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New York City
May 2001

Child Care, Family Style
by Dynishal P. Gross

Like many Americans, Yvette Gore Graham has held a number of jobs in her adult life. She has been a bank teller, a cosmetologist, a security officer, and has even served in the military. For many years, she worked as a health aide in nursing facilities and in private homes. However, none of these jobs became a stable career, and the late 90s found Yvette and her family dependent on public assistance. Now, thanks to educational and employment opportunities offered by the Consortium for Worker Education (CWE), Yvette has moved from welfare to full-time work as a Family Child Care provider.

Graham was introduced to the field of childcare through CWE’s Satellite Child Care Program. Established in New York in 1998, the program has become a national model, providing an innovative and critical combination of supports and services. Satellite Daycare creates stable, union jobs for low-income individuals and much-needed professional child-care slots in underserved areas of the city. As full-time employees of CWE, providers receive a regular salary and benefits, including access to the many educational and training programs.

Participation in the Satellite Child Care Program requires real commitment. A 20-week training program prepares providers to meet the developmental, academic and nutritional needs of young children.

“They also emphasized time management,” recalls Graham. “That is very important when you’re working out of your home. You have to balance between your own family and the business.”

Trainees also intern at an established child care center and prepare their homes to meet a number of health and safety standards. Training and home inspection are followed by state licensing and eventually, employment. “My home is small, so I had to make sacrifices,” says Graham. “I got rid of furniture to make room for my supplies. Now if I want to add something, it has to be vertical, not horizontal.”

As a mother of two, Graham brings a great deal of life experience and common sense to her chosen career. She also benefited greatly from the example and support of her CWE instructor. “Andrea Rosser has become my mentor. I’ve been setting my watch fast since I’ve known her! She is real, she is precise and has the professional attitude of a champion.”

This mentoring was critical, as one challenge of moving from welfare to work is dealing with the stigma attached to being on public assistance. “You’re coming into the business world, but people see you as a welfare recipient,” Graham points out. “You have to be able to state your position. I am a professional childcare provider, not a baby-sitter.”

Today, Graham’s workdays begin at 5 a.m. and are filled with books, music, reading, arts and crafts, countless diaper changes and trips to the park and library. She feels good about her work and her role in the community. “A parent needs to be able to go to work, go to school and feel comfortable with the care that is being given to their child. They know that in my home the kids are being well cared for. I love the children and they love me.”

Graham continues to take advantage of ongoing professional development offered by CWE. She is also the shop steward of local 1707, the daycare workers’ union. She dreams of going on to college, and eventually opening a care provider business, which would combine her prior experience with elder care with her current childcare expertise. “I’m not unlearned, but I do need education. I want that business, and to be able to manage it, and I’ll make sacrifices to get it,” she says.

CWE is a joint project of 34 NYC unions, representing more than 600,000 workers. CWE offers free education, training and re-employment programs to more than 30,000 New Yorkers annually. For more information, visit www.cwe.org.


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All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.


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