In this second “Provider Spotlight,” which is a standard feature article in our newsletter, we recently connected with Jennifer Piper, Licensed Family Child Care Home Provider at Wee Care Childcare. Piper has been providing child care services for 26 years, during which time she earned her Director Certification and is one course shy of earning her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. 

“I had never intended on getting into childcare or the early childhood field, but when I moved to Colorado, I was pregnant and I figured it would be unlikely that I would get hired anywhere knowing that I would be needing maternity leave in just a few months,” Piper said. “ I brainstormed to think of things I could do from home until I had my baby, and I landed on childcare. The first child enrolled was a 10-month-old baby. He was such a joy and it was such a good feeling to know that his parents entrusted me with the most valuable thing in their life!”

Since that first child, Piper has expanded her services every year, offering 24/7 care, hiring an assistant, and expanding her license to a large license. Piper went through the virtual rating process with Colorado Shines this past year. She had participated in in-person ratings prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided to move forward with the virtual rating process in 2020 rather than wait for in-person ratings to resume. 

“Although it was difficult to navigate at first, it turned out to be an easier process than the in-person rating,” she said. “I felt like I knew my childcare set up better than anyone so it was not difficult to round up and take pictures of the items for the rating, whereas with the in-person rating, there were things missed by the rater, mostly because she didn’t know where to look for them.” 

Piper opted to submit pictures for her virtual rating. Video was also an accepted format. Piper was impressed with the responsiveness of the rater and how smoothly the process went. 

Piper works closely with Logan Mansanarez, Early Childhood Coach at Early Childhood Council of Larimer County. 

“It is clear that Jen reads through material and really prepares for each [coaching] session,” Mansanarez said. “She always has questions to better understand requirements. She really seeks to learn.”

It’s this attitude and appetite for learning that enabled Piper to earn the highest rating, 5 stars, through Colorado Shines. 

The Power of Being Licensed

“I do not feel like a childcare license or rating makes you a better provider, but it does regulate providers and provides information on the changing regulations of childcare in the state of Colorado. This, in turn, keeps children safer,” Piper said. “Being licensed also allows you to accept children on assistance, apply for grants, get assistance from the Early Childhood Council, earn a quality rating through Colorado Shines, and get on the child care referral list. There’s a lot to gain, with the biggest being elevating the quality of care for children.”  

In terms of working with Early Childhood Council of Larimer County, Piper sees the Council and her coach, Mansanarez, as integral to her operation. 

“Logan has been amazing,” Piper said. “She has helped me with so many aspects of my business, including answering questions–or if she doesn’t have the answer, she finds someone who does–helping me find grants that are helpful to grow, expand, and maintain a high-quality childcare business, supporting me through my rating, and brainstorming with me about ideas on how to better fulfill the changing needs of families in the community.”

Mansanarez commented that Piper’s willingness to take feedback, implement new ideas, and grow in myriad ways set her apart from other early childcare providers.

“I love her tenacity and dedication to this work,” Mansanarez said. “It is clear that she loves working with children and supporting families. She is such a go-getter, and I enjoy being able to support her anyway possible.”

Looking Ahead

In addition to completing her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, Piper has big plans to continue improving her childcare offerings.  

“Along with full-time childcare, I am going to offer two daily sessions of part-time childcare that will be focused on learning life-skills, which, among other things, will include age-appropriate preschool and pre-K curriculum addressing each of the learning domains,” Piper said. 

Piper is also excited to embrace the changing childcare needs of families, particularly as more parents work remotely. 

“Ultimately, I think parents will be able to spend more time with their children, and their children will spend less time in childcare,” Piper said. “This excites me for the parents and children.

As a provider earning a living in the field that may seem like a strange opinion, but what it means to me is that, rather than helping raise children, I can focus more intensely on helping them learn life skills and school readiness. As much as I enjoy being with children, and respect parents’ choices to trust me with their children, I like the thought of not feeling like children spend more waking time with me than with their parents.”

Mansanarez isn’t surprised that Piper would embrace this shift in the field. “In my time working with Jennifer, I have always appreciated her outside-the-box thinking about providing care and support,” Mansanarez said. 

More About Jennifer Piper

While running a family child care home has been a primary focus of Piper’s for nearly three decades, she also takes pride in her family and home. 

“I am a mother of two amazing boys, who are men now, but they will always be my boys!” she said. “I enjoy spending time with them, which is not often, but I value and appreciate every minute they take out of their busy schedules to spend with me.”

In addition, Piper (pictured on the left) is working on several indoor and outdoor home projects. She also enjoys with friends and family, either having a BBQ at the house or meeting for dinner somewhere.