Dottie Williams of Dorchester, MA
Every month, we feature a leading Family Child Care Provider from Massachusetts. Each of these Providers has developed a unique program that reflects methods and developmental philosophies based on years of experience working with young children. These women are providers, educators, and businesswomen. Each is a "Pillar" in their community and plays an integral role in the lives of the children and families they work with. We're honored to help bring their stories to life.
For Dottie, what started as a temporary opportunity to stay home with her daughter has grown into a successful business and a life-long passion. Most importantly for Dottie, she is providing a critical service to her community—supporting local families and instilling young people with self-confidence, respect, and compassion.
Dottie, how did you get started as a licensed Family Child Care Provider?
I was previously the Director of Human Resources for Children’s Services of Roxbury, so I had exposure to the administrative side of child care, and I saw the tremendous need for educators. My daughter was a teenager at the time, and I wanted to stay at home, so I thought this was the perfect chance for me to fill a need for my community and my family. I assumed it would just be temporary until my daughter graduated, but here I am 11 years later. And I still love it.
Of course, it’s an ongoing process for me. I’m always taking classes, staying current on what’s new and improved. I’m actually working to earn my doctorate in early childhood development. Things change constantly, and I want to be prepared to address new challenges when they arise.
What do you love about child care?
My children come from my community, and I love that I have the opportunity to participate in their future. This job is not just about caring for children. It’s really about families, and the impact you have on the families. The old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child,” is really true, and I’ve seen it in action.
With a lot of the children I have now, their older siblings were in my program. I’m so happy to say that I’ve had that experience. They say that once a child who was in your program signs up their own children, you’ve been in the business too long. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I am looking forward to it.
How would you describe your approach and philosophy with the kids?
I prioritize children’s social and emotional development by letting them be creative and providing a lot of hands-on activities. Particularly with mealtimes, we’re not in a rush—I want them to be excited to participate in the meal, learn to feed themselves, and know it’s okay to make mistakes or take their time figuring it all out. It’s never too early to develop self-esteem, confidence, and self-awareness.
What are your favorite activities with the children?
I love circle time. We circle up every morning, sing songs, read a story, and do a physical activity like yoga to get their bodies moving. That’s my favorite part of the day.
Right now, I have a mix of age groups in my program, and I love having infants. The process of watching children grow never gets old for me. It’s amazing to see them learn to sit up, feed themselves, and start walking. It all happens so naturally. I enjoy that immensely.
What's the most important thing for a parent to know when considering a family child care program?
Academics are important, but make sure the emotional piece is being addressed. And get a sense of how the provider communicates with parents. I have a monthly newsletter and menu that I send out to my parents, along with a calendar of community events. I want to make sure they are aware of programs happening in our area—parents get busy, and they may not always know about the different resources that exist. Every quarter, we also have the families over on a Saturday for lunch, and we just talk and enjoy each other’s company. I think it’s important for parents to develop camaraderie and know who their children are spending the days with. It’s also an opportunity for me to share information. At the last gathering, we discussed potty-training.
Most importantly, pay attention to your gut feelings. As a parent, you know your child and you know when they are happy or when something’s not right.
How do families find out about your program?
Most of my families now find me by word of mouth, through recommendations from other parents. And lately, I’ve been caring for a lot of second children. I’m actually holding two spots this fall for parents who are pregnant right now with their second child. But I also know that, increasingly, parents are doing research about child care providers online, so it’s important to have a website as well.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a Family Child Care Provider?
Read the regulations first, and make sure you’re up for it. Starting a program requires an up-front commitment of your time and money, advertising your program, and establishing the back-end operations. You have to treat it as a business, because it is one.
Check out Dottie’s profile on NeighborSchools.