Children of working parents can spend up to half of their waking hours in child care. When that child’s first language is something other than English, it can mean missed opportunities to practice and learn their native language – a vital loss of connection to family and culture.
That diminished opportunity was something Juana Rodriguez-Vazquez experienced as child, when her parents immigrated to Maine, and as a parent, with her now school-age children. Her older child went to a family-based bilingual program run by her sister, while her younger child was in an English-only child care program. The difference in their fluency with Spanish was noticeable, even though it was frequently spoken at home.
Juana, who works as the Director of the Migrant Education Program at Mano en Mano/Hand in Hand in Milbridge, knew that her experience was a common one. Juana’s background in education and knowledge of the community’s needs made her the perfect candidate to head Mano en Mano’s new child care initiative.
Though Juana holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Maine at Machias and a General Elementary (K-8) Teacher Certification from the Maine Department of Education, she didn’t have direct experience running a child care program. Fortunately, launch of CEI’s Child Care Business Lab aligned with Mano en Mano’s plan to start their own offering, named Rayitos de Sol (“Little Sunbeams”).
The Child Care Business Lab also connected Juana with a CEI Women’s Business Center advisor, who helped her develop business plans, financial projections, licensing, marketing and communications. But for Juana, the biggest benefit was the connection to her fellow classmates and others in the industry.
“It was really nice to work with others around the state. Everyone came from various communities, which allowed us to share our diverse and shared challenges,” Juana said, adding that she hoped the group could continue to connect as they launched their child care offerings.
One shared challenge for all of the participants in the Child Care Business Lab’s first class was managing the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed necessary background checks for teachers and inspections. Juana also faced challenges specific to her community, like finding qualified bilingual staff, figuring out how to use the food reimbursement program to provide culturally familiar foods and providing operating hours that aligned with the community’s shift-work schedules. Her Child Care Business Lab business advisor and peers supported and walked her through each of these challenges.
Rayitos de Sol opened January 19th with 12 slots for toddlers and preschoolers. Juana has plans to expand in the near future with an eye toward providing care that embraces culture for Spanish-speaking families year-round, with dedicated slots to serve the migrant families that work various seasonal jobs, including blueberry harvesting, wreath-making and lobster processing.
Learn more about Rayitos de Sol
- Website: https://www.manomaine.org/
CEI’s CHILD CARE BUSINESS LAB
A free, virtual program, the Child Care Business Lab provides you with the tools to start your own home- or center-based child care in your community, including small business start-up education, guidance on how to deliver high-quality programming, advice on hiring and coaching through the licensing process. Learn more at www.ceimaine.org/childcare/