By LeRae Hayens
Special to the Tribune
Child care providers and early years educators are being celebrated and thanked this month for the love, care and dedication they show to the youngest members of our community.
May 17 is Child Care Provider Appreciation Day and the first annual Heart of the Community day in Williams Lake, according to Anita Diepdael, child care consultant for Child Care Resource and Referral with Women’s Contact Society.
“We want to raise awareness about these amazing early childhood workers in our community, by encouraging people to wear a red T-shirt on May 17 to show support for them and the work they do every single day. They love every child in their care and are the very soul of our community,” she said.
“They are involved frontline with the most crucial part of a child’s life eight hours a day and are setting up the next generation.”
She said she has come to the conclusion that the basic foundation of our economy is quality day care. “In my opinion these early childhood educators are the heart of our community. Without their hard work and dedication parents would not be able to work to support their families,” she continued.
These early childhood workers operate group licensed child care centres, family licensed day care centres, run day care centres and StrongStart groups.
Anita is a licensed Early Childhood Educator with infant/toddler certification and worked in day care for nine years.
In her role at Women’s Contact Society she supports child care providers with extra activities for their classrooms or centres and with access to a free lending library. She provides information and support on how to attain an in-home license.
She understands first-hand what early childhood workers do every day for their community.
“These early years workers see children as young as three months, with the majority being nine months,” she added. “It all depends on what the parents need.”
Anita’s journey to become an early years worker began when she worked at a fast-food coffee shop as a young mother. She said that one of her customers, Nancy Gale, on behalf of Women’s Contact Society, talked to her about taking a course in early childhood education.
“I don’t know how she knew that I loved children, and I wasn’t sure if this was the right course for me,” she stated. “I had struggled in school, and this was a real-life change for me. I talked this over with my wonderfully-supportive husband and he said, ‘You should see if you like it and we’ll go from there.’”
Anita took the first course and realized how much she didn’t know about children and about day care. She explained that she really hoped that Nancy would offer her the next course.
“I ended up working for KidCare Day Care just covering breaks; I started getting the hang of it and I fell in love with the babies. It was a learning experience every single day, and I stayed there nine years,” she said.
“I especially liked supporting the young parents; I was a young parent myself at 17 and had a lot of empathy for them. There was so much inspiration for me — it motivated me to continue working in that room, and also to get my Early Childhood Educator diploma, and my Infant Toddler certificate.
“Watching the babies go through many changes and reaching developmental milestones: I loved that. Such accomplishments! I was so proud of the babies.”
When she was a young parent, she said she had wonderful support from KidCare Day Care and was thrilled to offer it to others. “I know how important it is,” she said.
“I would like to see early childhood educators and workers taken more professionally: they are much, much more than babysitters. I’d like to see the field moving forward to better pay,” she stated.
“We need quality workers in the field and that means better pay — something we’ve been pushing for. It needs to be affordable and accessible for parents, but we are lacking workers in the field because the pay is low.”
She added that these early years workers deserve to be thanked and appreciated and to feel that their job isn’t unnoticed.
“Their work is important — helping to shape lives of future generations – and that’s what it comes down to. Feeling like a professional,” she said.
“This is not a job for the faint of heart. Their hands are always full, but their hearts are fuller.”
For more information about Women’s Contact Society’s ongoing and upcoming programs and events, including the annual free Children’s Festival in Boitanio Park (where new vendors are welcome) on Sunday, May 26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., phone 250-392-4118.