When you think of raising a child, you might think of the importance of parents in a child’s life. However, we often forget the caregivers who make families’ lives run smoothly: taking the children to school and activities, making sure they’re fed and safe. That’s why Hope Baker and Nancy Weinrib, discussion leaders in the Prelude to Preschool program at the 14th Street Y, teamed up with photographer Bridget Badore for a caregiver portrait series. We sat down with Nancy, Hope, and our Director of Family Programs Dana Federbush to talk about this inspiring project and how it came to be.
Can you tell us your roles in this project, and how it came about?
Hope: My personal experience with one of my groups, it initiated this idea of having a portrait gallery, and having a part of their stories represented here at the 14th Street Y. It was something that a caregiver really initiated—this idea of us thinking about how they could be noticed more.
Nancy: Was it also after seeing the portrait gallery of staff?
Hope: They had seen it, but it was obviously from other things that the idea came about. But they had seen the photographs and thought about it.
Nancy: So there was a combination of influences.
Dana: And I think Jane, who was our previous prelude to preschool director, had it in mind as something that she wanted to pursue, in terms of recognizing the caregivers in a larger way within the 14Y. So it was a combination of all these things and then the caregivers in Hope’s group, independent of that, also expressed that they would love to be a part of that. And then at the same time, the portraits of, I think it was “Portraits of the 14th Street Y”, some of the caregivers saw that.
Nancy: I think that in the work that’s happened, I guess under Jane’s leadership, but really in collaboration with everybody involved, we’ve always been thinking about ways to recognize and feature the caregivers who we know occupy a more invisible space, in a way. And yet, they’re so central in the families’ lives, in the 14Y community, and then their stories that they bring about their lives outside of here that we often don’t have access to. So there was an opportunity to submit a proposal.
Dana: I think we were one of five or six winners at the Educational Alliance as a whole who received a grant, so we’re excited.
What are some surprising things that you learned during this process?
Hope: Well it wasn’t surprising, because I’ve had a caregiver who’s still in our lives, just how invested they are, individually, in the children and in the well-being of the family. So even though I had my own experience, I was hearing how they felt, their stories, and it was almost like I hadn’t experienced it before because every story was different, and very rich
Nancy: It was more excitement over the possibility of having the caregivers be seen and known in a larger context.
Dana: I would add, something that really came to the surface with a lot of interviews of the caregivers was number one how much they feel a part of the families that they work for. They really feel like part of the family, and feel so involved in the children’s lives, and how important that role is. And then the second thing was how much a part of the 14Y they feel. They love being here, they feel like it’s their community, they feel like they’ve made friends here, they feel like people are really supportive and helpful. They’re not just bringing the kids to and from programs, but they feel like this is their community.
How does the 14th Street Y help support caregivers?
Hope: Well, I think through colleagues working very closely with one another, supporting one another, and really believing in the work that we’re doing. I think that is really what’s enabled it to happen, because even if we believe this is something that we should be doing, or that they want, but to have the teachers we’re working with feel that way, it’s like we’re all in it together.
Nancy: I feel like the doors are open from the minute you walk in off the street. What I observe when I walk in the door is how friendly and responsive the staff is. People know each other by name, whether that’s family members or caregivers who are coming with children or on their own, they’re seen, they’re recognized, they’re known. And then they get into the elevator, and whether they’re getting off on the 3rd floor or the 4th floor, people in the administrative suites know the caregivers, and then the classroom staff embraces them. There’s been a day that is known as Nanny Appreciation Day, a day to take a minute and take stock, and we set it aside to recognize and honor their role, not only in the program but just in general. We’ve been told many times that by caregivers that they’ve participated in programs where nothing like that has ever happened before. So I think that the 14Y, just by virtue of how it sort of sets itself up, creates this very inclusive experience.
Dana: I really do think that they feel that the 14Y is embracing them, and that they’re part of the family unit. It’s not the children and parents, and then the caregivers. They really feel a part of that, and it carries over here. And caregivers tell us that they’ve told the parents, “Why don’t you bring your kids here,” because they’ve been here for Baby and Infant classes and really love it. So they encourage the parents to send their children here because the caregivers spend a lot of time here, and they want to be in a place that’s comfortable.
Nancy: I’ve also seen caregivers who move on from our program, which is before preschool, who maybe will continue with the child while they’re in preschool, and then I’ve run into them in After School. So it’s this experience that starts when the kids are very young, when the kids they’re caring for are very young, but they’re watching them grow here while the 14Y is sort of participating in that process.
How do caregivers work together with parents in the family dynamics?
Nancy: A lot of these families feel as if the children have two mothers, or fathers. They become very integrated into the families, and it’s a huge responsibility. And I think in this culture of heightened sensitivity about immigration issues, but also with the proliferation of nanny cams and a lot of technology, there’s a kind of heightened vigilance and scrutiny, which the work of the caregivers will come under. It’s very public, it’s very open, but there’s a heightened awareness that I think they feel about the delicacy of their work. It is hard work to begin with, but here’s all of these other larger pressures that we become aware of that gets talked about. It is really fortunate that the family members and caregivers participate, because these things will be talked about, and multiple perspectives will be understood and taken into account. A space gets furnished for these types of conversations in a way that doesn’t always happen in other contexts.
A Celebration of the Caregiver Community Gallery Opening
Thursday, November 7 | 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Please join us for an inspiring gallery opening honoring caregivers at the 14th Street Y. Photographer Bridget Badore, and many of the discussion leaders and caregivers highlighted in the exhibit will be there to speak and mingle with guests.RSVP
Light refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to all.
A Celebration of the Caregiver Community:
Portraits and Biographies by Bridget Badore
October 31 – December 13
This special exhibit features and celebrates our connections with the caregivers who play such a vital role in the lives of families and individuals in our community. It offers a window into their diverse cultural backgrounds and conveys their rich stories about work, personal histories, and varied experiences. It is with enormous appreciation and gratitude that the exhibit shares the compassionate, generous, nurturing, devoted, and resourceful lives of these dedicated individuals who provide support here at the 14th Street Y and beyond.
The inspiration for this exhibit came through a 2017 Prelude to Preschool Discussion Group. Caregivers in the group expressed interest in being featured in the 14Y Gallery after seeing the “Portraits of the 14th Street Y” Exhibit by Bridget Badore earlier that year. We are thrilled that their idea has come to fruition.
About the photographer:
Bridget Badore is an editorial and portrait photographer from a small town outside of Syracuse, New York. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts honors program in 2013 with a BFA in Photography. She began taking photographs in elementary school when she received her dad’s old 35mm camera; she taught herself photography through her late father’s scribbled notes and old photography manuals. Obsessed with nostalgia from an early age, her work often deals with the concept of home and where people find it.
Captivated by the intimacy that the camera lends her, Bridget allows her subjects to be vulnerable and honest. She has been featured as a selection in American Photography 32 and participated in the Daniel Cooney Fine Art emerging artists auction. Her freelance clients include Instyle, Bustle, Man Repeller, School of Visual Arts, Apartment Therapy, AirBNB, Betaworks, Google, WNET, ITV, Tribeca Film Festival, and Photo District News.
@bridgetbadore | www.bridgetbadore.com