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Doan Addresses GSA Child Care Conference

As prepared for delivery

Remarks by
Lurita Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
18th Annual GSA Child Care Conference
Washington, DC.
July 25, 2007

 

Thank you Tony Reed; good afternoon everyone.  As a former small business owner and college professor, as Administrator of GSA, and, yes, as a mom, I’m absolutely thrilled to join you at the 18th Annual GSA Childcare Conference.

Before I say one more word, I’d like to read from a letter that arrived last week from the White House. President Bush sends all of you his greetings and says:

“Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, and our nation has a responsibility to ensure that they develop the characters and skills needed to reach their full potential. Over the years, many caring individuals have dedicated themselves to protecting and supporting young Americans while their parents and guardians are at work. GSA’s Child Care Conference is a valuable opportunity for child care providers to learn best practices in high-quality child care.

I appreciate this year’s conference participants and all those who work to ensure exceptional child care. Your efforts make a difference in the lives of our country’s youth and help build a brighter future for our nation. Laura and I send our best wishes for a successful conference.”

I think that’s wonderful, couldn’t agree more, and truly appreciate the President’s gracious gesture.

I wasn’t able to be with you at last year’s conference, but you should know I’ve been a passionate advocate of GSA Child Care since my fifth day on the job. It’s true. I was at GSA less than a week when National Child’s Day rolled around and I found myself facing a hallway full of kids whose parents work at GSA. Kids can be a tough audience. I looked at them and they looked right back. To them I wasn’t the new Administrator; I was the person standing between them and the cookies and punch.  There was a little silence and then I told them …

The fact that all of you are here tells me your parents are special people. They believe what President Bush and many others have said … that the character of a child is formed in the earliest years through the love and guidance of family members and other caring individuals.
This event took place right outside our terrific Central Office Childcare Center, “Fingerprints.” Fingerprints is one of 28 centers serving 32 federal agencies in GSA’s National Capital Region. I think parents throughout the DC area feel the same about GSA-managed care as parents across the nation. And with good reason …

  • We routinely rate higher than the private centers. How many areas can you name where government out-performs the private sector?
  • Parent surveys show overwhelming satisfaction with our centers;
  • Over 90 percent of our centers are blessed by NAEYC (The National Association for The Education of Young Children). That includes two that will get the official nod today and four that will be re-accredited – my congratulations to you. This is a significant achievement. NAEYC Accreditation does not happen without superior administration, staffing, curriculum, nutrition and several other essentials. Karen Means is here from NAEYC and will say more in a few minutes;
  • and of course the numbers tell our story as well – 110 centers serving 8,000 kids daily across the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Let me say a few words about The Rainforest Center in Puerto Rico, because I think it’s a success story that speaks to the level of talent, dedication and innovation prevalent throughout our centers. I was there in April with Eileen for the opening of a new wing. The expansion was necessary because of the center’s immense popularity. Rainforest is a bilingual center. It became the first GSA-sponsored center in the Caribbean when it opened in 2002. The original capacity was 74 children, but it quickly became clear that wasn’t enough. The new wing now lets us accommodate 103. The center is also very well-designed … secure, yet built so the kids get a real sense of being in open space when they’re playing outside.

All of you know that high-quality child care is critical on so many levels:

  • The employer who can offer safe, top-flight care has a huge advantage in attracting the best job applicants with small children;
  • Quality care allows parents to focus on their work secure in the knowledge that their children are being well attended;
  • A superior child care center is also a key building amenity;
  • And of course there’s the children, who thrive in a nurturing environment.

These are some of the reasons that GSA is so committed to high-performing child care centers, from Rainforest Kids in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico to Tundra Tykes in Anchorage, Alaska. Part of the reason you’re all here is to celebrate what may be the least well known success story at GSA. Let me take a moment to publicly acknowledge the work and leadership of Eileen Stern, Director of GSA’s Office of Child Care. Let me also thank all of you. And by that I mean:

  • The teachers and directors;
  • The project, property and program managers;
  • The architects, engineers, security and safety specialists;
  • The members of the child care center boards of directors;
  • The corporate for and not-for-profit child care providers;
  • Those representing non-profit organizations;
  • And anyone representing a federal agency (by the way, please make sure to tell your procurement officials to buy GSA).

In all seriousness, your presence at this event speaks to your commitment to continued learning and improvement.  Eileen, Sue Dixon and the entire team have put together a terrific agenda that includes expert speakers and plenty of opportunities to share ideas and best practices.

In closing, I can’t help but think of all the children at our centers around the nation. We’re still around the lunch hour, so I can imagine half-eaten sandwiches, juice boxes with bent straws, and maybe a treat or two for dessert. I know the kids are hungry because I know they had a busy and productive morning. And I know they’ll need their energy this afternoon, because the fantastic teams that run and work at our centers know their business and are committed to a curriculum that exercises minds and muscles.

All of us know it’s no accident that GSA is the recognized leader in federal work site child care, and that other agencies routinely come to us for guidance in this arena.

Your theme this year is, “become inspired,” but I think you’ve already hit that mark.

I urge you instead to stay inspired – to maintain your love and enthusiasm and commitment for the very important work you do each day – and of course to keep inspiring those little souls who get dropped off to your centers each day. Keep their brains busy, their bodies, active, and their eyes full of wonder ... 

Thank you very much.