Be Child Care Aware: Educational campaign improves family choices

Linda Benedict, Gioe, Cheri M., Merrill, Thomas A., White, Rebecca E.  |  8/2/2006 8:56:11 PM

Improving the lives of Louisiana families and children has long been a goal of the LSU AgCenter. The “Be Child Care Aware!” educational campaign is one example of that work.

A joint project of the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support, the original two-year effort involved a comprehensive public awareness campaign designed to educate families and child-care providers about the importance of quality child care in the development of young children. Since that time, it has continued to reach parents and child-care providers with information on the potential of a child-care quality rating system for Louisiana. View photos of training sessions.

The “Be Child Care Aware!” initiative started in the fall of 2003, and officials estimate it reached more than 200,000 people with information on quality child care between then and the fall of 2005.

Among its many efforts have been the development of weekly newspaper columns, weekly radio announcements, educational displays, informational brochures for child-care providers and parents, educational presentations for child-care providers and parents and an informational Internet site. Go to Be Child Care Aware. The weekly newspaper columns are included in News You Can Use.

The educational information has been welcomed by child-care providers and parents alike.

For example, Veronica Finucane, director of the University Baptist Church Child Development Center in Baton Rouge, wrote that she “would like to applaud the LSU AgCenter for this effort” and encouraged that it “Keep up the great work!”

Finucane said she was grateful for the LSU AgCenter’s “aggressive approach to issues concerning child care” and added that the information developed in the “Be Child Care Aware!” campaign “helps families to make informed decisions about what to look for in child care.” She also said the Web site was a valuable source of information for newsletters for both the families with children enrolled in her center and her teachers.

Likewise, Aleta Jacobs, director of Bogalusa Head Start and Early Head Start, said the brochures on quality child care were valuable resources.

“Because we have a waiting list, we have decided to hand them out during the application process,” Jacobs said. “If the child does not get into Head Start, then at least the parent will have some knowledge of what to look for in another child-care setting.”

Cadra Menard, a mother of three from Shreveport, was among those who wrote to say how helpful the Web site had been.

“I am the mother of three small boys – ages: 3, 2 and 7 months. Needless to say, there are several days where I need some advice,” she wrote. “I just found the LSUAgCenter Web site and am beyond impressed by the information provided.”

The training sessions for child-care providers, which were part of the campaign, also netted positive comments. Participants said the sessions helped them learn how to better communicate with parents, how to better assist children who were having trouble and that taking better care of themselves can help them be better teachers.

Among the overall assessments of the classes were such comments as “These classes help make me a better teacher” and “These classes let me know that I am more than just a baby sitter.” In fact, most participants indicated they had learned valuable lessons that would help them provide better child care.

“The ‘Be Child Care Aware!’ campaign is an effective tool in enlightening Louisiana citizens about critical issues that affect families,” Nannette Russell White, (former) public relations officer for the state Department of Social Services, wrote. “We have found this initiative to be a helpful component in decision-making that allows parents to make informed, educated choices regarding their children's child-care needs.”

Although the grant funding for the original two-year “Be Child Care Aware!” campaign ended in the fall of 2005, LSU AgCenter faculty members are continuing their efforts to educate the public about the importance of quality child care – and the educational Web site is being maintained and updated with useful information.

In addition, another grant to fund a public awareness campaign about a quality rating system for child care in the state has continued the partnership between the LSU AgCenter and the state Department of Social Services on projects in this area.

The LSU AgCenter is one of 11 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter does not grant degrees nor benefit from tuition increases. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, enhancing the environment, and improving the quality of life through its 4-H youth, family and community programs.

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