The White Scarf Story

The White Scarf Story

I am going to tell you how I learned the white scarf story when I became a board member of a family child care association and advocated for a local child care proposition. Then, I am going to ask you a favor.

Becoming a board member:
It was an ordinary night after my wife and I finished a workshop hosted by the local child care resource and referral agency (CCR&R). A family child care provider came to us and asked if we would like to become a board member of our local family child care association. To be honest, at the very beginning, I was originally intrigued only by the title of "board member."

Before committing to a role of a board member, I asked myself, "Why do we need to join and become a member in our local family child care association?" If we want to learn about best practices or new skills, we can go to the CCR&R as they offer child care providers workshops, technical assistance, coaching, consultation and financial support for quality improvement. We can also search online and find information and support by ourselves. So, why do we need to join and become a member of a family child care association?

And now that I have experienced being a board member, I realize the truth in a famous saying that I heard in the movie Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Though you might think it may be funny to think like this, I do believe being a board member as a family child care advocate comes with great responsibility.

It has been a fruitful journey for me since we joined and became more involved in the family child care association. We have attended numerous policymaking meetings and met different policymakers. I now know that our roles in a family child care association are so important to the whole family child care community in our local county and state. We are no longer a single licensed family child care operator busy working for our own families. We are now part of a bigger community of family child care business owners. Issues and challenges that happen to us are not just our own problems, they are everyone’s problems.

My experiences with a local proposition:
Let me share with you our recent experiences with a local proposition and our local child care and development planning council (LPC). I hope you will get a better idea about what is happening in my county and what can happen in your county as well.

Our county passed Measure C to invest more money to build universal, affordable and high quality child care in San Francisco for babies and families. It was certainly great news to the families and it was great news to all child care providers because more money leads to better business and compensation. However, I later learned that Measure C is not necessarily going to be beneficial to family child care providers.

After Measure C was passed, the LPC was put in charge of identifying local needs and collecting stakeholder inputs through comprehensive needs assessments and development of countywide plan. It is definitely not easy to consider everyone’s interests. The committee members of the LPC consist of directors from the CCR&Rs, school district representative, child care center directors, child care consumers and appointed members by the Board of Supervisors and Board of Education. Imagine the existing and potential interests vested by these different agencies and you are the one family child care provider in the meeting. You can express your opinion or concern to the committee but if you are only one single person, actually, you don’t have much say in the room. Many times, the majority of the committee might not see and know what a family child care life actually looks like. When you simply state your problem, the others may think it is just your own individual issue. They can ignore you because they cannot focus on your individual needs; they need to address the big picture.

Our LPC pulled out the current numbers of available licensed slots and census data of the population of young children, showing the shortage of childcare spaces for families. They proposed more money for increasing slots and higher compensation for center teachers to keep them in the job. It sounded like a reasonable plan. But their assessment of a high demand is questionable because, in reality, many of our family child care providers are having a hard time filling their slots. We, as an association, put together a survey to collect the number of vacant slots, so we could ask the LPC not to overestimate the demand and put the existing family child care businesses in jeopardy.

In this case, the family child care association actually was the only one (not the CCR&R, not the parents, not the families and not the center directors) who came out to protect the interests of family child care providers. It is not a matter of right or wrong. The others' actions are affected by their current roles and current interests. I hope this makes sense to you.

The white scarf story:
Oh! And white scarf! Wearing a white scarf to represent family child care is an idea that came from our former director of family child care association, a good friend of family child care providers, and a family child care advocate - Rosie Kennedy. She asked family child care educators to identity ourselves whenever we attend meeting, hearings, etc. It is important for policymakers to recognize family child care is essential in early care and education. Whenever policy related to early care and education, we have to be on the table and show the policymakers who we are.

The favor:
Here is a favor I would like to ask from you: Get a white scarf and start wearing it. Join a local, state or nationwide family child care association and be a family child care advocate! Together, there is strength in numbers.

Oscar Tang
Board Member, Family Child Care Association of San Francisco and California Family Child Care Network