Child Care Licensing staff in Houston hosted their 5th annual training conference on June 11, 2011. The conference included training sessions in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. A total of 419 child care providers attended - 258 for the English sessions, 91 for the Spanish, and 70 for the Vietnamese.

Among those who attended was Nathalie Contreras, who has been providing child care at her own home since 2006. "I get trainings from other sources but the information I receive at CCL conferences is something I can readily apply at my home child care," she says. "The information on the state's minimum standards helps me understand the requirements and then I tell parents to help them understand their role."

One of the topics Contreras found most beneficial was a session on preparing for possible emergencies or disasters. "The training was useful not only for my child care but for my family, too!" she says. "Now, I am more prepared to develop emergency disaster preparedness plans for my child care and my family. I am also notifying parents of the plan, which includes telling them where we will meet in case of an emergency." This fiscal year, Collaborative for Children/Workforce Solutions co-sponsored some of the emergency disaster trainings to over 480 child care providers.

Contreras says everyone in child care needs to remember they are professionals and that this job is not just about money. "Children often spend more time in child care than with their parents," she says. "They need to learn about things like setting limits. I need to ensure their developmental needs are met to help them and their families. Child care providers should treat children in their care like their own children. And when dealing with Child Care Licensing, you need to be upfront and don't hide anything."

She also helps educate parents. "Being a child care provider is not just babysitting, changing diapers, and feeding children," says Contreras. "This is a profession that requires patience and I want to help children develop academically. I set routines for the children to keep them focused."

Each year, CCL staff in Houston work hard on every aspect of the conference. Since 2007, over 1,669 child-care providers have received free training at these conferences, totaling 12,664 classroom hours.