How many years have you worked with children?


What brought you to work with children? Have you always wanted to or did it just happen?

Growing up in a family full of educators, I always kind of knew that I would end up working with children in some way in the future. I taught preschool and elementary gymnastics all through high school and college and I loved the joy on these young gymnasts faces when they would master a new skill that they worked so hard to accomplish. In college I decided to go into education because I wanted to continue making an impact, I always thought I would work in Early Childhood Education but ended up teaching high school FACS. I enjoyed being able to provide students with skills that they can use in the adult world. Now as Executive Director of Conway Cradle Care, I am able to have the best of both worlds. I am lucky enough to work with the children of our adolescent parents and I am lucky to get to support and mentor these young parents in being the best parent, student and community member possible.

What is your most treasured accomplishment?

Becoming a mom is one of my most treasured accomplishments. Becoming a parent is the hardest but best thing I have ever done and my sweet Zoey has made me a better and kinder human.

What is your favorite thing about working with children?

I love being able to play a part in a child’s development with every hug and every chat. No doubt working in child care has its challenges. However, there are countless reasons why I believe that working with kids and their families is the most fulfilling job out there. The best part of being around kids all day is watching them learn, grow, and develop. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing the pride on a child’s face when they finally succeed at something they have been working hard at. Not only do I get to interact with this wonderful kiddos but I also have the honor of supporting their parents. These adolescent parents are so resilient and can accomplish anything they desire. It is the goal of Conway Cradle Care to empower expectant and parenting adolescents by meeting the developmental needs of their children, providing opportunities to further their education, and encouraging independence as a student, parent, and community member.

What has been the most significant or memorable moment in your job?

A few weeks ago we had a booth at a local teacher breakfast before school started back. During this time I was able to speak with a few of our former adolescent parents and they are all now working for the Conway School District. I met these moms when they were young parents in high school and seeing their success and proof that these young parents can overcome the statistics or the stigma of being an adolescent parent, and prove to so many that just because they had a baby at a young age does not mean that their life is over and you have to drop out of school.

Do you have any dreams or aspirations you want to share?

I hope to one day empower as many expectant and parenting adolescents across the state by meeting the developmental needs of their children, providing opportunities to further their education, and encouraging independence through parenting and life skill mentoring. I believe that everyone deserves the right to education and should not have to put that on hold because they have a child. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy, Arkansas has the second highest pregnancy rate for females ages 15-19. As of right now our mentoring program serves all of Faulkner, Van Buren, Conway and Perry counties and we have one childcare facility located in Conway. Knowing that Arkansas is the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, I hope one day our program is able to serve more than just 4 of our 75 counties.

If you are an educator and want to share your story,
contact Deborah at!

Wellness Corner

Farm to School Month

October is Farm to School Month! 

Arkansas’ Farm to ECE program has put together some fun activities to promote Farm to School Month. We are encouraging everyone to participate in a Farm to School week (Oct. 16th-20th) filled with guest speakers, taste tests, virtual tours, and more. Check out this link for more information as well as information about a $5000 grant opportunity to expand your kitchen equipment!

Farm to ECE is one module that is represented in Go NAPSACC. Providing farm to table experiences in your center is a great way to build a child’s knowledge of how food gets from where it is grown to their table, something they may not be familiar with outside of school.

Adding a garden to your center provides a hands-on learning experience and a chance to add local, homegrown produce to your meals and snacks.

To learn more about Go NAPSACC and other health and wellness opportunities, contact

Check out our amazing Curricula Concepts Team  and the sessions they are presenting

at the AECA Conference!

Register for the AECA Conference HERE!

DCCECE Provider Information Call


If you missed the October 3, 2023 Provider Call, click HERE and scroll down. Click on October 3, 2023 - Child Care Provider Call to watch. 

CCDF Split Payments

  • Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) low-income voucher payments are issued through the AR Dept of Education

  • Foster Care voucher payments are issued by the Department of Human Services

  • Payment Questions? Contact: Patricia Johnson ( 501-320-8989

Danita Pitts (Division of Elementary and Secondary Education-DESE)

Angie Neel (Good Earth Child Care Center)

Jody Abernathy (Director of DREAM Early Childhood & Afterschool Academy in Sherwood, AR)

  • Jody shared about expanding and their new center (opened 9/18)

  • The new center allows for the opportunity to serve approximately 150 more children in the community

Tom Sheppard Child Care Development Funds Updates

  • Essential worker funds have been exhausted

  • The final round of COVID grant funding has been issued for payment

  • Contact: Tom Sheppard ( 501-396-6158

  • Contact: Brandy Ishmon ( 501-320-8930

  • Contact: Paige Cox ( 501-320-8940

Arkansas Education Licensure System (AELS)

  • Update on background checks for early childhood professionals in school districts

  • Effective October 1, 2023

  • New process for Office of Early Childhood licensed programs. Instead of submitting two background checks, providers will submit one check through the Office of Early Childhood option highlighted (see attached image). This result will be processed through our office and will be posted to the AELS system for employment.

  • For programs that are licensed through the Office of Early Children only. For example, Arkansas Better Chance programs and out-of-school time programs. 

  • Contact: Kayla Bodi ( 501-320-8926

  • States with the Best & Worst Early Education Systems(Arkansas is #1!)

Next Child Care Provider Call: November 7, 2023 at 12:00 pm


Well-Being Wednesdays are the first Wednesday of every month!  Join us on Facebook! If you missed a Well-Being Wednesday, you can also find them on our YouTube Channel.

Curricula Concepts Inc. is offering trainings in person and online via Zoom for families and educators! Go to our Training Calendar to sign up! Have questions or problems with registering for trainings? Contact Deborah at!

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“If we give our children sound self-love, they will be able to deal with whatever life puts before them.”

- Bell Hooks

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