|North Adams Day-Care Helping Families for Three Decades
|By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
11:15AM / Sunday, February 26, 2023
|Connie Tatro has been operating Connie's Family Child Care for 30 years.
Connie Tatro, seen with some of the children she cares for, says a day care can have a profound impact on children's lives. She's worked closely with families to have a long-lasting impact on the children who've attended her day care.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Constance "Connie" Tatro has been influencing children and their families at her home day care for three decades.
"She is involved with our children during the most formative years. She helps set that foundation for the future of our children. For their thirst for knowledge, their curiosity, their problem solving," parent Chelsey Ciolkowski said.
"All of these things are lifelong skills that we all need and she sets that tone from birth, truly. It really is that ripple effect. It continues long after when kids go to school and beyond."
Tatro said there is a presumption that early childhood care isn't teaching but that could not be further from the truth. The work that she and others in the field do with the children in their care builds a foundation that will guide them to success later in life.
"I would like to tell people out there that this is a real career. It's a profession," she said. "It's caregiving and educating at the same time."
The impact of Tatro's dedication to the many children who have passed through her care has stayed with them into adulthood.
One of her former charges, Dylan Phaneuf, is now in his early 30s working as an architect in San Francisco. He happily looked back on his experience attending her day care during his youth.
"She just really pushes you to be better than you think you can be and I always tell her all the time. I don't think I would be who I am. I'm proud to be a Connie's day-care alumni and it really has set me up for who I am today," Phaneuf said.
"She's been doing this for an incredibly long time and it's just impacted so many people's lives and shaped so many people's lives from an early age. I think she's an extraordinary woman. I'm glad that she is still in my life."
The work that day-care workers do is important, said Tatro, and although it is not as lucrative as other professions, you can make livable wage while making a huge impact, which is a great reward.
Like many professions the day-care industry lost a lot of people during the pandemic and Tatro hopes to welcome more people into this career.
Children have a large imagination and are naturally curious so new day-care entrepreneurs can open a center in their home with limited materials, she said. It is not about what they have rather what they do with it.
Tatro, for instance, encourages her charges to borrow books from her collection or bring books in to share.
Her current parents and former charges have been spreading the word about the impact Tatro has had on the community over the past 30 years.
They say she works with the families to build strong bonds. She cares for children from infancy to age 12 but continues to offer support to parents and children even after they've moved on.
For instance, she will help answer parents with any questions and has been known to attend early intervention meetings at schools and work to create individualized plans of care, Ciolkowski said.
She is part of many major milestones in the children's lives even after they leave day care, whether that is a dance recital, graduation, or birthday party.
Through these bonds, Tatro has been able to create lasting relationships with her patrons long after the children have moved on to their next phase in life.
During their time at the day care, children will not only learn from a curriculum designed by Tatro but will also be expected to lead by example.
Children become part of the process, learning the psychology behind their peers' actions because with this understanding comes patience, Tatro said.
It is important that children feel seen and validated in order for them to succeed, she said.
"The older kids always want to help," Tatro said. "They know more about child development than some parents, I think, because I tell them why I'm doing what I'm doing and what to expect from kids."
The mutual respect that Tatro builds with the children creates a close atmosphere between her, them and their parents, building a small community.
"There's no one else that I would leave my children with that I would trust completely and know that they are cared for and loved," Ciolkowski said. "There's just an absolutely welcoming, thriving little community in her home."
Like her children, Tatro is constantly learning so that she can provide the best care them.
"She is doing what she truly is meant to do. She is so dedicated to every child that's there. She continues to learn so if a child is struggling with something, needs something more from her, or a different way that she can support them, she will research it, look it up, learn about it, or take a class about it," Ciolkowski said.
"She just has a thirst for knowledge. This is truly her calling in life, and she wants to be the best that she can be for all the kids there."
Tatro is continuing her education by working toward a master's degree in early childhood education through the online program of Walden University in Minneapolis. She hope to continue making an impact on her day-care charges for years to come.
She graduated with a psychology degree in 1991 but after completing an internship, found that that field was not for her and began working at a day care.
Taking care of children has been part her life since she was a teenager assisting her sister, Eileen Lincourt, at her day care.
This influenced her love of children and gave her the confidence to open her own establishment — and especially after realizing it didn't make sense to be dropping of her own kids at a day-care when she was already working at one.
That began her journey opening Connie's Family Child Care in 1993.
Connie Tatro said she would be willing to help and answer any questions a newcomer to the field in regards to licensing, business operations and any aspect of the career. She can be contacted at email@example.com.