Meet Kelly Raines, Provider Leader, Kansas City resident, and founder & owner of Birdsall House. Kelly started Birdsall House after 30 years in the ECE field with the goal of respecting families, children and caregivers. Birdsall House started as a family care center and has grown into a group home caring for 16 children. They are in the process of building a new space for our infants, toddlers and preschool children and a camp for our school age group. She is currently the Missouri State representative for the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC). Read more of her story below!
Why did you become an advocate for ECE?
I have been in ECE for 30 years. I have worked in many different kinds of child care facilities. I have seen great centers and some that are not so great. One thing I always saw was overworked, underpaid employees and lots of employee turnover. I am often frustrated by politicians who don’t seem to understand how important the first five of life are and the opportunity we are missing by not investing in them. I decided that if they don’t know that, I’ll start telling them and hopefully if enough of us share our stories knowledge and experiences, they will listen.
Why do you think it’s important to be an advocate as a Provider?
I feel I need to advocate because I have talked to many families and heard their stories of not being able to find the care they want for their children. I have also seen way to many caregivers give up a job they love so that they can support their families. The pandemic has shone a light on a problem that has been going on for years. Caregivers are no longer willing to accept low wages for one of the most important jobs there are. Families can’t afford to pay tuition high enough for staff to make a living wage. It is a broken system and needs to be fixed. Our children, families and caregivers deserve better than what we have now.
Why should Missouri invest more in early childcare and education?
Investing in early childcare and education is the best investment for the future. In the first three years of life we experience 80% of our brain growth. If those first three years are spent with a trusted caregiver, full of play and exploration, and given the opportunity to build relationships with peers, that child will do better in school, be less likely to end up in the criminal justice system and will be better prepared for life than a child who did not have the chance to build close relationships in those first three years. I recently talked to a parent whose three year old had six different teachers in one year. We need to support the early childhood workforce to be able to provide quality care.
In one sentence, what does the ideal early care and education system look like for families in Missouri?
A perfect childcare system would allow for families to choose the kind of care they want for their child, be affordable and support the caregivers who make it all possible.