5 Questions with Barbara Clay: Nebraska Child Care Provider Participating in Step Up to Quality

by | Sep 18, 2014

Tell us about yourself — how did you get started with your child care business?
I began U.N.I.Q.U.E. Childcare and Family Services Family Home in 1997 in the North Omaha community. The mission and vision of our child care is: Using Necessary Involvement to provide Quality Unlimited Education to children and their families. We currently serve eight children and are licensed for 10.

My husband, who has 40 years’ experience, works with me. His father recently retired from Boys and Girls Club as President and CEO with 45+ years of service to many clubs throughout the United  States. My husband worked in the clubs as a teenager, which began his journey in working with children. We also have a disabled volunteer who has loved and served children and their families for the past 35 years.

Child care has been a part of my entire life. My mother died when I was 7-years-old. I’m the oldest of five children, and with the help of grandmothers, my dad kept us together and raised us all, and I helped him with my siblings.  After high school, I worked in the banking industry for about 10 years and met my husband. We have two adult sons and two sons who are 8-years-old that we adopted through foster care. I decided to start my child care home when our older sons were in grade school.

We were doing great and one of my sisters suggested I go back to school, and my husband supported me. I began taking classes at Metropolitan Community College and received the Teach Nebraska Scholarship in 2002 and earned my Associates in Applied Science Early Childhood Director/Head Teacher in 2003. I continued on to Bellevue University where I earned my Bachelors of Science in Human and Social Services Administration in 2006, Certified Life Coach in 2007 and Masters of Science in Individual and Community Counseling in 2009.

When did you start with Step Up to Quality and where are you in the process?
I started with Step Up to Quality by attending an orientation on July 18. With Quality being a part of U.N.I.Q.U.E.’s mission, it was a no brainer; I was going to participate. We can always make room to better ourselves in whatever profession we work in. I earned Step 1 on August 4.

Why did you choose this profession and why do you think quality early childhood education is important?
In looking back at our lives, I believe our steps were ordered by God. This is our purpose. I have always loved helping others as well as cared about the care of our own children. I believe early childhood education is important because the first three years of life for a person sets either a strong or weak foundation. I love having the opportunity to positively impact children’s growth and development, social, emotional, physical and overall learning. It is such a blessing watching them achieve one step at a time getting ready for school and their community at large.

We know from parents’ feedback that they believe their kids were more than ready for kindergarten. Many have gone on to be successful by graduating or attending the following colleges: University Nebraska–Lincoln, UNO, UMKC, Spelman in Atlanta, University of Iowa, UNK and Missouri State. If not attending a college, they work at jobs and are becoming productive citizens.

Lastly, I chose this profession to be a change agent of positivity and to stress we are “Can Do People,” impacting the lives of children and their families, and making a difference so parents can feel comfortable and assured that their children are receiving the love they would give them if they didn’t have to work. Their child can still receive tender loving care and develop in a nurturing environment.

As a parent, I’ve always wanted the best for our children, especially from the people who impact their lives (pastors, teachers, caregivers, coaches, etc.) We have been blessed to help them make healthy choices to reduce the violence and negativity that has become widespread in the Omaha community and the world. I want parents to know we truly care, love and appreciate them choosing us as their provider.

What has the Step Up to Quality process been like so far?
It’s been good, but confusing. It doesn’t make sense that my educational background does not qualify me for Step 2, and equivalencies for college courses that included all seven domains of the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines aren’t allowed. Other professions will take your resume and earned degrees and count them toward requirements. Working with children it seems as though much more is required, which is okay because it is very important that we screen to the best of our abilities all those who work or impact the lives of innocent children.

Editor’s Note: The Nebraska Departments of Health & Human Services and Education report they are surveying Nebraska’s community colleges, four-year colleges and universities to determine specific majors that include coursework on Nebraska’s Early Learning Guidelines and management training, and the date the coursework was added. Anyone who earns degrees with majors in those specific areas at or after the time their institution incorporated the guidelines and training will be granted equivalencies for meeting that portion of Step 2 requirements in the Step Up to Quality system.

What would you like others to know about Step Up to Quality?
I want others to know it may seem overwhelming or difficult to accomplish all the new rules and regulations. But if you have the love, drive and passion in meeting needs of children, don’t give up. Take the necessary steps, one at a time, to be able to continue to provide quality care to our future generation. We as providers have a great opportunity to impact and make a difference in the lives of these children that will carry them through their entire life.

More information on Step Up to Quality

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