Karen Garcia joined the Early Learning Division (ELD) in April 2016 as a Program Development Specialist charged with facilitating system improvement for license-exempt providers across the child care spectrum, with a focus on regulated subsidy providers. Subsidy providers are non-relative providers who are receiving subsidy dollars to care for children in Oregon. Additionally, she provides contract administration for resource and referral agencies(R&R) – whose roles are to provide professional development and support to child care providers – and focused care networks. Her role is a perfect fit for her, as she has worked with care and license exempt providers for 12 years.
Karen has always found this line of work enriching and rewarding, because she has been able to show providers – who oftentimes refer to themselves as “babysitters” – their value and what a significant role they have in the learning and development of children. “Having a child care license doesn’t necessarily mean quality, and not having a license doesn’t necessarily mean the provider lacks quality. What is important is that families are able to choose the provider that is best for their children and circumstances,” she shared when explaining the value of these non-licensed providers.
Regulated subsidy, by definition, is non-relative providers who are receiving subsidy dollars to care for children in Oregon. Karen explained that ELD is not simply working off the textbook definition, but rather, “I’m working to integrate all providers across the spectrum of child care with training, supports, and quality.” These trainings and supports must be meaningful for family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) providers, who are being included in this cross-system integration with intention for the first time. ELD has been ahead of the curve with this implementation and Karen is eager to see the outcomes.
When asked what is most rewarding and motivating about her work with the ELD, Karen shared: “I am so excited to work for an organization with such passionate individuals where our focus is clearly on providing equitable opportunities for all children and families. This is not just a job, but a place where you know you’re making a difference implementing policies and practices for children furthest from opportunity. This ELD has the unique opportunity to put relationship based practices into policy, and I am excited for Oregon families to benefit from these improvements.”
Prior to joining the ELD, Karen was a program coordinator for R&R, where she was responsible for setting up training for providers that would enable them to provide quality care to the children and families they served. At SEIU, she was an organizer for home care, nursing care, and child care providers. When her current position became available after House Bill 2015 was created, she was excited to apply and was elated to get the position and join the division.