To close out the year we had a chance to catch up with Executive Director, Gloria Kat and Education Director, Joe Ziegler to hear their perspective on the year 2021 and what they are looking forward to in 2022. 

Before we dive in, we would be remiss not to share Gloria’s words reflecting on this last year of the pandemic. Gloria shared, “I would like to acknowledge the pain and losses that each one of us have experienced since the onset of the pandemic. It is my desire to be present for each one of you and share a moment of silence. As life goes on, we learn to accept and celebrate the many gifts that life gives us every day.” We know the challenges many of our families have been through this year and we also know the ways our community has stepped up to continue providing the support needed to ensure parents can work, pay their bills, feel empowered, and so much more! 

This year, we asked Gloria and Joe to reflect on a couple of questions: 

(1) Share a recap of your work in 2021

(2) What has changed or developed the most in 2021?

(3) What work have you been most proud of personally?

(4) What are your focus areas or goals for 2022?

Let’s dive in!

  1. Share a recap of your work in 2021: 

Gloria: I would like to evaluate for the community our Annual Report for 2020-2021. There is an amazing wrap up of information in this report for the year. This includes a look back on our work with El Nidito, our early care and education center (see more from Joe!). The report also shares information about the impact of our Family Strengthening Services, which includes evidence-based intervention programs, an advocacy closet with household necessities, utility assistance, car seat classes, COVID-19 vaccination, holiday adopt-a-family program, and mental health awareness support. Finally, there is information about the work with Mi Voz, a program committed to leadership development and strengthening community members’ voices in civic engagement policies and government. This has also helped create a program of Community Health Workers or Promotoras who help provide resources, advocacy, and services to the community. 

Joe: I can only speak specifically to the El Nidito Early Care and Education Program, but this year in El Nidito we have really tried to provide the highest quality care and early learning experiences possible while accounting for needs of all of our families, staff, etc. as we all do our best to navigate the ever changing landscape of life in relation to the global pandemic. Over the course of the year, El Nidito has been able to provide high quality early care and education experiences to about 68 children, representing 56 different families. Through our continued implementation of the Pyramid Model for supporting Social Emotional Competency in infants and young children, we have focused on promoting the social, emotional, and behavioral development for our children. This fall, the virtual Colorado Shines rating process. Colorado Shines is the state of Colorado’s quality rating and improvement system. While this was our third time going through the Shines rating process, doing this in the context of a global pandemic and a massive industry workforce shortage, certainly presented some interesting new challenges. However, our El Nidito team did an amazing job, as they always do, and we look forward to receiving our new rating soon.  

  1. What has changed or developed most in 2021?

Gloria: I would highlight how we have supported our families. As a family resource center it is our job to provide comprehensive support to the families that utilize our programs. Please find details about how we do this within each of our programs and support services in our Annual Report, directly on the website, or through our Facebook and Instagram

Joe: In 2021, I feel like our work toward really putting the social and emotional wellbeing of our children and employees at the forefront of what we do has probably developed the most. As I mentioned, this year, a great amount of work has been done with the Pyramid Model. Lia Closson, our Early Childhood Mental Health Support Specialist, has been huge asset to the program in terms of ensuring that our educators are trained in and receive coaching around the Pyramid Model, and then integrating the model within our classrooms and our program as a whole. Additionally, beginning in the spring of 2021, 100% of El Nidito educators began participating in monthly Reflective Practice sessions. These sessions provide a time for regular collaborative reflection between a service provider and our educators that allows them to share their thoughts, feelings, and values as they reflect on their practices and experiences early childhood educators. We know that Early Childhood Education can be a very stressful and often under appreciated field. And we know that the past almost 2 years have been more challenging than ever, not just for our educators, but for our families, and our children. It’s our hope that the work we have done in 2021 and will continue to do, will help to alleviate some of that stress and address some of those challenges.  

  1. What work have you been most proud of personally? 

Gloria: Again, this year was really about supporting our families. I am proud of how our center is flexible and has the capacity to adapt and continue serving families needing childcare. Joe has mastered the pandemic since its outbreak; keeping the center safe and open, with minimal disruptions. To me, that is the most powerful message for the end of 2021.  

Joe: Honestly, I think what I have been most proud of really is just our ability to adjust, adapt, and keep moving forward. Again, these have been very challenging and often complicated times for everyone. However, as a team we have been able to meet those challenges, every step of the way. We have kept our center community healthy and safe, with very limited interruptions to programming in relation to COVID-19 in 2021. We’ve found new ways to connect with and support families, such as offering virtual family engagement and information meetings, COVID-safe outdoor family events, etc. We introduced a Teacher Advisory Committee to better allow our educators to participate in program planning and decision making. We continue to offer flexible and accessible options for care for families, and so much more. Regardless of what has come our way, we have been able to maintain quality and do our very best to meet the needs of our community. And of course, most importantly, our amazing El Nidito educators continue to nurture, develop, and love our El Nidito children!  

  1. What are your focus areas or goals for 2022?

Gloria: In 2022, we will continue the Bridges to Health Minds project around mental health for the Latinx community. We will be offering different informational and educational sessions. The topics have not yet been decided but continue to check our website and Facebook page for more updates. There will also be another series of The Incredible Years in Spanish and we hope to offer CPR classes in Spanish as well. Both of these programs are offered to our families and shared to the community through our Facebook and by our Community Health Workers, Promotores. We also hope to continue promoting the Advocacy Closet for baby diapers and other essentials. It is by appointment only due to COVID but we would like to build more awareness of this service for our families. 

Joe: I think in 2022 one of our biggest goals for El Nidito, is to obviously maintain our services, but to slow down, take a breath, and reflect on all that we have learned from the past couple years, and how we can utilize that in developing and implementing effective structure and systems moving forward. While our ability to adjust and adapt has been one of things I am most proud of, it does sometimes feel like so much over the past years has been us reacting to what has been thrown at us. While I believe we have done so in the most positive way possible, I think now we have the opportunity to really build on what we have learned, what we know we have, and what we know we are lacking. Whether that be in the area of program structure and/or expansion, professional development, innovative staffing, etc. I look forward to the opportunities that 2021 has in store for us.  

Colorado Gives Day

Thank you so much for sharing your insight with us Gloria and Joe! We can’t wait to continue GROWing next year and see what else is in store. 

To our audience, please consider becoming a monthly donor to support the work that was shared in this interview, as well as every facet of the work of The Family Center/La Familia. Monthly donation makes a long-term, sustainable, and reliable impact for our organization to continue providing these supportive services to our families and community to help us all not just survive but thrive. Learn more about monthly donation here

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