Congratulations to the most recent graduates of the License Support Program!

The program provides early educators with free training in licensing, marketing, technology, finance, and other topics. Participants also get a free laptop.

The program participants provide a love of children and the desire to run vibrant child care programs.

One example is Catherine White-Phillips, who explained in her graduation speech:

“I went to school to become a teacher, but my dream wasn’t to work in a school, it was to start my own child care. I remember telling my advisor this dream in college and the look of bewilderment on her face. No surprise, I was a little discouraged by her reaction and continued my fight to become a teacher. Finally, 15 years later, I am happy to say that I have been given this opportunity to receive my child care license and become a CEO of my own child care.”

Graduation attendees: Celia “Millie” Garcia, family child care liaison, Project Hope; Vonnessa Goode-Knight, executive director of Project Hope; and Djena Jacques, director of Shared Services Massachusetts

Maria Ramirez, another participant, said in her speech:

“I arrived in the United States around 20 years ago with goals and dreams like every immigrant. One of those goals and dreams was to be able to own my own business and I was always focused on the area of child care because I thought that having 25 years of experience as an elementary school teacher would make it easier to achieve my dream. I realized that the process was not as easy as I thought because I found several barriers that prevented me from moving forward: the language, the lack of information and guidance regarding the process of obtaining the license and the economic factor. These factors kept me stagnant and postponing my dream for 20 years, but I was lucky enough to meet a friend who is currently an educator and she told me about the licensure support program.”

Launched last year, the licensing program is run by Shared Services of Massachusetts, part of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, and it’s a “groundbreaking model” that focuses on “strengthening business practices, sharing resources and information, consolidating buying power, and providing a platform for collaboration to enhance program quality.”

The program was created to address the closing of nearly one-third of family child care programs during the pandemic. So far, 25 educators have graduated from the program. Twenty have opened child care businesses in their homes. And over the next few years, another 45 additional businesses are expected to open in as a result of the licensing program, creating new, culturally aware child care spaces for up to 300 new children and families.

Graduation attendees: Karley Ausiello, chief community impact officer, United Way of Massachusetts Bay; Francia De Jesus-Flores, program director of Family Childcare from JPNDC; and Djena Jacques, director of Shared Services Massachusetts

In a LinkedIn post, Djena Jacques, the director of Shared Services, says that the 17 newest program graduates:

“…didn’t let any obstacles and setbacks stop them from achieving their goals and dreams of becoming CEOs, business owners, making a difference in the community. and advocating for families. Shared Services Department, at United Way of Massachusetts Bay is forever grateful to have partnered with you all in such an empowering journey. Your stories, dedication, persistence, and being there for each is out of this world and a beautiful thing to experience with this cohort.”

Jacques also points to the partners who supported the program, including the City of Boston; Kristin McSwain, Boston’s Senior Advisor for Early Childhood and the director of the Mayor’s Office of Early Childhood; the nonprofit organization Tech Goes Home; the Department of Early Education and Care; Nurtury; Project HOPE Boston, and JPNDC (the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation).

Shared Services began supporting early education and care providers in 2018, working with UMass Boston to offer a Small Business Innovation Course. In 2020, Shared Services worked with the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement to run business workshops for family childcare providers. And Shared Services trains providers in how to use the Ages & Stages Questionnaire training to screen children for developmental delays. A key priority is providing training in multiple languages.

Next on Shared Services agenda is growth. Thanks to federal funding, the program will expand into the Greater Merrimack Valley, serving Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn, and Haverhill. 

“We will reach an additional 100 family childcare educators with business training opportunities, an additional 120 educators with early screening training opportunities and bring 25 new family childcare educator/entrepreneurs into the field by the end of August 2024,” Jacques says.

We look forward to seeing this progress. As the country rebuilds after the worst of the pandemic, it is crucial to make these powerful and creative investments in family child care providers so that they in turn can support parents and children.