How Montana Celebrates Child Care Providers All Year Round

April 04, 2022

As we approach Provider Appreciation Day® (May 6, 2022) we are highlighting how communities are honoring the contributions of their child care providers. Sign up to be a supporter and get resources to plan your celebration. 

Where would we be without early childhood professionals caring for the children of our community? I am not sure I want to know the answer to that question. The pandemic brought us to our knees; however, it also showed the world what those of us working in Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies have always known – early care and education professionals are important to EVERYONE. 

At Family Connections MT, where I work as an early childhood development specialist, our team has been celebrating Provider Appreciation Day® for as long as I can remember. We have shown our appreciation in so many ways, but we’ve had to get creative the last few years. We feel that early care and education professionals are worthy of being celebrated all year long. Here is just a sampling of the ways that Family Connections MT has celebrated over the years to get your own creative juices flowing. 

Annual Celebrations 

Our celebrations have ranged from day-long symposiums supporting our providers in their professional development needs to thank you notes sent through the mail.  We have held mini conferences to celebrate our providers, offering focused knowledge and skill development on a variety of topics: adverse childhood experiences, play, self-care, and more.  We also use our annual celebrations to recognize   the STARS to Quality programs (quality rating improvement program). The mini conference also includes a book fair, free lunch, giveaways (including an iPad), and national speakers. 

 Provider Appreciation Halloween 2020 (1)

One year we focused on the power of play – allowing providers to tap into their inner child. The best part of this event was we held it at our Children’s Museum – the perfect place to PLAY! Providers were allowed to experience the different stages of play as well as the many types of play. Such a fun way to celebrate the work they do every day by allowing them to have the same experiences as the children in their care.  

Shifting Gears in the Pandemic 

In the spring of 2020, we had hoped to host a Provider Appreciation Gala for our local providers.  Students from the local Family and Consumer Studies would cater the event. We were going to collect nominations of favorite providers to be recognized with fun and novel categories.    However, as we all know, the pandemic had other ideas.  

I believe it is a disposition of early educators to expect change and challenge, and we were up for it. After rescheduling several times, we decided to take a leap of faith and move the in-person Gala to a virtual format! Each staff member of the provider services department wrote a “love note” to providers and read them during the event, we had prizes and jokes and video and laughter galore! We felt it was a huge success as we had over 125 providers from both our regions attend!  

Last year, with the pandemic still in play, we opted for alternate plans again. We sent all our providers a packet of marigold seed along with a letter of appreciation for the way they nurture those around them. We shared the story of the marigold’s power to support plants around them and talked about how gardeners use marigolds to cultivate their gardens and to ensure a healthy crop -- much like early education professionals do with the children in their care.  

Year-Round Celebrations 

While it is nice to take one day to focus on our providers and celebrate the important work they do, we truly believe they should be celebrated throughout the year. At Family Connections MT, we do that in several ways. We use special events like Read Across America and American Heart Month to engage with providers on social media, encouraging them to toot their own horns and share the great relationships they are building and the experiences they are providing to the children and families they serve.  

We‘ve also featured individual providers on social media throughout the year and provided materials to enhance their work and programs. These features were a great way to showcase providers’ passion for the early care and education field. We are planning to reinstate this program this year, kicking it off on Provider Appreciation Day® 

Delivering Self-Care Resource for Providers 

The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, early education providers included. During the first months of the pandemic, Family Connections MT partnered with a local health facility to provide free sessions with a licensed therapist. This program supported our objective to offer providers additional resources to support their journey of self-care. 

This past fall, in the tradition of celebrating our providers all year long, we brought in a guest presenter to help us celebrate our inner warrior and inspire the use of our traditional warrior spirit principles to stay resilient, fiercely solution-oriented, create clarity from chaos, and get better results in all we do as leaders and service providers.  This conference was good for the soul and helped all of us to re-center on our why. 

Why We Celebrate Providers Every Day  

Our providers work hard every day. They put in long hours, work on the weekends, and work late into the night to ensure they are providing the best care and education to the children in their care. Throughout the last two years, child care providers have worked tirelessly to keep their doors open and to maintain consistency for the children and families they serve.  

Providers worked through the crisis, showing everyone the important part they play in the infrastructure and economic success of our communities. We welcome and applaud this recognition --recognition that has been long awaited. Those of us that work in the child care sector have always known the key role providers play in many aspects of our nation, communities, and families. We work hard to celebrate and appreciate our providers throughout the year and look forward to continuing to do so in small ways. We can hardly wait for this year’s dedicated Provider Appreciation Day® to celebrate with a larger audience and show how truly grateful we are for their sacrifice and dedication.  

Inspired to plan your Provider Appreciation Day ® celebration? Sign up to be a supporter and get resources for your celebration. 

Plan Your Celebration

Topics: Family & Community Engagement

Deb Huestis, BS, M Ed. 

Written by Deb Huestis, BS, M Ed. 

Deb is currently an Early Childhood Professional Development Specialist at Family Connections MT. She has worked in the early childhood education field for 25-plus years in a variety of capacities. She currently enjoys working directly with providers as they build relationships with children and families, providing quality early learning experiences to build a strong foundation.   Family Connections MT is a child care resource and referral agency serving 23 counties throughout north central and eastern Montana. They offer child care referrals and scholarships, resources and supports, and education for families. Their provider services department works to ensure early childhood education professionals have access to high quality professional development opportunities, coaching and business consulting. Family Connections’ work impacts the future by helping children, families, early education professionals and communities to thrive and reach their full potential.