When Norma Gaona had her first child, she was working at a small Mexican grocery store. Like many working moms, she struggled to find adequate child care. She needed to work to support her family, but she wasn't thrilled with the child care she found. Although her child was physically safe, she felt that something was missing. It didn't have the nurturing and educational environment that she wanted for her child.
Norma knew she wasn't alone. She knew other working moms wanted better child care too. So two years later, when she was expecting her second child, she decided to make a change. She decided to open up her own child care business.
Not sure of where to start, she turned to Community Action for help. During her pregnancy, Norma took advantage of the classes and guidance offered through our Child Care Resource & Referral program. She took the necessary classes and became a registered, licensed child care provider.
Next she set up her house. She turned the first floor of her house into a safe and enriching environment for children. Using her knowledge of child development that she learned from Community Action, she created inviting areas for educational activities. She created a library area, a space for writing and art, an area with manipulatives, and even a dramatic play area. Within two months of her baby's birth, she was ready to open her business, Norma's Daycare LLC, Bilingual School.
The parents Norma serves appreciate that she provides a bilingual environment for the children by reading and speaking in both Spanish and English. Norma's face lights up as she describes the surprise of a parent when their 3 year old recited the days of the week. Norma wasn't surprised at all. The days of the week are part of her daily circle time with the children.
Norma soon realized that having a larger vehicle to transport children would help her business grow. She didn't have the cash to buy a van, but with the help of Community Action's IDA program, she was able to save for one. The IDA program is a matched savings plan that can be used to expand a child care business. An individual sets a savings goal of up to $3,000. If they meet that goal within 3 years, the savings is matched 3 to 1. That is exactly what Norma did. She set her goal at $3,000, took the financial classes that helped her with budgeting, and then met her goal. She saved $3,000 which was matched with $9,000 giving her $12,000 to buy a van to transport her child care children.
Over the last 4 years, Norma has continued to improve the quality of care she provides. With the help of Community Action, she has continued to take classes moving her way up the Oregon Registry, a pathway that recognizes the professional development growth and achievement in the early childhood field.
Through her participation in our Focused Child Care Network, Norma recently received her 3-star quality rating in Oregon's Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), a systematic approach to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early childhood programs. Karen Henkemeyer, Child Care Resource & Referral Program Manager, is proud of Norma's accomplishments: "Norma Gaona is an exceptional role model ... In addition to taking hundreds of hours of training, completing a large QRIS portfolio that brings evidence to the quality of her work, she cares for children 55 hours a week!"
Norma is very happy with the success of her business and credits Community Action with providing the support she needed to make it happen. But what she is truly grateful for is how Community Action has made her a better parent. She has a deeper understanding of child development, of the different ways children learn, and of the importance of modelling behavior. She finds that this makes her more effective with her own children. And for Norma, this is the true reward.