Spotlight on … Child Development Council

By Rob Montana
Tompkins Weekly

Non-profit organizations are plentiful throughout Tompkins County, and make a big impact in our communities. Despite their contributions, area non-profits can sometimes go unnoticed or unknown. In an effort to shine a spotlight on those who are making a difference in our county, Tompkins Weekly will be showcasing these organizations on a regular basis.
This week we are highlighting the Child Development Council, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. To learn more about the organization, we asked Michelle Courtney Berry, who is manager of the Child Development Council’s 50th Anniversary Campaign & Celebration, to offer more insight into the organization’s operation.

Photo Provided
A mother and children play at the Child
Development Council’s table during the Family Reading Partnership’s Bookfest.

Tompkins Weekly: When was Child Development Council founded?
Michelle Courtney Berry: We were founded 50 years ago in 1967 by our first Executive Director June Rogers with seed money from The United Way and the Tompkins Trust Company. We are celebrating our 50th year, right now starting in January 2017 with CEO Sue Dale-Hall, who has led the agency for the past 25 years.
Throughout 2017, we’ll unveil a series of celebratory programs and events designed to entertain, engage, educate, and appreciate our amazing friends.

TW: What is your mission?
MCB: The mission of the Child Development Council is to promote the healthy development of children and families at home, in child care, and in the communities we serve in Cortland and Tompkins Counties.
We fulfill our mission in the following ways:
— Through collaborations and partnerships with other agencies, businesses, colleges/universities, schools, municipalities, other employers, elected officials, and other entities invested in early childhood education and advocacy for early childhood development in our communities.
— Through three programmatic thrusts – Child Care Resource and Referral – Family Support Services – and the Teen Pregnancy/Parenting Program. This includes a home visiting program, an infant-toddler health initiative, childcare provider support, a childcare healthy food program among other best practices and offerings.
— By providing assistance – we connect our families, community members, and providers to the latest information, resources,scholarships, and referrals that enable their children to thrive with parents and in childcare.
— By monitoring the supply and demand of childcare in our region – and by advising our region’s employers on how to develop family-friendly policies and benefits.
— Through engaging our community partners, friends, volunteers/board in the kind of volunteer work they enjoy most at our organization.

TW: What is something people do not know about your organization?
MCB: People know us best as their “go-to” agency for quality child care information and referrals since 1967.
They might also want to know that we:
— Advise employers on family friendly polices and benefits.

— Monitor the supply and demand of child care and survey parents.
— Conduct home visits with parents and their children (up to age 5).
— Support parents with a wide array of resources.
— Offer scholarships to offset the high cost of child care.
— Provide start-up assistance and training for providers.
— Connect pregnant teens to services and support.
TW: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces?
MCB: Our organization continues to make great strides in engaging the communities we serve. Although we do not provide childcare, but rather refer families to quality childcare as one of our many offerings, we do see many serious challenges on the horizon. Demand does not meet supply for childcare, so we encourage and support more quality childcare offerings. The cost of childcare is deeply prohibitive and for too long, many families have had to sacrifice either their job or their paycheck to be able to “afford” childcare in New York State.
Our Chief Executive Officer Sue Dale-Hall spoke about the issue recently:
“For too long, New York’s middle-class families have had to sacrifice either their job or their paycheck to send their child to daycare. That’s not fair and it’s not right – and with this enhanced Child Care Tax Credit, Governor Cuomo is changing that,” Dale-Hall said. “By more than doubling the tax benefit our state’s working families will take home, the cost of child care will no longer be a barrier to economic mobility and more New Yorkers will be able to remain in the workforce. I applaud the Governor for his leadership and look forward to seeing this initiative move swiftly forward.”
“Most families can’t find or afford good quality childcare which impacts the wellbeing of children today and in the future, she added. “The enhanced Child Care Tax Credit is an important piece of the much larger childcare financing puzzle.”

TW: How can people best support your mission?
MCB: People can best support our mission by referring others to our training, programs and services, volunteering time and donating what they can to help us move forward into the next century of service. Naturally, we also would enjoy the community’s support of our mission through sharing what we do with as many in their networks as possible.