As an organization with a vibrant Early Head Start program and a two-generational approach to alleviating poverty, All Our Kin has been a proud partner in Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Family Prosperity Innovation Community.
Being part of this group among 20 partnering organizations has given All Our Kin the opportunity to bring its innovative model for family child care forward to other amazing organizations from across the country that have common values and goals for maximizing opportunities for families to flourish. It was a great opportunity to share our ideas with national thought leaders and learn from family members themselves as we reimagine systems and structures for social and economic mobility.
All Our Kin joined this national collaboration back in 2017 as part of Phase I of the Innovation Community. Within that 2 year partnership, All Our Kin was able to publish a policy report, “Creating the Conditions for Family Child Care to Thrive,” as well as pilot and refine our Policy Advising technical assistance work.
Then, just at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we joined phase two of Family Prosperity to double down on our work. This time, we all had an increased focus on how workplaces can ensure families have the resources they need to succeed.
Elevating the leadership of parents and collaborating with families like mom and super duo, Jacqueline and Ace Chatfield — is essential to creating and amplifying equitable strategies to better support families.
‘If we put people affected by decisions closer to decision-making, it can change the face of public service’Jacqueline Monsanto
Jackie and Ace, who have been part of All Our Kin’s Early Head Start (EHS) programming for two years, were representatives of our EHS Child Care Partnership Program at the recent Family Prosperity: Progress and Impact convening. They were among almost a dozen Parent Leaders to advise about the community’s work, and were joined by All Our Kin’s Marina Rodriguez, Becca Smith, and Erica Phillips (now the head of the National Association for Family Child Care) at the four-day in-person gathering at the Aspen Meadows Campus in Aspen, Colorado.
Jackie said the convening was “incredible,” and found herself speaking out at every panel she attended. In particular, Jackie noted the importance of the breakout session that addressed fund distribution and how it can benefit parents. The process of “grant writing and getting funds from where they are from to the people who need them is archaic,” asserts Jackie. “Get people what they need when they need it without the paperwork and bureaucracy. Covid brought that to the forefront of my mind. So many families who weren’t in need beforehand were one medical crisis away from complete ruin.”
Marina, All Our Kin’s New Haven Senior Director and Mentor/Coach, added, “Jacqueline showed up and out as a real leader, offering her perspective as a parent in many sessions, and bringing strong questions to the conversations. We appreciated her openness as she spoke of her struggles to find child care and work, and the support she’s received from All Our Kin and other organizations.”
What is the biggest change Jackie would like to see? “Those affected by decision-making should be part of decision making,” she said. “There is a disconnect as you go up and get further away from those experiencing the problems. If we put people affected by decisions closer to decision-making, it keeps it true to its purpose. It can change the face of public service.”
It is exactly the work that All Our Kin has been doing – making sure that educators and families are on the front lines, whether it’s at state legislatures, our nation’s Capitol–or at gatherings like these.
The opportunity gave Ace, age 2, his first experience traveling on an airplane! He was a true champion in the skies and at the conference, taking in every session while he played. Jackie appreciated his early exposure to social justice work: “Children now have much greater understanding than we did,” said Jackie. “They are in tune with the world around them, and we should feed that curiosity with knowledge and truth.”
Jackie appreciates that Ace’s curiosity is fueled at Gamila Elbashir’s EHS program in West Haven, CT. ”It is absolutely amazing,” says Jackie. “I cannot imagine raising Ace without them. He is so bright, so well versed to be a two year old; the things he says shock me every day. I credit all of that to Gamila and EHS.”
But it is clear that Jackie, an education major who is 100 percent dedicated to creating a strong future for Ace, deserves the credit as well! We are honored that Jackie brought her insights to Aspen, where she appreciated the willingness to have “uncomfortable, real conversations” that keep “everyone grounded.”
“You get to choose every day how you want to show up,” said Jackie. And she’s making those choices very intentionally – for Ace. “I always want him to know that his voice is important–that he is a light in the world and should always be able to shine that light. I hope I can instill that in him the way my parents instilled it in me.”
This blog post was originally published on All Our Kin’s Blog.