‘Early Matters’ Initiative Kickoff, A Success!

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Early Matters initiative is made up of 50 local leaders in the nonprofit, business, education, and philanthropic sectors.

Collaborative for Children is proud to announce its participation in the Early Matters coalition, which aims at improving early education issues in Houston over the next 10 years.

Dozens of businesses, including Texas-based HEB, as well as local school districts and philanthropic organizations have come together to raise awareness to the need to improve early childhood standards in the state.

Carol Shattuck, CEO of Collaborative for Children said, “We are thrilled to be a part of Carol resizethis growing coalition who sees the tremendous importance of investing early in young children and the long term impact of such an investment on Houston’s workforce of the future.”

During a press conference on the first day of school at Sylvan Rodriguez Elementary School, Greater Houston Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey spoke of the need to improve pre-K guidelines, “Unfortunately we know from experience that perhaps as many as 60% of the children arrive ill prepared and ill equipped.”

Dr. Bob Sanborn, President and CEO of Children at Risk added, “For a lot of our high poverty children there’s no learning until they get to school, which is one of the reasons we’re talking about pre-K programs.”

On Sept. 26, a summit coordinated by Early Matters will be held at Rice University targeting business leaders, elected officials, philanthropic and community leaders to release a report on the state of early education in our region and presenting a plan for addressing the need to improve quality and expand access to high quality early education to more young children in our region. Gen. Colin Powell and businessman George Kaiser are two of the speakers. We hope this event will expand the circle of those who are ready and willing to work on this issue in our community!

Yesterday’s Early Matters launch was well-received by local media. You can check out reports from KPRC Local 2, Fox 26 News , Houston Chronicle, News 92 FM, Houston Public Media and HISD’s News Blog.



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Campaign Aims at Preventing Child Heatstroke Deaths


“Where’s baby? Look Before You Lock” campaign – Every year, dozens of children and babies get left in hot cars and die from heatstroke. It could happen to anyone. Even you. So, be extra careful and always check the backseat before you walk away. #checkforbaby

The summer’s rising temperatures serve as a somber reminder to avoid leaving children alone in a hot vehicle.

In 2013, 44 children died of heatstroke in the United States. The year before, 34 lost their lives to the same cause, and so far this year (as of August 4, 2014), 20 children have died. Many of these cases are the result of an accident committed by the victim’s own parents or caregivers.

Leaving a child in hot conditions for too long can have horrific consequences, including permanent injury or even death. Children are especially vulnerable to hot conditions, causing them to overheat up to five times faster than an adult. A child dies when his/her body temperature reaches 107 degrees.


Photo courtesy: Administration for Children & Families – Reggie McKinnon is now an advocate for child car safety, following the death of his young daughter. Payton Lynn McKinnon died in 2010, when her father accidentally left her in the family car.

At a recent press conference in Washington, D.C., a father shared his tragic and heartbreaking experience. On March 8, 2010, Reggie McKinnon (photo above and video below), of Florida, lost his youngest child when he accidentally left her in his car all afternoon. When McKinnon returned to his car after work, he realized he dropped off 17-month-old Payton at child care.

McKinnon shared his misconception about child heatstroke cases. “I used to think this happened to drunks, uneducated people or drug addicts,” he said. “This can happen to anyone. There is no demographic. Doctors, lawyers and rocket scientists have had this happened to them.”

McKinnon is now partnering with advocacy groups across the country to bring awareness to the issue.

“This pain can sometimes pull you right to your knees with no warning,” McKinnon told local media. “I made a promise to my sweet Payton Lynn that I would do everything I could to prevent this horror from ever happening to another child.”


“Where’s Baby? Look Before you Lock” campaign

In order to reach out to more parents and caregivers, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched the “Where’s Baby? Look Before you Lock” campaign.

The NHTSA wants parents to follow these three crucial guidelines to prevent hot car deaths:

  1. Never leave a child alone in a car
  • It’s never OK to leave a kid unattended in a vehicle, even for

    “Where’s Baby? Look Before you Lock” campaign

    a few minutes, and even if the car is on.

  • Leaving the windows open will not prevent heatstroke.
  • Don’t let children play alone in a vehicle.
  1. Look before you lock
  • Always check the backseats of your car before you lock it and walk away.
  • Keep a stuffed animal or another item that reminds you of your child in his/her car seat when it’s empty. Move it to the front seat as a reminder when your child is in the backseat.
  • If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has changed, always check that your child made it safely.
  1. Take action if you see a child alone in a car
  • Don’t wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return
  • Don’t worry about getting involved in someone else’s business — protecting children is everyone’s business.
  • If the child is not responsive or is in distress, immediately:
    • Call 911
    • Get the child out of the car
    • Spray the child with cool water (not in an ice bath)
    • Check for signs of heatstroke:
      • Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
      • No sweating
      • Rapid or weak pulse
      • Nausea
      • Confusion or strange behavior
    • If a child is responsive:
      • Stay with him/her until help arrives
      • Have someone else search for the driver


“Where’s Baby? Look Before you Lock” campaign


“Where’s Baby? Look Before you Lock” campaign

Back-to-School Zzz’s: Transitioning to Early Wake-Ups

Most school-age children require 11 to 13 hours of sleep every night. Younger children require even more shut-eye.

Most school-age children require 11 to 13 hours of sleep every night. Younger kids require even more shut-eye. Photo courtesy: digitalfreephotos.net

We’re approaching the countdown to the beginning of the school year, and the summer vacation is winding down. With a few weeks until the return of homework, rides to school, and early morning wake-up calls, now may be the best time to adjust your children’s sleep schedule.

Chances are your little ones have been taking advantage of the break by late bedtimes, and late wake-ups. Taking a few steps now may help them better transition to the inevitable early mornings.

Sleep affects how children function. Photo courtesy: digitalfreephotos.net

Sleep affects how children function. Photo courtesy: digitalfreephotos.net

Sleep affects how children think and function, so a proper good night’s rest is crucial. It is important to note preschoolers require 11 to 13 hours of sleep every night. If your child is a little older, school-age, 10 to 11 hours are a must in order to function adequately, according to the National Association of Child Care Resources & Referral Agencies.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends parents to gradually adjust their children’s sleep schedule a few weeks before the start of the school year. Following a few simple tips can make the first week of school run a lot smoother:

  • Return to a sleep schedule appropriate for school about two weeks before classes start by setting an earlier bedtime every night.
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Once a sleep schedule is established, stick with it!
  • Set a relaxing bedtime routine, free from TV, video games, phones, or other gadgets. Before bedtime, establish a “quiet time” to allow your child to unwind.
  • Avoid big meals or caffeine late in the evening. A heavy meal, sodas and other caffeinated drinks can prevent a child from falling asleep. A good rule of thumb is to avoid caffeine six hours before going to bed.
  • Maintain a peaceful bedroom environment. A dark room, comfortable bed, and appropriate room temperature will allows children to sleep better.

Remember, the sooner you begin a sleep pattern prior to the start of the school year, the better! Waking up on the first day of school will be less painful.

Speak with your family’s pediatrician if your child experiences regular sleep problems. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an estimated 69 percent of children under 10 years old have some type of sleep condition, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or sleepwalking. Your doctor can determine if it is serious, and can recommend a course of action.

Keep Safety in Mind While Celebrating 4th of July

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Have a happy and safe 4th of July! Photo courtesy: digitalfreephotos.net

Summer is in full swing, and as you make plans for the upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend – there are several things to keep in mind to ensure your family stays safe.

Heat exhaustion. Temperatures in Houston are creeping into the mid-90s, and it won’t be long before we’re dealing with the triple digits. Outdoor activities must be accompanied with plenty of hydration. Failing to do so can lead to overheating, which can be potentially dangerous. Children under four years old are at a higher risk.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include headaches, nausea, loss of consciousness, and minimal sweating. If a loved one is experiencing overheating symptoms, make sure they rest, move to a cooler place, and drink cool water or sports drinks. The Mayo Clinic recommends you call 911 if body temperature reaches 104°F (40°C) or higher.

Stay cautious while hitting the pool this summer. Photo courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

Stay cautious while hitting the pool this summer. Photo courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

Swimming. If taking a dip in the pool to stay cool, make sure everyone knows how to swim well. The summertime is the perfect time to enroll in a water safety or CPR/AED course. Check with your local YMCA or Red Cross for more information.

The American Red Cross recommends children use a buddy system with an adult. Young children are not to be left alone with other children near a pool, and while supervising little ones, do not let your guard down or allow distractions take your attention.

If your child is not an experienced swimmer, have him/her wear a life jacket near the water. In the case that a child should disappear from your presence, check the water first, as seconds count in preventing serious injury or death.

Courtesy: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Fingers and hands are the most-injured body parts by fireworks. Courtesy: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Fireworks. No 4th of July celebration is complete without fireworks. Before purchasing fireworks, make sure they are legal in your city or neighborhood. Fireworks are illegal in Houston city limits as well as parts of Harris County. If you’re illegally caught with fireworks, you can face a fine between $500 and $2,000 for each individual firework.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, small fireworks, such as bottle rockets and sparklers, hurt approximately 1,000 children under five years old during the 30 days surrounding the 4th of July.

If your city does allow the use of fireworks, make sure your family follows safety guidelines by CPSC. Young children are never to be allowed to play with or ignite fireworks. Children under nine years old account for 20% of firework-related injuries.

Courtesy: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Firework injuries by age. Courtesy: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Experts also recommend to not position any body part directly over a firework when lighting the fuse. More than half of injuries related to fireworks are burns. At 41%, hands and fingers account for the most injured body parts. Additionally, the head, face, and ears make up for one in five of injuries.

The safest way to enjoy fireworks may perhaps be by attending one of a number of 4th of July celebrations around Houston. The Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau has compiled a list of family-friendly activities around the city.

Summer safety kit. If heading out of town, the Texas Children’s Hospital recommends packing a summer safety kit with several essential products that may come in handy in a trip.

Purchase a sunscreen with a strong SPF, and apply it 15 minutes before going outside. Sun block must be replied every two hours when swimming or sweating. Make sure to be aware if your child is sensitive to high SPF.


If you’re planning a family trip, make sure to pack a summer safety kit. Photo courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

Keep other first aid essentials, such as antibiotic ointment and bandages for scratches and cuts. Also include children’s pain medication for minor aches and pain. Carry insect repellent with DEET as an active ingredient. However, use the lowest-strength DEET possible, and avoid insect repellents that contain citronella, which tends to be less effective. If your child does get bit by insects, make sure you have an anesthetic to relieve itching. Also pack all necessary items for children with special needs, such as inhalers and testing equipment.

If you’re staying home for Independence Day, check out our Pinterest page for plenty of 4th of July-inspired activities.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Partnership Aims at Strengthening Houston Families

The first 100 parents and children graduated from a six-week interactive course, aimed at strengthening family ties.

Dozens of parents now have the tools to better communicate and interact with their children, following a six-week interactive course taught by Collaborative for Children Parent Educators.

The initiative was made possible by a partnership between Toyota Family Learning, the National Center for Families Learning, Houston Community College, the Houston Public Library, and Collaborative for Children. Houston was selected as one of five cities to receive a three-year, $175,000 grant to kick-off the program. More than 250 cities applies to be part of the initiative. Houston joins Providence, R.I.; Bronx N.Y.; Lincoln, Neb.; and San Pedro, Calif. in this recently launched parenting effort.


Collaborative for Children President and CEO Carol S. Shattuck congratulates the graduates on their dedication to the program.

For six weeks, parents attended courses taught at Carnegie Neighborhood Library and McCrane-Kashmere Gardens Neighborhood Library. Classes were taught in English and Spanish by Collaborative for Children Parents Educators Dawn Johnson and Claudia Zelaya, respectively.

During the program, families set goals and took steps to complete them. Parents, along with their children, participated in hands-on learning activities, college readiness lessons and learned ways to use technology for educational purposes. After successfully completing the program, parents received an electronic tablet to be used as an interactive tool at home.

In an awards ceremony June 10 at the HPL Central Library in Downtown, parents shared the impact the program had on them. “I feel like I’ve become a better mom,” Anai Cruz said. “It’s a great program. It’s given us tools to become better parents.”

Angela Beltran admits the classes were eye-opening for her, as well as her children. “The program is fabulous because it teaches children that parents can be stressed, too,” Beltran said. “I would recommend to anyone to not miss this program. It helps us understand when we did something wrong.”


HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, NCFL President and Founder Sharon Darling, Toyota VP of Marketing Brent Hillyer, and Collaborative for Children VP of Programs & Collaboration Development Sul Ross congratulate a graduating family.

In a survey, an overwhelming 98 percent of parents said they are now more confident in their parenting skills, and every single parent responded they are using at least two of the skills they learned in the classes.

Parents were commended for their enthusiasm to learn more material to help enrich their families. “In the face of real obstacles in the education landscape, these local graduates exemplify an emerging constant – families learning together is a major key to success,” Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson said.

Parents who took part in this year’s program hope more families will take advantage of this opportunity. Larry and Shyrl Potts are recommending the program to everyone they know. “I do tell my friends if they have another program, to sign up,” Shyrl Potts said. “It’s enriched our lives. This program has been a success and I love it.”

The Family Learning Program will return in the fall at McCrane-Kashmere Gardens Neighborhood Library, then in the spring at Carnegie Neighborhood Library.


Collaborative for Children Parent Educators Dawn Johnson and Claudia Zelaya taught the weekly courses at McCrane-Kashmere Gardens Neighborhood Library and Carnegie Neighborhood Library, respectively.


Parents participate in a hand-on learning activity.

Parent sharing(2)

Group discussions allowed parents to learn from one another.

Grateful parent(2)

A parent thanks instructor Dawn Johnson.

We Bid Farewell to Longtime Committee Chair, Supporter

Collaborative for Children thanks Dee Dee Guzman for all her hard work.

Collaborative for Children thanks Dee Dee Guzman for all her hard work.

Collaborative for Children said goodbye to devoted advocate Dee Dee Guzman, who is leaving Texas. Over the years, she worked tirelessly to help in our mission to improve the quality of early education.

Her work with Collaborative for Children dates back to the 1990s, when the organization was named “Initiatives with Children.” Guzman is credited with helping create Collaborative for Children’s Early Childhood Education Industry Committee and serving as chair since 2006. The committee aims at helping improve the early education industry, and is made up of education professionals from a number of agencies, including the Houston Independent School District and Head Start. The group helps identify gaps and works to close in early education.

During a surprise reception, Collaborative for Children staff shared their fondest memories of Guzman. “She set an example in her company on what needs to be done for families and for children,” Collaborative for Children President and CEO Carol S. Shattuck said. “She is a passionate advocate for early childhood education.”

Guzman reflected on a specific moment that impacted her desire to advocate for quality early childhood education. While visiting a child care center several years ago, Guzman said she was shocked by the lack of resources available at the center.

Guzman helped create our Early Childhood education Industry Committee.

Guzman helped create our Early Childhood Education Industry Committee.

“I had never seen a center lacking so much,” Guzman said. “Children were alone, sitting in high chairs, watching TV. There was nothing else. I was shocked there was no caregiver interacting with the children. They just though it was OK. It made me understand what we were fighting for or fighting against.”

Guzman was instrumental in an initiative in 2013 to provide free in-service training to pre-K teachers. She also helped create http://txgulfcoastearlyed.org/, an online resource site for early educators in the Texas Gulf Coast. The site allows child care administrators to address any human resources needs they may have.

Collaborative for Children commended Guzman for her ability to use her professional corporate skills with her passion to fight for early education. “The combination of passion for children and the business world has been so helpful to us,” Collaborative for Children Vice President of Programs & Collaboration Development Sul Ross said.

Guzman said she draws some of her inspiration to help the public from her former position in the workforce. “I do think there’s a corporate social responsibility,” she said. “I think the corporations of the world have a responsibility to raise everyone around them. There is a role for corporations to do good.”

Guzman joined Collaborative for Children in 1996.

Guzman joined Collaborative for Children in 1996.

Another source of motivation for Guzman is our own President and CEO, Carol S. Shattuck. “Carol does a really amazing job at pulling together this cause,” Guzman said. “Early education is a very complicated issue. She has perfectly walked that tight rope and has been able to move that complicated ball of issues on a very steep mountain—with very incredible determination. She’s an incredible leader and incredibly smart.”

Guzman is moving to Atlanta, where she will reside with her husband and three teenage boys.



Child Care Center Thrives With Collaborative for Children’s Help

Dawning Years Academy Director Kirk Allen hopes his center will continue to grow.

The owner and director of Dawning Years Academy in south Houston attributes his center’s turnaround to Collaborative for Children, specifically its Quality Improvement programs.

Dawning Years Academy began operating in 1994. When Kirk Allen purchased the center several years ago, he admits he did it in his own interest.

“Like many directors, I saw it as a business opportunity,” Allen said. “Child development was not the focus. Some of the employees were not right, and saw this only as a paycheck.”

Allen soon realized his desire to improve the center and offer quality child care education to the children in the community. He acquired Collaborative for Children’s Quality Improvement services to help revamp his center.

Following an extensive evaluation, Dawning Years Academy was admitted into the Success Express program. The initiative assists struggling child care facilities meet licensing standards.

Allen and his staff met with Collaborative for Children Consultants for one-on-one coaching, mentoring, and training sessions.

Teaching staff meets with Collaborative for Children Consultants as part of their Quality Improvement training. Teachers take the lessons they learned straight to the classroom.

Working with dedicated Collaborative for Children staff changed Allen’s perspective. He re-evaluated his own teaching staff, and made it a priority to hire providers who were at his center for the right reasons.

“[Being part of Collaborative for Children] changed my perspective on my teachers,” Allen said. “My focus changed to hiring child development professionals. I had a new perspective as to who I wanted to work for me. The [professional development] process starts with the director, then the staff will then be on board. I think the biggest benefit to working with Collaborative for Children’s Consultants is seeing people who enjoy what they do. My staff needed to see people who love what they do.”

After participating in Success Express for three years, Dawning Years Academy moved into the Texas Rising Star program.

TRS Certification helps further advance child care services.  TRS providers agree to serve Texas Workforce Commission subsidized children. Centers must also meet requirements that exceed the State’s Minimum Licensing Standards for child care facilities.

A teacher helps students during a puzzle activity.

A teacher helps students during a puzzle activity.

Dawning Years Academy is now in its third year as a TRS facility. Allen clearly sees the progress his center and staff have undergone in the six years since he pursued Collaborative for Children’s Quality Improvement services.

“We were shortchanging an entire community,” Allen said. “We are now more apt to talk to parents about where their children should be. We’ve gotten to the point we can talk to parents about what we expect from them.”

Allen hopes his current staff of 12 teachers will continue to grow to the point he will have enough teachers who can attend training sessions during the week.

Daily lessons at Dawning Years Academy include outdoor activities.

Daily lessons at Dawning Years Academy include outdoor activities.

Lessons are appropriately molded for students' ages.

Lessons are appropriately molded to students’ ages.

Child Care Access at Your Fingertips


A Collaborative for Children Consultant answers child care questions over the phone.

Finding a child care center or home that you trust is extremely important, no matter how old your little one is, and searching for the right one can be intimidating. But with a few clicks, QualiFind™ is here to help!

Collaborative for Children’s free online child care database, QualiFind™ has been helping families choose child care for more than 20 years, and can help you choose child care programs that meet your standards, as well as your family’s needs. Access is completely free, and you can narrow down your searches by providing a zip code, address, or school’s name.

Parents can make an informed decision based on a center’s accreditation, teacher tenure, and group sizes. Checklists are also available, and can be used during tours to outline what parents should look out for.

Our experienced Parent Educators can give you piece of mind by addressing your questions and concerns. Consultants are available to offer complimentary phone consultations, center referrals, or guidance. They may be reached at 713-600-1234 or by dialing 2-1-1.

Parents credit Collaborative for Children’s experienced staff with making their child care search much easier. “Wonderful staff,” Andrea Castillo said. “They were extremely helpful, and cut my search time in half. Thank you!”


Sunshine Child Care center students.

Three Sunshine Child Care center students share their future aspirations.


A Sunshine Child Care center student learns how to count.


Free Online Training in Honor of Provider Appreciation Day


A child care provider at a center taking part in College Bound from Birth teaches children a lesson that will improve their kindergarten readiness.

Like every professional, child care providers must continue to strengthen his/her skills. Ongoing training and professional development is a requirement for working with young children, and early childhood educators are required to complete certain hours of training each year to maintain their certifications.

Collaborative for Children offers both in-person and online training courses for early childhood educators. Dana Lagarde, owner and director of Lifetime Learners Child Development Center in Katy, attests to the benefits of our courses.

“After the course was over, I felt rejuvenated and ready to get into my classroom to teach,” Lagarde said. “It has changed my life and the way my students learn. Among many things, this course has enabled my students to better dictate what happened in a story that was read aloud to them and I cannot thank Collaborative for Children and Ms. Beverly, our instructor, enough!”

As a thank you to early childhood professionals, Collaborative for Children is offering a free online training course this week!  Classroom Management will be offered for free through Friday, May 9th and is designed to help educators learn appropriate classroom management and organizational practices. For more information about this course and to sign up by Friday May 9, click here.

Lifetime Learners Child Development Center owner and director Dana Lagarde shares what she learned while taking part in Collaborative for Children’s Loving Literacy for Life program.

Children take part in a name-writing activity  - as part of Loving Literacy for Life.

Children take part in a name-writing activity – as part of Loving Literacy for Life.

Joint Volunteer Project, A Success


Spectra Energy joined Collaborative for Children in a volunteering project that helped beautify Sunshine Child Care, Inc. in Houston’s Sunnyside community.

Eight Spectra Energy employees took part in the effort on April 14, as part of the company’s Helping Hands in Action campaign. Every April, Spectra employees have the opportunity to participate in one of about a dozen volunteer projects throughout Houston.

Employees with Spectra Energy, as well as Sunshine Child Care and Collaborative for Children, planted more than 160 plants in the center’s playground area. The group completed the project in roughly two hours, despite dreary weather with rain and temperatures in the 50s.

The planting project attracted Andrew Alonzo, who works in Spectra Energy’s Corporate Finance division. Alonzo said he participated in the gardening effort after taking part in another Collaborative for Children project last year at Teeter Totter Village child care center, also in Sunnyside.

“I like this organization,” Alonzo said. “Collaborative for Children does a good job helping these [child care] facilities.”

Clark Lamdrum, a Spectra Energy Business Development Commercial Associate, worked with Collaborative for Children to help organize the volunteering opportunity. “[The project] fits with Spectra’s culture to help,” Landrum said. “We’re out here to help out those in need, especially in early childhood development.”

Sunshine Child Care Director Rylanda Martin was touched by the volunteers’ efforts to revamp the center’s garden. “This means they care,” Martin said. “These people are concerned about the child care community. It shows sharing and caring.”

Sunshine Child Care participates in Collaborative for Children’s College Bound from Birth initiative.  The program works to improve kindergarten readiness, with the ultimate goal of increasing college preparation rates.

About 60 children between one and six years old are currently enrolled in the child care center, which is located on South Acres Drive. Sunshine Child Care, a family-owned business, has been operating in Sunnyside for more than 30 years.

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