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Crystasany Turner on the Strengths, Challenges, and Cultural Assets of Family Child Care Professionals

  • Crystasany Turner
  • October 06 2023
  • PC131-2023

Crystasany Turner
Crystasany Turner

Family child care is the care of non-relative children within the providers’ home. Thirty percent of family child care professionals are women of color, and oftentimes the cultural assets they contribute to the field of early care and education are diminished or disregarded. In this episode, Dr. Crystasany Turner discusses her research highlighting both the strengths and challenges faced by family child care professionals, future research, and practices to support family child care professionals.

Crystasany Turner is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Rooted in Black feminist epistemologies, her teaching and research focus on culturally sustaining and liberatory practices in early childhood education and teacher education.

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Taylor [00:00:07] Hello and thanks for joining us for the Poverty Research and Policy podcast from the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m Nateya Taylor. For this episode, we are going to be talking with Dr. Crystasany Turner about the challenges, strengths, and cultural assets of family childcare professionals of color. Crystasany Turner is an assistant professor of early Childhood Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Rooted in Black feminist epistemologies, her teaching and research focus on culturally sustaining and liberatory practices in early childhood education and teacher education. She has authored numerous articles and book chapters that interrogate institutionalized anti-blackness and the systemic oppression of children and families with marginalized social identities. Crystasany, thanks for joining us today.

Turner [00:00:56] Thanks for having me.

Taylor [00:00:57] So first, I want to start off by asking you, what is family childcare?

Turner [00:01:03] Yeah, family childcare just refers to the care of children. Usually, they are between the ages of birth and 12 years of age. That’s the care that happens within the home setting. So usually, they’re in the household of the provider, the care provider.

Taylor [00:01:18] And what are some of the demographics, such as race, gender and income of family childcare professionals, also known as FCCPs and the children that they serve?

Turner [00:01:31] Definitely. So, like in the larger field of early childhood education, there’s about 40% for women of color. Right. So, we’re talking about Black, Latina, Asian, but then specifically within the field of family childcare within the home setting. We have about 30% of the workforce identify as women of color as of 2021. A lot of the children and families that come into family childcare settings are often low-income families. Oftentimes they have like nonstandard work hours or nontraditional work hours. These are families who are often looking for accessibility, affordability, and specifically cultural congruence is something that I’m interested in my work. There’s a lot of mothers who talk about like racialized experiences and discrimination that they’ve experienced within maybe a center-based program. And so, they’re looking specifically for somebody who looks like them and has similar cultural values to work with their children.

Taylor [00:02:27] So you mentioned that some of these family childcare professionals are low income, which gets into some of the challenges that they face. So can you go a little bit more in depth about some of the challenges that FCCPs of color face.

Turner [00:02:42] Family childcare professionals I feel like the biggest challenge that they’re working with is the fact that they are doing this critical, essential work within an institution, within a system that has been created for white middle class and by white middle class. So, they’re left with trying to balance their cultural ways of being and raising and loving children in a system that oftentimes does not align with that kind of work. It’s often frustrating like a lot of the women in my studies and that I get to talk to, they talk about how their professional knowledge and what they’re bringing to the table is often disregarded within these systems and devalued. And so that kind of shows up in like linguistic discrimination, right? So, it’s not just racial, but it’s also like linguistics. So, something as simple as having the regulations and the rules and the licensing, or if you have a quality reading and improvement system like having those things written out and displayed in your home, language like that can sometimes be like one of the biggest barriers that folks are trying to overcome. In addition, there’s specifically within family childcare. One of the struggles is that lots of the rules and regulations that they have to align with are actually written for center-based programs. And so obviously that’s not the same space. It’s completely different. Even though, yes, you’re a provider working with children. There are a number of ways that that doesn’t look the same within the family childcare setting. And so, one of the things that we talk about is how the women are able to navigate those systems that are not created for them, neither like racially, linguistically, often, but then also not even systemically in how they’re able to navigate these non-systems. And also, another challenge would be the fact that sometimes it’s called the non-system just because, like there’s so many different entities that often have different regulations, different rules that they’re simultaneously putting on the family childcare providers and they often don’t align within themselves within the different regulatory agencies. And so, it’s not necessarily fair to have our providers try to align with different regulated entities when there is no congruence.

Taylor [00:05:03] Continuing with discussing the challenges in your 2020 article about the role of Black women FCCPs in Milwaukee, you discuss the challenges they face with the quality rating system called the Young Star. Can you talk a little bit more about that?


Turner [00:05:17] Mhm. So, one of those things I situate that work within critical race theory because I think it’s important that we always look at the social historical context and what has brought us to this point. And so, when we’re thinking about Young Star and the way that it was implemented specifically in Wisconsin, but in Milwaukee, that was the experience of the women that were in my studies and other scholars doing work within our area. Was that the reason that Young Star that quality rating and improvement system was implemented in the first place was highly problematic. Governor Jim Doyle back in the day, he proposed a quality r rating and improvement system, and he was specifically interested in making sure that we could improve the quality of care and education for Black and brown children, for children of low income. However, Young Star comes along in 2010 based on the fact that there was allegations of fraud within Wisconsin Shares, which is our subsidy system. And so Young Stars first order of business was to eliminate fraud is a kind of gotcha system, right? And so, they have this fraud unit and they have these people going out into different programs, demanding records, demanding, you know, documentation of all this. Right. And so, in that way, we see a lot of policing and criminalization of Black women. And that is something that highly affected the women who were in my study, even though they were, you know, honest business owners that are truly just caring for children and families. But the way that the quality system came about in the first place was problematic because you’re assuming that I am, you know, dishonest, that I’m stealing money from taxpayers and what have you. And so that was the first part of it. But this also this larger system of the way that Young Star at the time was kind of valuing our knowledge. So, if you’re telling me what’s important to you is the care and the quality of care and education for young children, why is the first thing that you are looking at is the education of the teacher? There were folks in the study who were literally in the field for decades, 30 plus years, who have been working with children and families, who are thinking about an impact within their community. And they have that. They have the receipts, right. They have documentation and narratives from parents coming back saying like, wow, my children are doing amazing in school, and this is where they are now. And it all started within this setting. However, when Young Star came in, they said the first thing that we’re going to look at is whether or not you have a college degree, whether or not you have X amount of hours. Right. Of course, professional development is important. We always want to have more knowledge. However, they did it in a way that disregarded and devalued that experiential knowledge and that cultural knowledge that the women were already implementing within their programs. And so that was another aspect of how it just it came off, it came off wrong. It says a lot about an organization or institution. When your standard of knowledge or your value system comes from outside of that community, outside of the ways of knowing, the ways of being interacting with children and families and understanding of the value system that’s already within that community. When an outsider comes in and says, no, actually this is something that you should be looking at rather than what’s already working and what’s already been done so beautifully within that community.

Taylor [00:09:06] You mentioned that the quality rating and improvement systems, they really stressed the importance of higher education and professional development. However, many of these family childcare professionals of color, they had other cultural assets. Can you talk about what are some of the strengths and cultural assets of FCCPs of color?

Turner [00:09:28] Definitely. So first of all, Nateya, I just wanted to make sure that it does not sound like I am against higher education or professional development. By no means like I am in higher education, right? But I think it’s important to think about whose voices, whose narratives and whose perspectives are being represented in our institutions of higher ed. Our teacher education programs often champion the voices of white scholars, white theorists, white researchers, and our voices and our perspectives of communities of color and women of color are left out. And so, it’s not the fact that I’m anti-education, but I’m saying what does education look like? And recognizing that that in itself is a part of the system. So, for thinking about the strengths and the cultural assets of the family childcare professionals already, I already talked about how our capitalist system is based off of the understanding of capital or assets through a monetary. So, if it’s not money, if it’s not, you know, houses, land, buildings like that, if it’s something outside of that understanding of capital, then it’s kind of devalued and disregarded. And so, one thing I really appreciate about critical race theory is that it kind of resituates that and looks at different ways that communities of color have ways of navigating systems that is just as good oftentimes as having monetary and financial things that we’ve often been kept away from. In my work, I often focus on what Tara Yosso also and her 2005 study talks about as the community cultural wealth model. So, within this model, she talks about aspirational capital. Right. And so, what does it mean to be able to inspire and have hopes and dreams for communities and for yourself, even despite all the barriers that we have. Right. Linguistic capital, the different ways that people of color are able to engage, whether it be through various languages, dialects, code switching, all these different ways that we express ourselves, familial capital, the way that we’re able to connect and build relationships to people, children and families that are outside of the traditional understanding of, you know, my mom, my dad, my, you know, this traditional understanding of family social capital. Like I said, the connections that we make that help us to navigate different systems and, you know, build relationships and navigational, resistance capital, how we’re constantly able to push back within these systems that are not like I said, they’re not created with us in mind. They’re not created for us to be successful and happy and whole within. However, we’re constantly showing how we’re able to resist and to navigate this through our creativity. But then also I add to that with my work, what we call spiritual capital, right? This understanding that, yes, social conditions that I see and the ways that I have to live my life, but I live my life on a daily basis, that is something that I can see with my physical eye. But there is something more. And I don’t define myself and I don’t align necessarily with what society tells me, what they would have me believe that I can and cannot do because I answer to a higher power kind of thing. And so, these are certain things that we see within family childcare specifically. So, like in the most recent work, we talk about like that specifically about familial capital, right? What is other mothering look like specifically within the Black community? But understanding that I have a responsibility, a communal responsibility for my children. Right. And so, it’s not just the children that came from me, from my own body, but that it’s like a more collective understanding of community and family, like the aunties through grandmothers, through family, friends, people you know how in the Black community, everybody’s your cousin right. You might not be related, but we’re all connected, right? So that kinship. But then, like within the Latino community, we talk about familismo. And so, it talks about like the closeness between children and families. And like there’s a certain like reciprocation of relationship that they build on. So that is some one of the ways that it’s just so beautiful that you’re able to see that so readily within a family childcare setting. Like the women in our studies, they talk about how like the children call them grandma, they call, you know, like they’re a mother figure to the mothers within their program. So, like, they become a part of their larger social system. Right. And so, it’s not just like once you graduate from a program like I never hear from you again, but oftentimes they go to their graduations, they go to their weddings, the children then bring their children back to take to be taking care of right by the same woman. These lifelong relationships are so beautiful. And the way that they’re able to, you know, truly engage what we call their family familial capital. And so, another thing that we’ve seen was the navigational capital. Right? And so, I always told you, like these systems, whether it be the QRS system or the licensing system, it’s not created with women of color and specifically family childcare providers in mind. Right. But it’s so amazing to have so many narratives of how women have navigated the systems, how they connect with people and build networks in order to make sure that they’re able to still be a successful businesswoman. Right. But in order to do this, oftentimes we hear how the women have to they perform at unrealistic levels in order to keep their businesses a. One Latina provider in a recent study I did with Dr. Bromer Erikson Institute. She talked about having to do magic with the little that they get, right. And so, this idea that, yes, we don’t get a lot from the system. Yes, we’re constantly giving, giving, giving and to children and to families and to our communities. However, we’re doing magic. And so, I guess that brings up the question, who holds the women who hold our children? Right. They shouldn’t have to do magic, right? We shouldn’t have to be magical beings in order to survive and to drive within this field. So like how can we start advocating for change within this field? But then finding that, like I said, aspirational capital, the ability to be able to continue to dream, to continue to imagine a better future for your children, for your families that you work with, for yourself and your communities. That is something that is truly inspirational. And that’s why I love working with family childcare providers to see how they truly believe in their children. They truly believe in their family and their communities.

Taylor [00:16:09] You mentioned so many important details about the cultural assets of FCCPs of color. And as you were saying, a lot of the studies in the past have been white centered. So, it hasn’t really focused on these cultural assets. In your work, you focus on the Black feminist thought framework. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how that helps us understand these strengths and cultural assets?

Turner [ 00:16:38] Definitely. And so just like you said Nateya oftentimes our epistemologies right the way that we understand the world and that we engage with the world are based off of the thoughts and theories and the research of white folks. Right. Which is what it is, because they have an epistemology, they have an understanding of the world. However, what I really appreciate about Black feminist thought is that it reframes that and says that, you know what? The way that we understand the world should be from the viewpoint of the person who’s actually experiencing that aspect of it. One of the things that Black feminist thought and also critical race theory talk about is the idea of intersectionality, right? So, it’s not just a Black thing. It’s not just a woman thing. It’s not just a class thing. The issues that we see family childcare providers confronting, they’re a combination, right? They’re intersectional the ways that they have to navigate this because they are women of color, because they are women, because they are often have lower socioeconomic status. Right. A beautiful thing about Black feminist thought is that it opens doors for that self-definition and self-valuation. So even though society might say that childcare is just babysitting or just, you know, there’s no value in that, or, you know, why should we compensate these women for doing something that is it. This is what women do. They’re naturally nurturing, they’re naturally, you know, caregivers kind of thing. Black feminist thought gives us a space to push back on that and say the women can self-defined. First of all, I am a quality educator. Despite what your knowledge and your evaluation systems tell me. And also, I do have professional knowledge. I do have a contribution to make not only to my community but to the field in general. And so kind of shifting that perspective to truly highlight the narratives and the beautiful value and the contributions that women of color are making.

Taylor [00:18:42] And lastly, I wanted to ask you about what future research policies or practice, recommendations that you have that you think can help support FCCPs pf color.

Turner [00:18:54] Mm hmm. Yeah. So, what I’m really interested in is what does it look like to highlight community centered standards of quality? Right. And so, like I said before, oftentimes our standards of quality come from this Eurocentric understanding of this is what education looks like, this is what childcare looks like and this is what quality looks like in that field. But what does that look like instead, to center a mother’s voice, a father’s voice, you know, a community caregiver’s voice? And saying, this is what is important. This is what my values are for my children. These are the hopes and dreams that I have for my children and with my children and truly start setting quality and understanding quality from that perspective rather than the external narrative. I also think that would reflect within the teacher education program. And so, like I said, oftentimes like within my own teacher education program, as I was a student I heard of all these white folks who have so much to say about their perspectives and their narratives, which are great. However, I did not ever hear about all the Black women who have contributed to early care and education. Bethune like that was the name that I had to find out myself. The list goes on and on. Of all the all the narratives and voices that have just been silenced and erased within teacher education programs, because we focus on this traditional understanding of care and education, teaching and learning. And so how can we bring both the narratives and the perspectives of generations and generations of Black women and brown women who have been in the work serving children and families and doing it darn well for generations to bring that back within? Like I said, the understanding of what quality looks like. But then also how do we prepare future teachers from that perspective, offering that yes and approach? I think it’s really important that we understand the social historical narratives that have led to where we are now. Right now, we’re dealing with the lack of compensation for the women, specifically women of color within the family childcare setting. But if we look at history and we look at how it was understood that childcare and the raising of children was based on the exploitation of Black and brown women’s bodies, right. As an enslaved being, we didn’t have the autonomy to say like, no, I don’t take care of kids. That was something that was understood. That is our job. Now we have, over a century later, this fight for compensation, because it’s based on the understanding that women are inherently caregivers. They are inherently this is what they’re supposed to do. This is their place in their home. They say, why would I want to compensate that? Right? So, I think it’s really important as we look at how we can move forward and policy practice and teacher education programs, that we have an understanding of the racialized, the gendered and the classist foundations of our field and so that we can push back and start rebuilding.

Taylor [00:21:56] Thank you so much for joining me today for this podcast episode and sharing all your knowledge about family childcare and experiences of family childcare, professionals of color. I really enjoyed speaking with you today.

Turner [00:22:09] Likewise Nateya. Thanks so much for having me.

Taylor [00:22:12] Thanks so much to Dr. Crystasany Turner, who is a professor of early childhood education at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She joined us to talk about family childcare and the challenges, strengths and cultural assets of family, childcare, professionals of color. You can find links to the articles and chapters she has authored about family childcare in the show notes for this episode. The production of this podcast was supported in part by funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. But its contents don’t necessarily represent the opinions or policies of that office. Any other agency of the federal government or the Institute for Research on Poverty. Music for this episode is by 808xri. Thanks for listening.


Child Development & Well-Being, Children, Early Childhood Care & Education, Economic Support, Education & Training, Financial Security, Gender Inequality, Inequality & Mobility, Racial/Ethnic Inequality


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