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Sponsor Spotlight: Beth Carlton of Child Care Links

Sponsor of Family Child Care Homes and Child Care Centers

July 2, 2024

Beth Carlton is the Executive Director of Child Care Links located in Hutchinson, Kansas. Child Care Links is a sponsoring organization (sponsor) as well as a licensed Research and Referral agency with the state of Kansas. They sponsor about 170 family child care homes across 23 counties in central Kansas and recently started sponsoring child care center, ensuring nutritious meals for around 1,800 children.

As a mom caring for her two children at home, Beth began her career as a family home child care provider. One of Beth’s favorite parts of being a child care provider was making food for the kids. So, when she heard about the CACFP from another provider, she naturally reached out to her local sponsor, Child Care Links, and joined the food program. Beth loved participating in the program and even started taking nutrition classes to learn more about child development. During CACFP monitoring visits, Beth’s monitor noticed her aptitude for the program and encouraged her to apply to work for Child Care Links. In 2005, Beth started working for Child Care Links and 12 years later she became the Executive Director.

NCA Board - Beth Carlton

With four staff members who have all worked as child care providers, Child Care Links understands the day-to-day experience of their providers. Beth believes they are a successful sponsor especially because of their collective backgrounds. The team at Child Care Links is able to relate to the provider, understand their frustrations or hardships with the program, and offer a true partnership to make their businesses successful. They always aim to get the providers excited about participating in the CACFP and taking advantage of the many benefits of the program.

“My favorite is getting out there and interacting with the providers. I want to get them excited. I want them to understand that what they’re doing is more than feeding that kiddo. They’re not just filling their tummy; they’re developing a human, and that is important. So, if I can continue to make them feel excited about that then I feel like my day’s been good.”

Child Care Links does everything they can to support their providers, from providing pediatric first aid and CPR classes to getting grants for farm to early childhood projects. In the past few years, Child Care Links has received a gardening grant that contributed raised beds or indoor garden towers to providers to start a garden. They’ve also sent mixers and supporting materials to help providers make bread with local grain through another grant. Most recently they’ve sent worm farms to 19 of their providers to teach kids about how earthworms aid in the ecosystem of growing fruits and vegetables – every single one of their providers received educational resources on this topic regardless of their participation in the worm farms.

Beth notes that there are so many benefits to the CACFP – it’s more than just reimbursement. Rather than sharing how she thinks the CACFP benefits her providers though, she decided to put the question directly to her providers:

"The CACFP benefits me by helping me provide balanced nutritional meals for my kiddos. Child Care Links provide me with whatever guidance I need and without this program I probably wouldn't be feeding my daycare kids as good of food and balanced meals as I am now and it just really has set a really high and achievable standard in my home. It's even helped me do this for my own family at our meal times outside of daycare."

"CACFP benefits me in many ways. First and foremost, without CACFP funds I would not. The cost of providing meals for children is high and can be financially burdensome. The CACFP funds make it possible for me to provide well rounded meals for children in my care. CACFP sends a monthly newsletter that provides great ideas for meals and snacks helping me to decide what to feed children, this is always welcome because meal planning can often be a daunting task. The learning opportunities that CACFP offers providers are also meaningful as they as they help me maintain a sustainable career within childcare."

"The CACFP has given me tremendous support over the last 15 years from education, to grants, and even growing my childcare library, with the Dolly Parton books. The CACFP is so much more than just a reimbursement check each month. Yes, it helps us feed our children nutritional meals, but it offers plenty more. Quite a number of years ago we were given the opportunity to take a training called Keep Kids Fit and this training was extremely beneficial. I still implement many aspects of it in my curriculum. The children love learning about all the different fruits and vegetables. One of my all time favorite trainings was a training taught about lowering salt consumption and I took away from it the ability to cut salt in my own families diet. Over the years there have been many grant opportunities to enrich our childcare curriculum, currently my childcare is getting ready to start a worm farm thanks to an available grant. These are just a few of the examples of how the CACFP has been a consistent support in my 15 years of providing care in Kansas."

Beth’s motivation to continue working in this space is her own children, two of whom came to her family food insecure after being adopted. Experiencing food insecurity can have lasting effects on a child and witnessing that first hand, Beth doesn’t want any children to struggle for food. Ensuring that children get food at child care at least lets children know that if they aren’t able to have a meal at home, they will have one waiting for them the next morning.

In Hutchinson, Kansas Beth has worked with Child Care Links for 19 years.