September 21, 2013

Childcare Council turns 25

Coordinating group offers parental support, childcare services

By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — A group of mothers, professionals and businesswomen gave birth 25 years ago to what is now the Childcare Coordinating Council of the North Country.

“It incorporated as a not-for-profit on Oct. 11, 1988,” said Jamie Basiliere, the council’s executive director.

“I always called them the founding mothers. They were very interested and concerned about the quality, accessibility and affordability of child care in the tri-county region. They formed a committee, incorporated and ultimately got some funding through Sen. Ron Stafford in the way of a legislative grant known back in the day as pork-barrel funding, pork-barrel funding for babies and children.”

That grant launched the council.

“The group of founding mothers included people like Deena McCullough of Northern Insuring; Peg Mannix; Peggy Clifford, who works for the Health Department; Jane Gore, who retired from SUNY Plattsburgh’s Human Development program; Jean Williams, (who) retired from the Clinton County Youth Bureau; (and) Chris Allen, (who) just retired from the Department of Social Services,” Baisiliere said. “There were a few others ... It was really their efforts and Deena’s close relationship with Sen. Stafford, who got the Childcare Council the initial funding.”

Basiliere came on board in 1992.

“There was enough money in the bank for not very long,” she said. “I was an employee of one. They secured some free office space at Clinton Community College. The work we did then and we still do today, we help parents find child care. We recruit and train child-care providers. We work with businesses to help them address the child-care needs of their employees. We work throughout the community to improve awareness of and quality of early care services.”

The council has grown in a relatively upward trajectory in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.

“In 1995, we developed Family Connections Resource Center. That’s where we have a place where families go to access all kinds of programs and services to support parents and to help prevent child abuse. We offer playgroups and parenting-support groups, parenting-education classes and something we call resource counseling. It is helping parents find resources in the community,” Basiliere said.

In 1998, the council developed Families R Us in Malone, a kid sister to Family Connections.

“Also that very same year, we began a supervised-visitation program for families who had lost custody of their kids and who were essentially court-ordered to only have contact with their kids in a supervised setting. That program continues today,” she said.

In 2000, family-resource centers, Family Matters in Tupper Lake and a sub-contract, Families First in Elizabethtown, were developed.

“We support them (Families First) with some funding to provide a family-resource center. They all offer playgroups, parental support, group parenting-education classes. What’s very important is families from all walks of life participate. Rich, poor, single, double, it doesn’t matter the family makeup. There’s no qualifying criterion. It’s universal access,” Basiliere said.

The council partnered with Champlain Valley Educational Services to offer Even Start, a family-literacy project, from 2000 to 2006.

“We worked with 50 families who didn’t have their high-school diplomas. These were very young parents with very young children, birth to 9 years old. We provided a nice, neat package of services, including GED prep, parenting education and home visiting. Sadly, that project came to an end because state and federal funding for it started to diminish at that time, and we were one of the first programs to be cut,” she said.

As Even Start ended, the council received funding for a Kinship Caregiver Program.

“The funding just ended. We had funding to support grandparents and other relatives — aunts, uncles, older siblings, great-grandparents in some instances — with a whole menu of services because these relatives were raising kids because the kids’ parents could not or would not raise them,” Basiliere said.

Biological parents were out of the picture due to incarceration, loss of custody or other reasons.

“In very few instances, parents were working to regain custody. We offered respite, fun-family programming and support groups. We were able to buy things like beds and dressers, which were the two most common items ... needed.”

“That takes it to where we are now,” Basiliere said. “We’re having a big celebration. It’s a luncheon at the new Orchard House in Peru for our board and staff on Oct. 16.”

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TO LEARN MORE WHAT: Childcare Coordination Council of the North Country WHERE: 194 U.S. Oval, Plattsburgh. CONTACT: 561-4999