Gabina Castañeda has run a daycare out of her home for many years. Her own kids have grown up and are in school, but she watches a 3-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 5-year-old five days a week. One day last week they were busy scooping up Easter eggs with plastic spoons — working on coordination, colors, numbers and sharing, in both English and Spanish. A few years ago, this whole in-home-child care operation would have been against the law.
In 2004, 13-month-old Lexie Engelman suffered fatal injuries at a Johnson County day care. The tragic incident led Lexie’s Law legislation in Kansas in 2010. The law mandates inspections, background checks, training and licensure for home care providers who care for children outside of their family more than 20 hours per week.
Isabel Gutierrez is a supporting home care provider educator for Parents as Teachers through the Olathe School District. Parents as Teachers help parents prepare their children for a stronger start in life by working with educators, child care providers and health providers. Gutierrez visits Castañeda and many other Latino families and child care providers in Wyandotte and Johnson County.
Soon after the legislation was passed, Gutierrez realized that a lot of people she visited were running daycares without licenses — and it wasn’t because they didn’t want to become licensed. It was because all the information and training was in English.
Gutierrez says she came back and told her boss that they had to do something. After meetings with the school districts and funders they came up with a plan.
“We agreed that the best thing to do was to get them the tools that they need to get legally licensed,” says Gutierrez.
A year later in 2014, they had a complete Spanish translated curriculum approved by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It can be used across the entire state.
In the first year with Spanish language training, five people have completed their licenses in Wyandotte and Johnson County. Castañeda was the first to receive her license in Olathe, and it hangs proudly in the room where the children are sprawled out across the ground, reading.
“It’s more easy, everything for me right now, I like it better,” Castañeda says
Guiterrez visits Castañeda every month. She says the women she’s visits now seem happier, more empowered.
“Because now they’re entrepreneurs,” she says. “They’re women, they have a business, and they have an income — they have a plan. They are doing what they are passionate about, which is working with children. So this is an easy thing for them because it was already in their heart.”
Gutierrez says, 22 people are already enrolled in the next round of classes for this year.