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A Career of Supporting Children, Fueled by a Buell Experience

By Sherri Amen, Cohort 2

I just returned from the retreat and my cup is so full. It is hard to believe that it has been 14 years since I finished my Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program (BECLP) experience. I appreciate the continuity of support that I receive from the Buell Early Childhood Network. Being at the retreat was like attending a family reunion with my Buell family. It was a time of reflection on how far I have come as well as areas where I still need work. I see this as a parallel process of being seen, heard and valued so I can give to others. 

Looking at the BECLN Strategic Roadmap helps me to realize how I have become a bold and catalyzing change agent in my rural, diverse community and where I connect and co-create possibilities for myself, my work in my thriving community as a HealthySteps Specialist, facilitator, coach, infant and toddler advocate, and instructor. I realize the importance of reflection and collaboration for Buell Leaders to connect and co-create possibilities for reflective consultation for themselves, their work, and their communities. I used the I am Poem as an assignment in the Early Childhood Education Class, ECE 2101 Working with Families and Communities, at Morgan Community College. This was a powerful way for students to learn about themselves and their social location so they could have a better understanding of the families they work with in our rural community. One of the students was the commencement speaker for the college graduation and shared her experience with her I am Poem from the Diversity Informed Infant Mental Health Tenants then read it to the audience. 

I continue to facilitate EQIT and I am co-facilitating a Spanish speaking Family, Friend, and Neighbor care teacher training with Buell Leaders.  I collaborate with Buell Leaders in my Early Childhood Council, and I coach family child care providers and give them a space to reflect on their goals while commending them for improving their homes while providing continuity of care with a primary caregiver. I collaborate with Buell Leaders at Healthy Child Care Colorado with the Pyramid Center work and the Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Recognition and at Assuring Better Child Health and Development to expanding HealthySteps sites. I co-facilitated with Eva Jankovsky at the Whole Child Consultative Roles Conference in December and at the retreat and will again for the World Association for Infant Mental congress in July. I am doing Promoting First Relationships through EQIT to expand my skills of nurturing parents and caregiving to nurture their young children.

Three years ago, I transitioned to a HealthySteps Specialist from a Child Care Director for an Infant and Toddler Center for teen parents and was able to rely on my skills learning from doing the BECLP and the connections I have with the BECLN. The BECLN gave me the opportunity to find my true authentic self and use my voice to advocate for myself and others who do this important work, especially those who care for infants and toddlers and those who coach these care teachers.  I feel like this is such an important time as 85 percent of brain development happens during this crucial time of development and these young children look to their care teachers for co-regulation and attachment strategies. I also feel like this time is so important because it can be a huge port of entry for prevention.  It can also be a time for early intervention for all domains of development. I have the opportunity to reach many families because most families take their children to a medical clinic for well-child checks. I can advocate for them and be an early childhood lens as well as a mental health lens.  The leadership skills that I have learned from the BECLP/BECLN encouraged me to get an infant mental health endorsement, a perinatal mood disorder certificate, incorporate Cavity Free at Three at our clinic, get certified as a Circle of Security Facilitator to promote attachment, become a HealthySteps Ambassador, did the Harris Child Development and Infant Mental Health Fellowship to promote Infant Mental Health. and become a certified lactation counselor because I saw the needs for such services, and I felt called to action. I use my leadership skills to support other HealthySteps Specialists and allow space for families to find their voices on how they want to create their family culture for their children and navigate early childhood.  My social location benefits my engagement with families.  I collaborate with physicians who have a strong medical education and experiences and may have a totally different upbringing than most of the families we see.  Many of the families that we work with are women of color who are immigrants or refugees to our small, rural community with limited resources. Many families are navigating generational trauma. The BECLP continues to give me tools to heal myself and be able to show up for others as my true authentic self.  It also helps me to reflect on being a stronger early childhood education leader.  The reason that I joined the Alumni Leaders Council (ALC) is to give back to a program and network that has offered me so much and continues to do so through power, privilege, knowledge, tools, and experiences.  Being able to fill my cup enables me to continue to support families.