Thursday, January 31, 2008

One smart cookie

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff

Cookie Magazine named Jessica Sager, founder of All Our Kin, as one of five Smart Cookie finalists for its 2008 Reader’s Choice Awards.
Cookie, a national monthly about contemporary parenting, launched the contest, now its second year, to honor women who balance everyday demands of motherhood with making a difference for women and children in their communities.
Readers will decide which finalist gets a $35,000 donation from Cookie for his or her nonprofit organization.
To date, All Our Kin has built a network of 197 certified, home-based child care centers, and serves 250 parents and providers who care for 1,200 children annually.
Amos Friedland, a Yale Law School student familiar with Cookie, nominated Sager for the competition, much to her surprise and delight. Sager, shown at right, lives in Hamden with her husband, Sachin Pandya, and daughter, Sophia, 2.
All Our Kin, founded by Sager when she finished Yale Law School in 1999, trains and licenses home-based child care providers.
In addition to $35,000, the winner will receive $1,000 for a charity of choice, and will be an honoree at the Smart Cookie Awards gala in New York City April 21.
Sager, 36, said she enrolled in law school intending to work as an advocate for children.
When the 1996 federal Personal Responsibility Act set stringent limits on welfare for low-income mothers, Sager believed that many could earn a living as home-based child care providers, allowing them to earn income while staying home with their children.
Many low-income women already ran such home centers, but lacked training and state certification, she said. "They were afraid to ask for help," she said, worried the state might shut them down.
Sager and All Our Kin co-founder Janna Wagner, a New Haven native, decided to start an agency to help women obtain training and certification while improving care for the children.
The agency expands access to high-quality child care for children in their earliest years, which many experts consider the most critical stage of brain development.
"I want children to be safe, loved, and learning," Sager said.
All Our Kin, funded largely by local foundations and individual donations, operates out of offices on Grand Avenue in Fair Haven.
The agency offers low-income women economically sustainable job opportunities, education and the chance to develop a career as a child care professional.
As the agency’s graduates open up more child care centers, they expand the availability of affordable, high quality child care.
To vote online, go to Votes will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Feb. 8. The winner will be chosen Feb. 11.

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