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Sponsor Spotlight: Christina Flythe of the Child Care Council of Suffolk

Sponsor of Family and Group Child Care Homes

January 18, 2024

Christina Flythe is the Director of Health and Nutrition at the Child Care Council of Suffolk in Long Island, New York. The Council is a Child Care Resource and Referral (CR&R) organization that supports providers with all the nuts and bolts of child care. The Council has been a CACFP sponsoring organization (sponsor) for 20 plus years and has overseen more than 3,000 child care programs.

With a background in education and social work, Christina joined the Council over 12 years ago, starting as a program assistant working with the CACFP part-time. Since then, she has transitioned to multiple different roles in the organization, learning everything from the bottom up, until she eventually became the Director of Health and Nutrition 5 years ago.

Christina Flythe Headshot_4x3

As Director of Health and Nutrition, Christina oversees over 270 family child care homes and group family child care homes throughout Suffolk County. Although they do not currently sponsor child care centers or afterschool sites, they do support these programs with early development and education resources and have a 2024 goal to branch out their CACFP sponsorship to centers. In addition to her role supporting the CACFP, she also works with the Council’s “Creating Healthy Communities for Children” program and acts as an infant/toddler mental health consultant – working to increase retention in the Early Care and Education (ECE) field.

Christina works collaboratively with other departments within her organization, similar organizations across New York State, and licensing organizations to make sure that they’re all providing the best and most cohesive support to the providers they serve. This best practice shows providers that they’re all on the same page and helps to build a sense of community.

From Christina’s perspective, the Council is a successful sponsor because they are constantly communicating with their providers and have an open-door policy. They use various communication methods to stay in touch with providers, whether it be email, phone call, snail mail, or social media they are constantly getting information to their providers. Every quarter, the Council contacts each of their providers over the phone to connect and check in with them. They pre-emptively reach out to providers who haven’t submitted their claims yet, when there is an approaching deadline. The Council also considers the working hours of providers when doing their programing – having many training sessions in the evening. They’re active in their outreach and communication to new providers as well, hosting an engaging provider orientation to inform them about the CACFP and give them the opportunity to ask any questions.

Christina and her team do an excellent job in supporting their providers in any way they can. She emphasized how important it is to respect family homes as a business, but also respect that this is their home as well – make sure providers are comfortable with you coming in. Everything they do is to help programs provide the best quality early childhood education they can.

After working in this field for 12 years, Christina still finds motivation in working directly with providers. Not only does she want to see their businesses be successful, but she is passionate about supporting providers as individuals as well. She recognizes that you have to remember that life happens outside of family child care and you need to be patient with providers when things come up. That’s why, when a provider is struggling, her response is:

“How do I get you where you want to go? I’m not driving the car, you are, but I’m going to show you some different routes that we can go. We’re going to navigate this thing together.”

Along with her commitment to providers in every aspect of their business, she believes the CACFP is beneficial to all providers. Not only is the CACFP financially beneficial, but the education is also a great help and resource to providers. She loves that the CACFP, in family homes in particular, teaches providers to create a community of children who are learning healthy eating habits, which they then take home to their families. Providers are also able to use the nutrition education from the CACFP to determine when kids are eating too much or not enough and can communicate that to the parents.

Christina also recognizes the importance of child care in general:

“Child care keeps us working. If it wasn’t for child care, I wouldn’t be able to go to work. The importance of early education… we don’t highlight it enough. A lot of people don’t realize it, they consider it just baby sitting and it’s not babysitting. These children are really learning skillsets and tools that they’re going to be able to take on when they get to kindergarten.”

In speaking with Christina, one thing is certain: her overwhelming passion and commitment to the providers she serves. She loves being effective and having her boots on the ground with providers. Although she may be the director of her department, she doesn’t just oversee her team, she still takes the time to have personal touchpoints and conversations with the providers of Suffolk County.

In Long Island, New York, Christina has worked at the Child Care Council of Suffolk for over 12 years.