Fuller Center Tackles Childcare Workforce Crisis Through New Bill Before Florida State Legislature

Contact: Debbie Abrams

Boca Raton, FL, January 27, 2022 – With the shortage of trained early childhood educators reaching crisis levels, Fuller Center’s CEO Ellyn Okrent has taken the issue all the way to the Florida State Legislature. Okrent and her team at the South Florida-based childcare center and school are confident a new bill currently on the docket will create a solution to the crisis by providing a viable path for a career in early childhood education for those passionate about working in the field.

Fuller is encouraging legislators to pass ‘the Early Education Workforce Initiative,’ Florida House Bill 3343 and Florida Senate Bill LFIR#1659, sponsored by State Representative Mike Caruso and Senator Gail Harrell. The bill would provide funding to train and employ currently un/underemployed individuals in Broward & Palm Beach Counties to become childcare professionals, maintenance, and food service workers. The program supports participants’ economic mobility and creates a pipeline of experienced, qualified childcare workers and early childhood educators, addressing industry-wide critical shortages that are disruptive to the economy. The program reduces costs, increases childcare stability, supports families on their paths to prosperity, and improves the quality of early childhood education.

If the bill passes, the Center will be able to train and educate 28 individuals annually. 

“Study after study shows that the cost of childcare is the biggest barrier to parents’ ability to return to the workforce,” said Okrent.  “Our nation is experiencing a perfect storm of an overall labor shortage, an alarming shortage of early childcare educators, very few available spots for affordable childcare, and costly educational requirements that make it tough to hire new, qualified early childcare workers.  We’re hoping this program can be viewed as a model that can be adopted in other communities.”

Currently 17% of Fuller Center’s staff received on-the-job training. Okrent points to a few examples of people who have benefitted from this prototype program already – simultaneously working at Fuller Center and attending Palm Beach State College and Florida Atlantic University to obtain undergraduate degrees in the field:

  • Joanna Chang needed care for her daughter so she could return to work. She applied for the Head Start program at Fuller Center, enabling her to achieve this goal. Through the program, she took a 40-hour course in early childhood education, which led to a position at Fuller Center, which she has held for the past eight years. Chang started as a teacher’s assistant and recently received her bachelor’s degree, with plans to move into a full-time educator role. “Fuller Center’s support and encouragement was the push that I needed to have a future for my daughter and a fulfilling career for myself,” said Chang.

  • Mary Henry worked for 12 years as a supervisor at a police department emergency call center prior to the birth of her daughter, who was born with a heart condition, making Henry’s return to full-time work difficult. Henry cleaned houses to make ends meet. But when her daughter was accepted into the Head Start program at Fuller Center, Henry began volunteering there. She was then hired full-time as an early childhood worker, and has been with Fuller Center now for 27 years. “I received phenomenal on-the-job training and the opportunity to work. I see myself in so many parents who come through the door,” Henry said.

  • Nicole Parker-Fulton, Fuller Center’s Senior Program Director, has a similar story. The Delray Beach resident started working at the Center in 1996, receiving on-the-job training while working toward her degree. Her children attended Fuller Center at the time. “Working at Fuller Center made it possible for me to pursue my degree and improve life for me and my children,” said Parker-Fulton.  “They’ve opened so many doors for me and my family, and it brings me so much joy to help give children a head start while helping their families become productive citizens.”

To learn more about Fuller Center, or inquire about a career in childcare or early childhood education, contact Mary Coleman at 561-706-3357 or email mcoleman@ffcdc.org.

About the Fuller Center

The Fuller Center has been a community cornerstone for over 50 years, providing under- resourced children the same educational opportunities as their more affluent peers. Our goal is to support hardworking families and their children to achieve their full potential. We believe all children should have the chance to experience success in school, in work, and in life, regardless of their parents’ income or zip code.

For children 6 weeks to 5 years old, we offer a holistic early education program, setting the foundation for school success and lifelong learning. For school-age youth, we have opened a private CHOICE elementary school serving kindergarten to third grade, and we offer after-school, summer camp, and out-of-school-time programs to develop skills in social interaction, literacy, science, technology, math, and the arts, and providing tutoring, mentoring, and enrichment activities. We have incorporated a teen program providing youth the opportunities to build skills in leadership, communication, project development, work skills readiness, and community service.

At the Fuller Center, we believe that educated children and empowered families create a strong, supportive community. The Fuller Center offers a unique, comprehensive system of family support to ensure that parents and caregivers are empowered to provide for their families and make a positive economic impact in our community. We know that when it comes to turning the tide of generational, economic inequity and making a positive impact, tomorrow begins today!


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