Family Child Care: A Professional Career Path

I always had one passion in life, for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a teacher. I remember playing “school” with my younger brother. I would write math problems on the windows for him to solve. Throughout high school I participated in Future Teachers of America. Each week I would spend a few afternoons volunteering in the classroom at the local elementary school. At this point in my life I only associated a teaching career being possible in a K-12 school. No one ever told me there could be another option.

After I graduated high school, I went straight to college. After a semester, though my passion for becoming a teacher didn’t cool, my interest in attending UMF did. I missed my family, my boyfriend. I transferred to University of Southern Maine for the spring semester. USM did not offer an education degree, so I opted for another interest of mine, business. A few years went by and I got married, bought a house, and had a great career start in the investment field.

22308808_10155716367824633_8132545034294681172_nThen I had my son. A lightbulb went off in my head as I started looking for childcare. I realized I could do what I always dreamed of, be a teacher, and stay home with my children. I enrolled at Andover in the late summer if 2003 and opened my family childcare. With every class I took and every day working from home I knew I had made the right decision. I graduated in 2005, right before the birth of my second son.



When I first told my employer I was leaving to open my own business, they highly discouraged me. I was given stats on how many new business’s fail in the first year. I was asked why I would want to throw away my current career to become a babysitter. I had doubts myself, but it felt right to move in this direction.

My first early childhood professor showed me how important this career path was. This is where I first learned about Maine Roads to Quality and National Accreditation. I learned the business side of childcare was just as important as the educational component of childcare.

I often hear providers discuss the challenges they face with parents and community. They discuss how they are not being respected. Parents don’t want to pay for a vacation or late pick up charge. Parents treat the provider as an employee, trying to dictate what is done in the business. Parents challenge their knowledge, questioning everything. I know I still experience “the look” when I say I am a family childcare provider. I am asked why I still do care in my home since my children are older. Or they assume I will stop once my children graduate, then I will go back and get a real job. Even my employees are asked when they will get a real job. They get a paycheck each week, they have a real job!

The financial field I was first in, is considered a professional career. When I was in that career, I took finance classes to get certifications. I had to have a fingerprint background check done. I had to pass tests to be licensed to trade on the stock exchange. When I told people where I worked, they would say, “Wow” or “What a great career path you’ll have.”

Over the years I have been a family childcare provider, as I obtained certifications, acquired more experience and education, I am treated more like a professional than a babysitter.

I first obtained national accreditation in 2007 and have since renewed three times. I now have 3 employees and 12 children every day. In 2015, Shunk Child Care, became the first in the State of Maine to obtain outdoor classroom certification through Nature Explore. In 2018 we were endorsed as an Eco-Healthy Child Care through the Children’s Environmental Health Network. Family child care is my calling and I am enjoying every moment of it.

I have been involved with our state associations (with the various forms it has taken) over the years. I am the current treasurer of our newly formed State Association (FCCAM) which is an official affiliate to the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC.)

I encourage all  early educators, especially family providers to join your State and National Associations. Look for credentials and certificates you can obtain to improve the quality of your program. The more you view yourself as a professional business owner in a professional career the more others will view you that way as well.

I wish when I was in high school someone had told me being a early education teacher was a career option.  My goal is for everyone who is interested in becoming a teacher to know family childcare is a possible choice. I want communities to understand the importance of home-based family childcare providers. Family childcare providers care for over 900,000 children in the United States. We must continue to come together and continue to develop our profession.

80% of a child’s brain develops before age 3, 90% before age 5. We truly are helping to raise the future.



screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-9-16-07-amFamily Child Care Association of Maine:

National Association For Family Child Care:

Nature Explore:

Let’s Go 5210:

Eco-Healthy Child Care:

Maine Roads to Quality:





Bridget Goes to Conference…

Bridget and ShannonConference 2018 Thoughts…

This was my fourth time attending the National Family Child Care Association’s Annual Conference. This year was an entirely different experience, as I attended not just as a provider, but as a board member of Family Child Care Association, Maine.

In previous years, I chose workshops based on my own personal interests, and topics that I thought I could adapt into my teaching. This year was different, in that I chose workshop sessions that were more about leadership and working with a broader scope. One of these workshops was one that I was invited to, which was quite exciting. I was asked to participate in an open dialogue with Shannon Christian. Shannon is the Director of the Office of Child Care at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families. The OCC is responsible for the Child Care Block Development Grant. This is federal money that is allocated to the states, so long as each state meets the requirements outlined in the grant. This grant is working to help families receive high quality, affordable child care.

The purpose of this open dialogue was to share with Shannon challenges we face as Family Child Care providers, as well as programs and supports within our state that are working well for us. This session included around twenty-five other family child care providers, all of whom are affiliated with their state’s Family Child Care Association. It was very informative to hear from providers around the country. I found that we all had similar concerns, and when we shared them with Shannon, she seemed interested in ways that she and her staff could help us to overcome roadblocks.

One issue seemed to stand out most, and that was states not recognizing Family Child Care as what it is. Family Child Care is a valid avenue for the care and education of our young children. The idea of FCC is that children are taught, loved, and nurtured in a home like environment. Too often, when FCC is observed by state and federal funding sources, we are held to the same standards as child care centers, when that’s not what we are. FCC providers don’t want their homes to look like little, “mini centers”, they want them to look like homes. This is not to say that one is better than the other, but there are differences in what FCC looks like, as there well should be.

This issue of states sending in personnel who are unaware of what a family child care looks like, and what it is, seemed to raise the importance of providers joining forces in their states. Each of the state representatives who mentioned issues with their states, were part of their state’s family child care association. This stressed the importance of groups, such as Family Child Care Association, Maine. It is through these affiliates that each of our whispers becomes a shout, and we work together for the good of the state.     

Shannon also mentioned that overall, the amount of family child care homes has been on a decline over the last ten years. Based on what I heard at this meeting, it seemed like most family child care homes are closing because the cost of living is rising, and that most new homes built have Homeowners Associations, which bar homes from having businesses in the development.    

What does this mean for Maine? It seems like, overall, we are doing better than some states. We have already implemented as a source for searching child care by area. We have Maine Roads to Quality, which is an excellent resource for those in our field. This meeting stressed to me the importance of providers belonging to organizations like MRTQ, as they can keep track of programs, and what types of support and trainings providers need.


Community Partnerships Can Change Lives: My Beach to Beacon Story

If you don’t know about this race, let me fill you in. The Beach to Beacon is an iconic race which has been a staple in Maine since 1998. Joan Benoit Samuelson is the founder. Who is Joan? She was the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for a marathon. She won the inaugural woman’s marathon in 1984.

We first need to start back several years….high school. Remember having to run the mile in gym class? I do and it was terrible. I was overweight and generally unhealthy. I have this vivid memory of my freshman year when another girl and I were the last 2 rounding the bend, slowly. She was popular, I was not. 4-5 of the popular boys ran back to her and literally pushed and pulled her across the finish line. They yelled things like “you’re not going to be last, you’re not a loser.” They also said a variety of other not nice things toward me for being last. Needless to say, that experience in no way empowered me to become healthier.

Now let’s fast forward to 2012. This is the point where my husband’s running journey started. He was a school bus driver and had the opportunity to transport a group to and from the Beach to Beacon. He was able to watch the elite runners cross the finish line, it was nothing like he had seen before. The strength and endurance they displayed had my husband in awe. Back on the bus, as the racers loaded on, everyone seemed to have this glow about them. Also, they all had medals. My husband thought that was cool and thought to himself, “I want a medal.” Literally the next day he started running. The following year he would go on to run several 5ks, a couple of 10ks, and a 1/2 marathon.

James encouraged me to run. He was always there to support me. I struggled with running, it was not fun. After focusing on healthy eating, general exercise, and lots of stretching, I was ready to try some races. My first 5k was in October 2014, the L.L. Bean Bright Night 5k. Yep, I came in dead last. Though this time, everyone was cheering me on. After the race people approached me and said congrats and wow you were amazing. It felt great. I knew then I was going to keep running!
1st 10k

In February 2015, I remember being on the treadmill at my gym, Anytime Fitness. I finished a 5k, then decided to try for 4 miles, then I kept going hit 5 miles, well then I thought I’m almost there and got to 6.2 miles….a 10k. I couldn’t believe what I had done, “Who am I?” I thought. I decided then and there to try and get into the Beach to Beacon. 


August, 2015 I ran the B2B, my first official 10k. What an amazing race experience. The running community is so supportive. I felt more empowered with every step. I am proud to have participated in 2016, 2017, and will again in 2018.

At the B2B, I won the raffle for a free entry into the Lake Auburn 1/2 marathon and I completed my first half that September. Yep, I was dead last again. I had no ill feelings though, only positivity. Everyone was so supportive, cheering me on. I have since completed 8 half marathons! Something I never thought I was capable of.

I have extended my “miles” by having mileage club each summer in my childcare. We have a .5 mile, 1 mile, 2 mile, and 4 mile route (for our oldest only!) The children love the medals my husband and I have earned. So, I created a “medal” for the children. Everyone has their own necklace and for every mile they walk, a foot is added. One year the challenge was who could get to 500 miles first Sasha, or the children collectively. Another year we tracked our progress on a State of Maine Map. As we accumulated miles, we marked on a map of the State of Maine. This year we are simple tracking with a goal to collectively reach 500 miles. By the end of June we had already completed 107 miles!

What do we learn in mileage club?!? So much! It fills me with joy when the children request a walk, and want to challenge themselves by going further or running faster. Below is from our newsletter explaining the how our mileage connects to Maine’s Developmental Learning Standards.

We use this activity to meet a variety of learning goals as put forth by the State of Maine. It is so much more than us simply going for a walk. Maine’s Development Standards are written as a continuum from age 3 to 5. Maine also has infant/toddler guidelines which feed into the Preschool Age Standards.

Social/Emotional Development: plays beside and interacts with peers, participates in group glee, impulse control, anticipates and follows routines, follow safety guidelines

Approaches to Learning: participates in an increasing variety of tasks and activities, begins to set goals, develop plans and complete tasks

Language Standards: vocabulary acquisition and use

Safety: seeks adult approval before approaching unknown pets

Motor Skills: walks/runs well, increase of jumping, hopping, skipping skills

Physical Health Status: maintains physical growth within the CDC recommended body mass index, develops and awareness of personal health and fitness

Math: rote count to 10 and beyond, recognizes written numerals 0-5, responds with number words and/or counting strategy when asked the question How many, transitions from rote counting to 1:1 correspondence, color recognition, recognize and duplicate patterns, represents data using simple graphs

Physical/Earth Science describes temperature, weather and seasons using words such as, rainy, cold, warm, sunny and identifies items used for protection, safety and enjoyment in different weather conditions, makes simple observations about the sky and connects observations to what we do outside

Social Studies: understands the reasons for rules in the home and classroom and for laws in the community, displays awareness that rules and laws change, participates in developing classroom rules and decisions, recognize that people share the environment with other people, animals and plants, recognizes aspects of the environment such as roads, buildings, trees, gardens, uses words to describe time such as yesterday, tomorrow, before, and after

In 2017, Let’s Go 5210, was the beneficiary for the Beach to Beacon. Since Shunk Child Care was (and still is) a Let’s Go Gold Site and my coordinator knew I was running the B2B, we were asked to host Joan Benoit Samuelson.

The Beach to Beacon helped to change my life. If my husband hadn’t initially been to the event, he would have never started running. Without his encouragement, I would have never started running. Though, I might have still started mileage club, it would not be at the level it is today. For certain, Joan would have never visited the program and most importantly a picture of my bathroom would have never garnered over 600 likes!


Though I realize not everyone wants to start running. I would encourage everyone to try and be a bit more active and find a way to incorporate with the children you care for. Teach them at a young age to be supportive and help each other.

I am fundraising this year for Let’s Go 5210. Below is a link to my page.

For More Information:

Beach to Beacon:

Let’s Go 5210:

Maine Developmental Standards:

Where I purchased the mileage club supplies:

In the media

Next week, NAEYC, is having their annual Week of the Young Child. This reminds me of the 2009 event, when childcares across Maine, displayed children’s art work at the State House. My son and I delivered cookies to the Senators and Representatives. Attached to each cookie was a painted child’s hand print with a tag line, which was something like, “high five for quality child care” or “raise a hand for kids.” I wish I could remember what it was!


Over the years I have been an outspoken advocate for quality childcare. I have testified in Augusta several times.

In 2009, providers fought for their right to have homeowners insurance with LD 896 An Act to Ensure Adequate Access to Insurance for Family Child Care Providers. I was please to testify and now today providers have are not turned away simply because they have a home based childcare.

Here is a copy of my testimony…

Most recently I was in Augusta about a year ago….

“Testified this morning opposing LD 559. The workshop will be next Monday & the committee has lots of questions for DHHS. Hopefully this bill will be opposed! Joshua & I tried to visit the State House Museum, but it wasn’t open today. Oh well, Joshua still got to experience a bill hearing.”

Currently there is a bill on the floor, LD 166 An Act To Increase Reimbursement for Child Care Services. This is needed! Please contact your legislator today! We need higher subsidy rates to ensure quality child care for all of Maine’s children!

Here are some other throwbacks when we would host US PIRGS, Trouble in Toyland report!


Additional Resources:“trouble-toyland”-survey-finds-dangerous-toys-store-shelves