The UFT has been approved by the city Department of Education as a network provider coordinating the work of home-based family child care providers, a notable expansion of the union’s advocacy on behalf of these workers.
After a competitive bidding process, 50 organizations, including the UFT’s United Network of Early Childhood Educators, were awarded contracts as network providers and will receive funding from both the city and the state.
“The state recognizes the training and classes we offer,” said Tammie Miller, the chair of the UFT’s Family Child Care Providers Chapter. “This made us uniquely qualified.”
The union is known for “high-caliber, high-quality work,” said Inez Chillous, the director of the UFT Provider Grant Program. She said the union has been in the forefront of professional development, offering no-cost regulatory training and credentials such as child development associate. “We’ve already built trust with providers,” Miller said.
Family child care providers voted in 2007 to join the UFT, and they have for years been asking the union to form a network, said Miller.
The UFT in 2019 applied for networks in all five boroughs but was only allocated slots in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. About 100 providers, including 62 in the Bronx, have affiliated with the new UFT network this year.
“Joining the UFT was always the right thing to do,” said Ivan Barahona, who operates Barahona Daycare out of his home in the Bronx. The union’s “model philosophy of child care and early childhood education,” he said, made the UFT network the top choice for his business.
Miller, the UFT chapter chair, organized virtual information sessions to introduce prospective network members to the UFT. Then Barahona and other providers ranked their top three network choices for the 2020–21 school year using the DOE’s online enrollment form to assign providers to a network.
Odette Valdez, the UFT network director in the Bronx, said the union’s “professional development is absolutely superb, so the providers are familiar with the training; they know how the UFT operates and they know how supportive the UFT is.”
Valdez and her counterparts in Manhattan and Staten Island assess providers in the UFT network virtually to get a baseline of their needs, asking questions about the number of children enrolled in their program, what kinds of meals or snacks they offer and their business hours.
The biggest challenge that child care providers face during the coronavirus crisis is low enrollment, Valdez said. For example, Barahona Daycare used to serve nine families, but now serves only five.
“We want to help providers increase their numbers,’’ Valdez said, by being as supportive as possible and encouraging them to market their business and not to close their doors.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Barahona says, “but the UFT stands as a family and we’re in it together.”