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Infant/Toddler Conference Focuses on Building Family Partnerships to Support Children

In early March, before schools and businesses closed down, more than 120 early-childhood providers and educators from across Connecticut attended EASTCONN’s 7th Annual Infant/Toddler Conference, to learn more about “Connecting with Families: Building Partnerships to Support Children’s Learning.”

Led by a constellation of highly regarded early childhood educators and leaders, the day-long professional learning event included opening remarks by Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) Chief Research and Planning Officer Rachel Leventhal-Weiner and a keynote address by Catherine Knowles-O’Brien, Ed.D., of the IMH-E, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Boston Children’s Hospital.

Knowles-O’Brien also presented a morning workshop based on her keynote, “Engaging Families and Children in Learning Together.” Independent early childhood consultant Sharon Redmann presented “Revisiting the Six Stages of Parenting,” while Cora Megan and Ruth Freeman, of Peace at Home Parenting Solutions, co-presented their workshop, “Promoting Secure and Positive Parent/Child Relationships.”

EASTCONN partnered with the OEC and others to co-sponsor the annually sold-out event at EASTCONN’s Hampton Conference Center.

During her address, Leventhal-Weiner shared highlights from the OEC’s Unmet Needs Report, which will soon be released. She also said the OEC has received a federally funded, preschool development grant, which will deliver wide-ranging, statewide support for educators and providers. 

“The OEC wants to be a responsive agency and we want to make sure that all the things we’re doing are family-centered,” Leventhal-Weiner told the group. “We are trying to address the needs of both children and the adults in their lives.”

With expertise in human development and the role of relationships, Knowles-O’Brien said that it’s critical to understand the individual experiences that both parents and providers bring to those relationships. 

 “We’ll always be a temporary presence in a child’s developmental and relationship context, compared to the permanency of the family,” Knowles-O’Brien said. “We’re kind of guests invited into that context. We’re invited in through a parent’s choice of programs, through the experiences a family might be having. But really, the culture of a child’s family is what’s going to nurture the child’s self-concept.”

After Knowles-O’Brien’s breakout session, attendee John Fortunato, the Education Manager for Windham schools said, “Sometimes we think of differences in terms of culture, but not in terms of family beliefs.” 

“I think that many in the child care business think … they can’t take time for professional development. My recommendation is that staff prioritize this [EASTCONN] conference over a preschool conference,” said Ruthann Horvay, Director of the Family Resource Center in Winsted.

“For me,” said attendee Denise Dionizio, of the Hartford YMCA, “Everything was very empowering in so many ways. Everything today has been just wonderful.”  

To learn more, contact EASTCONN’s Early Childhood Director Diane Gozemba at dgozemba@eastconn.org.

EASTCONN Administrative Offices and Conference Center, 376 Hartford Turnpike, Hampton, CT 06247 860-455-0707