable to get certified because of language barriers.

In Onondaga County, a new program through Partners in Learning is aiming to not only replenish the child care workforce but add diversity to it.

Thanks to a $128,000 grant — people learning English as a new language here will get the skills they need to succeed inside and outside the classroom. Some may even start their own licensed in-home day care business.

“Adult family members are learning. That transfers to the children. It really enthuses me that our community members are learning more about child development and now can spread the word out in the community as well as work with their own children and family,” said Theresa Pagano, the liaison for vocational employment skills for English learners at Partners in Learning.

The learning is happening during a 12-week session inside instructor Chris Cruz’s classroom at the West Side Learning Center inside St. Lucy’s.

There are evening and day class sessions available for students.

From Puerto Rico, Mexico, Iraq and beyond — Cruz’s students have dreams of becoming teaching assistants and thriving in a child care career. Some are already working as aides in classrooms. 

“They have so much to offer in terms of what they can bring with diversity and that cultural background,” said Cruz, the instructor for Diversity in Early Education and Care (DEEC).

The class covers a number of topics including infant, toddler, preschool milestones and how child care professionals can engage children to help that development cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally.

As the first session winds down, partners with the program are optimistic about the future of the child care field.

“Families prefer to have their children cared for with a provider that speaks their native language and so for many immigrant and refugee families having this group of participants come through ad get their license is ideal,” said Lori Schakow, executive director at Child Care Solutions. “The reality is that english speaking children that are exposed to other languages — learn  great deal about the culture, about the language. young children, that’s the prime time to learn a second language.”

The program, grant runs through July at which time Pagano says the group hopes to have the funding renewed.

Adult English language learners who want a career in early childhood education and care, to advance their career as an early childhood educator or start a licensed family day care would benefitfrom the class.

The complete program runs for 12 weeks plus an internship.

Students must be 18 or older with intermediate English skills or higher.

For more information about the Career Training for ENL Adults program, call (315) 667-3011, ext. 3, or email partners.vesel@gmail.com.

The West Side Learning Center is located at 422 Gifford St. in Syracuse.

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