In the Community

How Candelen is improving the quality of childcare

A look at the Kith and Kin project and how it provides training and support for a vital piece of the childcare puzzle

PHOENIX, Ariz. (STN) — Any parent can tell you that the cost of childcare across the country, and in Arizona, is growing and is a major financial burden for many families; a burden that is often shouldered by friends, families, and neighbors.

In Arizona, six out of every 10 children under the age of eight are being cared for by non-immediate family members, family friends, or neighbors who may not be as qualified or prepared as caregivers in licensed childcare facilities. However, the state spends more money on licensed childcare facilities, leaving the network of family, friends, and neighbor (FFN) caregivers without significant support.

That’s where Candelen comes in.

“We created a program in about 1999 called the Kith and Kin Project,” said Candelen Vice President of Programs and Impact Kavita Bernstein. “It provides training, support, and education to FFN caregivers.”

Watch the video below to learn more about Candelen’s Kith and Kim Project:

Bernstein’s comments came as part of a panel highlighting the Kith and Kin project during the December episode of “It Happens at STN.”

The Kith and Kin project, an eight-week, hands-on educational program, provides FFN caregivers an opportunity to learn how to care for young children and equip them with the tools to build a better childcare environment in their homes.

“When I was a teenager, I cared for my nieces while my sister was working evenings and on the weekends. I continued throughout college when I was caring for a friend’s children,” said Kerrie Mayne, who now serves as an FFN Caregiver and Specialist at Candelen. “Knowing what I know now about quality caregiving, I realized that there’s a lot I didn’t know [then]. I knew the basics but I didn’t realize the extent of knowledge caregivers needed to provide education, brain development, all those different types of things.”

With the program’s interactive classes, FFN caregivers in training have the opportunity to work alongside one another, allowing them to build connections, support groups, and networks that last long after the eight-week course comes to an end.

Building a strong network of FFN caregivers is critical for parents like Sara Qafisheh, who relied on a Kith and Kin graduate to help her care for her young son after she became a single parent.

“At the time I was paying more in childcare than I was in rent, so it was very appealing to me,” she said. “I had a really great experience and I attribute a lot to that because I had a choice. I know a lot of parents don’t have a choice. Sometimes, it’s just like grandma [or] grandpa has to watch the kids, otherwise I can’t go to work or I can’t put food on the table.”

While quality FFN childcare helps parents like Qafisheh go to work and put food on the table, it is also an integral part of the overall economy in Arizona.

“Access to quality childcare is a workforce issue,” said Candelen Program Director Angela Tapia. “One of the main factors to have a thriving Arizona economy is to just to have that parent’s confidence, to know that they have access to quality care, [and] to know that their children are being cared for in a safe and nurturing environment while they’re at work.”

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