BANANAS Honors New Board Member Nancy Harvey for Women’s History Month!

March is Women’s History Month, which serves as a helpful reminder to highlight the contributions of the women in our lives. This month, we are honoring a woman who is a child care provider, child care advocate, a proud member of SEIU Local 521, and a new Board Member at BANANAS — Nancy Harvey.

Nurture, care, and educate is the philosophy behind Nancy’s mission whether she is serving children in her family day care, Lil Nancy’s Primary Schoolhouse in West Oakland, supporting parents in raising their children, or advocating for other child care providers. As a former grammar school teacher, Harvey witnessed first-hand how crucial early care and education is for our littlest learners.

A hallmark of Harvey’s care is the low staff-to-child ratio that ensures children in her care have the necessary adult-child interactions that promote quality learning opportunities and prevent education gaps from developing. She has leveraged educational resources in the community to better serve the children she cares for, from the local public library to Oakland Parks and Recreation opportunities.

Children are never too young to learn. I love my work and have never doubted that my calling is to educate children in their earliest years”, says Harvey.

Harvey comes from a family of activists. Her passion is to advocate for child care providers, fight for better wages and overall respect for the profession, and push policymakers to fix California’s inequitable child care system. In November 2017, Harvey boldly spoke before the Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education about how collective bargaining is also about professionalizing the industry, creating career ladders for providers to move-up to better-paying positions, reducing high turnover, and ensuring that tax dollars are spent on the families and children who need early care and education the most.

In 2018, Harvey was heavily involved in Ballot Measure A, Alameda County’s Child Care and Early Education Initiative, and also supported Measure AA, the City of Oakland’s initiative. While, Measure A proposed raising the sales tax in Alameda County to support early childhood education, Measure AA, the Oakland Children’s Initiative, proposed expanding access to quality, affordable preschool for every child from a low-income background in Oakland. The measures did not pass, but Nancy and her team of advocates feel hopeful for the future. Most recently, Harvey has been working with state lawmakers to get the new bill AB 378 through the legislature. She is confident that the bill if passed, will push for higher quality early child care access and the opportunity for child care providers to form unions.

We owe it to the next generation to make a change, or else we won’t have a quality child care industry that affects every family, workplace, and the local and state economies”, says Harvey.

Harvey feels that by being on the Board for BANANAS, she can better represent child care providers and make their voices heard. She loves BANANAS’ wide array of programs and is extremely fond of parent and provider workshops. Her favorite is the SEIU On-The-Job Training Project classes. In her free time, Harvey goes out for nature walks, indulges in interior design showcases, and spends time with her three children.

Please join us in welcoming Nancy Harvey as our new Board Member!

Celebrate Women’s History Month with Children

Educate our youngest learners about the many accomplishments of women and involve them in celebrating Women’s History Month. Here’s how:

  • Read books to your children about great women who made big contributions to the world
  • Plan a trip to a local museum and learn about various events about Women’s History Month
  • Take your children to a local women’s organization to learn about what they do for the community and possibly volunteer
  • Every family has their own amazing women worth celebrating! Plan a breakfast with your child and the special woman in your family (mother, grandma, aunts, cousins) and have your children listen to her stories

BANANAS Celebrates Black History Month

This February, we observe Black History Month, an opportunity to teach young children the importance of peace, diversity, and acceptance. For parents and child care providers, this month provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss race, civil rights, and the importance of love and tolerance with children. Educate your children about the many achievements of African Americans and involve them in celebrating Black History Month.

BANANAS has been long-serving African American families and child care providers. We offer support, education, and professional development opportunities to help child care providers better care for children.

This Black History Month, we are highlighting one of our very passionate and hard working child care providers – Linda Faye Johnson.

Linda understands that education is at the heart of professional achievement and she credits BANANAS’ staff and our free workshops as the foundation for her successful family child care business – Umoja House. In April 2018, with support from BANANAS staff member Soyla Madrigal, Linda was enrolled in the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) On-The-Job Training Project for Family Child Care Providers. This program allows her to earn a CA Child Development Associate Teacher’s Permit through the four college courses provided by Berkeley City College. In addition, Linda receives monthly on-site coaching through BANANAS and a stipend of $2,200. “I feel blessed to be a part of this program because it strengthens my skills and increases my knowledge and understanding in providing early care and education to children in my program,” says Linda.

The Training Project helps child care providers like Linda with professional development opportunities. It also provides tips and techniques on how to improve interactions with children, supplemental training materials, and one-on-one guidance.

Linda continues to attend BANANAS child care provider workshops in order to increase her knowledge of child development and improve her skills as a caregiver. She says that she is thankful to the BANANAS staff for recognizing her professional needs and supporting her step-by-step while encouraging her to be the best provider she could be. “I love BANANAS,” she says. “Teaching is my passion and the more I know, the more I can do to help children build their future.”

BANANAS has been extremely grateful to serve African American families for many years. Our community of children, families, and child care providers visits our office for numerous reasons. These include looking for a child care provider, assistance paying for care, educational resources, workshops, support groups, playgroups, and items in the free children’s boutique.

We consider it a privilege to offer support to all of our communities, especially when we know it is going to change lives. Learn more about our programs and how we help our children, families, and child care providers in Alameda County!

Putting Our Words in Action

Inti with his Children

We’re highlighting just a few of the thousands of families whose lives have been impacted by BANANAS. This year, we put Our Words in Action to support the most vulnerable families and young children.

Meet our client Sharon:

Sharon, a single mother, recently transitioned to traditional housing in Oakland. She came to BANANAS because she needed to go to school and find work to support her two children, Ziya and Ken, who are two and five years old.

“I didn’t even realize we qualified for subsidized child care. BANANAS has made a monumental difference in our lives. Having my children in a trusted environment, I know they are happy and their needs are being met. This has really allowed me to focus on my school.”

Sharon found a job at a retail store in Oakland. “Here I am loving myself again, and I’ve got a new life to care for. I feel like I’ve got a second chance.”

Meet our client Kiera:

Before coming to BANANAS in August 2017, Kiera was taking care of her 3-year-old granddaughter Denae on her own. Born from a mother who has an addiction, Denae went through many health problems at birth. It was then when Kiera stepped in and started taking care of her granddaughter.

Soon after Kiera received the guardianship custody of her granddaughter, she decided to get back into the workforce. When she didn’t think she could afford the care that would prepare Denae for kindergarten, she turned to BANANAS for help.

With the help of BANANAS, her granddaughter began to receive full-time child care services in a family child care while Kiera could focus on her new job. “My life changed for good because of BANANAS.” Kiera feels optimistic about her granddaughter’s future.

Inti with his Children

Meet our client Inti:

Inti Fernandez aspires to be a good father, a superhero to his two children. In addition to raising his kids alone, Inti is pursuing his dream job of becoming a visual designer. For a long time he struggled to find an affordable child care program for his children. He needed child care in order to go to work, support his family, and attend court hearings to secure custody of his kids. Being a single father was tough and he had to take more than one job to make ends meet. “I made some money, but not enough to pay for my family’s basic needs. I worked very hard to keep a smile on my children’s faces,” says Inti.

Thankfully, Inti’s friend introduced him to BANANAS services. Michelle, our counselor, helped Inti by enrolling his children in one of our Alternative Payment Programs through which they received full-time child care services. While his kids continue to thrive in a safe and loving environment, Inti now focuses on growing professionally at his job.

Meet our client Eva:

Eva, a single mother who has an addiction to drugs came to BANANAS in 2016 looking for child care for her two kids, ages two and three years old. Eva desperately needed care for her two children so she could focus on her recovery at a drug rehab program in Oakland.

She enrolled in a subsidy program here at BANANAS, and both of her children received full-time child care services. She took parenting classes at BANANAS and visited the Boutique for her immediate needs, such as diapers, formula, and clothing. “I am fortunate that despite my background, my children can grow in a warm and loving environment in a family child care center in Oakland.”

We need your help!

Each year at BANANAS, we help thousands of families like these by connecting them to quality, affordable child care. Through the Our Words in Action campaign, we are combatting the effects of poverty for young children where they live, learn, and play.

During this season of generosity, your gift to BANANAS is extremely important because it will offer immediate services to children and their caregivers. Invest in us and we will continue to put Our Words in Action.

Donate Today 

New Law for Child Care Providers — Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training

Parents have many fears when it comes to their children. But the worst nightmare a parent can have is finding out that his or her child is being abused while in the care of someone else. Each year, nearly a million cases of child maltreatment, which includes both abuse and neglect, are confirmed, and many more probably go unreported. If you are a child care provider who suspects that a child in your care has been abused or neglected, it is essential that you report your suspicions. Child care providers are mandated reporters of abuse and neglect, and all mandated reporters should have training to help identify child abuse and neglect and learn the procedure for reporting.

Beginning January 1, 2018, AB 1207 (Mandated child abuse reporting: child day care personnel: training) requires all licensed providers, applicants, directors, and employees to complete a mandated reporter training. Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training – California as it’s called is designed to give child care professionals, including caregivers and administrators, the tools to prevent, identify, and report child abuse and neglect among the children in care.

The deadline for licensed providers to comply with the training is March 30, 2018. The new employees have up to 90 days to complete their training. New applicants must receive their mandated reporter training prior to becoming licensed.

This FREE training is self-paced and will provide an overview of the significant definitions, requirements and protections of the California Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA). In this training, you will learn about the roles and responsibilities of child care providers in preventing, recognizing, reporting, and responding to child abuse and neglect within and outside early childhood programs and child care settings. It also gives an overview of prevention efforts, reporting laws, and the ways child care providers can talk to children about suspected abuse and support maltreated children and their families.

At the conclusion of the training you will take a final test that requires an 80% or higher score to pass. Upon passing the test you will be e-mailed a Certificate of completion.

Sign up and take this valuable training today!

When you report day care violations and suspicions of abuse, you not only help protect your own child, but other children as well.

Become a Member of The California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry!

What is CA ECE Workforce Registry?

The California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry is an efficient, web-based system designed to verify and securely store and track the employment, training, and education accomplishments of early childhood care and education (ECE) teachers and providers. Participation in the California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry provides you and your staff the opportunity to be part of this statewide data system for all early care and education professionals.

Click here to learn more about the California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry.

What are the benefits to being a member of the Registry?

As a participant in the Registry, participants will be able to:

  • Build a professional profile that can be securely accessed and updated anytime.
  • Electronically store education, training, and employment and professional growth accomplishments.
  • Search and sign up for training workshops and professional development opportunities which are automatically stored on your Registry profile.
  • Create a resume and share professional qualifications.
  • Search for jobs using the Registry Job Board.
  • Be recognized as an Early Care and Education professional.

How to Create a Profile on the CA ECE Workforce Registry?

Creating a profile is easy. Click here for a step by step guide on creating your profile. Visit to create your account today!

CCIP Appreciation Brunch!

We’re all about appreciation! On Saturday, May 21, CCIP staff members Eva Chou, Soyla Madrigal, and Yu Fong Wang put together an amazing event for our hard-working CCIP providers. The Child Care Initiative Project (CCIP) gives individuals the professional training and support needed to open a successful family child care business. It is an honor for our CCIP team to counsel participants through the process of becoming a licensed family child care owner. At every step, our staff works one-on-one with aspiring business owners to complete the forms, safety measures, and educational hours that are required. Once these entrepreneurs are ready to open their doors (or expand their program), we assist with how to connect with parents and market the family child care.

So, we held an Appreciation Brunch! The event was focused on relaxing, soothing activities, including Tai Chi and massage.

You can check out all of the food, fun, and fabulous activities in this SLIDE SHOW.

Thank you, CCIP providers, for all you do!

A Legacy of Leadership and Love: Remembering Betty Cohen

Today we honor the amazing life of one of our founding mothers, Betty Cohen. As we share memories of our incredible friend, mentor, and colleague, we recognize what a gift it was to know Betty. Here, Co-Founder Jo-Ellen Spencer, Board President Don Jen, and former staff member Judy Calder think back on the tremendous legacy Betty leaves behind.

From Jo-Ellen Spencer, BANANAS Co-Founder

BANANAS Founding Mothers
Founders Blanca Nuñez, Betty Cohen, Arlyce Currie, and Jo-Ellen Spencer

Many people will remember Betty for her maternal ways, her ability to cook something delicious out of nothing and her encyclopedia-like knowledge about parenting and child development that she shared on the BANANAS’ Warm Line, but I want to mention another important skill she had. Betty could think BIG. When BANANAS turned 20, a discussion started among the members of the Executive Committee on how to best celebrate this milestone. Most nonprofits would send out an invitation for an event like a dinner soliciting people to say nice things about the agency and send along sizable amounts of money to celebrate the day. This was never the BANANAS way of doing things and the rest of us were a little stumped. But not Betty! She almost immediately announced that we would sponsor a FREE all-day event at Lake Merritt for parents and children. Other child/family-serving agencies would be invited to earn money at the event by selling food and related items. No charge for that either. Want a fire engine for the kids? Call the Oakland Fire Dept. They were happy to participate. Want entertainment? Go through the BANANAS party files and call in the clowns and magicians. Horses? The Oakland Police Dept. was happy to oblige. Her BIG idea was rewarded with a wonderful day of festivities, fun and family.

What to do with the mountain of information for parents that BANANAS staff had gathered over the years? Betty got a bee in her bonnet to pull it altogether in a BANANAS Guide and she did it. (The original guide was 14 mimeographed pages.) In our voluminous files we had everything from unusual places to take children on field trips, recipes for making homemade play dough and simple toys, lists of support organizations to help parents do a variety of things from breast feeding, choosing child care, all the way to electric shock first aid. BANANAS is a hoarder organization and Betty was its Queen. Betty pulled together things from our files, our old Newsletters, outside agencies and on and on. Once Betty got it going the Guide grew and grew and grew and the publishing date staggered off into the distance much to the grief of the publisher. In the end, it became a wonderful, still-useful how-to Guide for parents. I think this might have been the project that started Betty’s hair going grey.

For some reason Betty always reminded me of the two Queens in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Perhaps the White Queen for her very interesting clothes, which always seemed to be trying to leave her, and the Red Queen for the ability to run at least twice as fast to keep in place. Betty might have seemed to be moving in a leisurely fashion but don’t be fooled—her mind and her deeds went a million miles a minute and no one could keep up with her. We will all miss her.

Betty Cohen
Betty at BANANAS in 2007.

From Don Jen, President of BANANAS Board of Directors

For many years, Betty assumed responsibility for opening meetings of the Board at BANANAS. She was certain to provide food so that board members would be nourished as they considered the business matters under discussion for the evening. Beyond the meal, meetings often started with Betty providing an agency update. Smiles warmed our faces as she started with, “The staff is working really hard.” We had the opportunity to hear the agency update through Betty’s skills as a storyteller. The lives of parents came to life. We would learn of their struggles and triumphs. And with grace and humility, she exposed us to the many ways that BANANAS supported all parents in our community. Betty welcomed members of the board into this Bunch on Telegraph (and later Claremont) Avenue. Betty’s title was Executive Director. On occasions, this might literally mean executive chef, and even chief bottle-washer. In practical ways, Betty appeared to do whatever was needed to keep the Bunch together and successful. Like others, I believe that Betty had insights and patience that allowed us to discover the best in ourselves and in each other. Thank you, Betty. We commit to continuing to work diligently on behalf of our children and families.

Always smiling and keeping the Bunch motivated.

From Judy Calder, RN, former BANANAS Staff Member

In the late ’60s Betty joined a volunteer group of women determined to meet the growing needs of families with young children. Against the backdrop of increased geographic mobility and the Women’s Movement, the call of “who will watch the children?” rang loud. The women of the early BANANAS collective heard that call and organized volunteer phone lines, newsletters, family guides to community and services and reached out to these young families who, like themselves, needed child care and community connections. Betty Cohen, a devoted mother of Susanna and Jonathan, a social worker and one of the early members of the BANANAS collective was especially concerned with the difficulty young parents had in finding child care and then the difficulty of leaving their children in the care of another. This began her idea for the Health and Development Warm Line, a safe and informal place for new parents and child care providers to call and share their concerns about child development and health, the child care relationship and cultural differences. Thanks to Drs. Spock and Brazelton, Ellen Galinsky and June Sale, the Warm Line calls were well researched and provided her with content for newsletter and handout articles that were distributed across the state and nation.

She taught and led hundreds of workshops and college classes on infant and child development, parenting, and improving the quality of child care that reached thousands of parents and child care providers over the past 30 years. Training curriculum developed by her is still used today in multilingual formats. She was a valued staff member and mentor to new staff and countless community members new to the burgeoning child care field. She brought out the best in people and trusted their strengths. She was known to be a great listener whether topics were work-related or personal. She served on numerous community and state advisory panels, commissions, and boards.

In addition to her awards, advocacy, editing and “nudging for the good” skills, she will be remembered by the BANANAS community for her great cooking, genial hosting, and for making great connections wherever she could. She loved the fun of sponsoring the Pickle Family Circus, various office celebrations whether they were personal, ethnic, small or large. She was photographed with Mayor Gus Newport, Mayor and Assemblyman Tom Bates, Mayor and Governor Jerry Brown and President Obama. She would have traded it all for a good photo with Mr. Rogers. What is best remembered and valued by the staff and others were her interpersonal skill and how she treated people…a lesson for us all.

Her children, four grandchildren and loving husband, Murray Cohen, survive her. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a memorial in Betty’s name at Susanna Cohen’s maternal care non-profit.

We encourage you to share your memories with us as a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Take Action for Children!

Right now there are three pieces of legislation that have the power to positively impact the lives of children, families, and child care professionals. BANANAS is part of the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, a system of nonprofit agencies that serves every region in the state with important child care and parenting resources. As part of this network, we encourage you to take action today by sending three letters of support to government officials who can make sure that California’s Education Code is up to date (SB 1154), that low-income families have access to a year of child care (AB 2150), and that parents are informed about background checks and safety measures when hiring a caregiver (AB 2036).

Below you will find details of each bill and information on how to take action today.

SB 1154 – The Patricia Siegel Child Care Resource and Referral Memorial Act of 2016 This update will preserve quality consumer education and provider support in California and at the same time will identify components of the recently reauthorized federal CCDBG Act where the state already complies.

To learn more, click this Fact Sheet and then send your letter of support using this Sample Letter.

AB 2150 – The Child Care Continuity Act: 12 Month Eligibility That Supports Families AB 2150 is an extraordinary opportunity to remove unjust and unjustified, red-tape reporting rules that cause eligible families to churn in and out of child care programs; put their jobs at risk; disrupt children’s school readiness and development; force them to turn down job promotions, make it impossible for child care providers to balance ledgers or plan for quality investments while accepting subsidized children; and burden employers and education providers who are required to sign off on endless paperwork.

If you would like to send a letter of support, view this Sample Letter.

AB 2036 – Online Care Job Postings: Consumer Education This bill would require online companies that advertise child care services provided by license-exempt child care providers (ex. babysitters and nannies) to post a statement about the California Trustline registry and, if the service provides access to a background check, a written description of the background check provided to it by the background check service provider.

Here is a Sample Letter as well as a Fact Sheet if you would like to learn more.

Thank you for your support!

If You See Something, Say Something

When it comes to young children, safety is the number one priority. Whether you are a parent or a child care provider, you know how important it is to always be aware of children’s surroundings and actions. In addition to ensuring that our homes and programs are safe, clean, healthy environments, it’s also extremely essential to keep an eye out for anything that seems suspicious. This might mean recognizing an item that shouldn’t be where it is, noticing someone’s behavior that doesn’t seem quite right, or seeing an interaction between an adult and a child that is inappropriate or dangerous.

You may have heard this saying before: If you see something, say something. It is used by the U.S. government to encourage people to stay vigilant of their environments. Now it is also being encouraged by Community Care Licensing and the Centralized Complaint & Information Bureau (CCIB). When you notice something that troubles you or anything that seems like a child care violation or danger to children, report it to 1-844-LET US KNOW (1-844-538-8766). Your complaint can be anonymous unless you authorize your name to be used and the CCIB will investigate the claim within 10 days. You will be notified of the results.

Please be aware that Community Care Licensing requires that all licensed child care facilities hang this poster next to their license in clear view of parents. Together, we can make sure our children are safe at all times!

Remembering a Pioneer – Patty Siegel

It was the holiday break when the news spread throughout the child care system that one of our most beloved leaders had passed. As I sit at my desk and write this I can’t help but think that I wouldn’t be where I’m at, right here, right now working at BANANAS, if it wasn’t for Patty and our founders Arlyce, Betty, Jo-Ellen, and Blanca. Forty some odd years later, what was once an idea, a reaction to a growing national concern for women, is now a thriving industry. And we owe it all to these women who would never back down, always speak up, and fight for change and justice.

This is a story that must live on. We knew we had to publish it, so we asked Arlyce to write a memorial. In remembrance of one of our pioneers:

A Letter from our Founder Arlyce Currie

Patty Siegel, a dear friend of BANANAS and a powerful advocate for families and child care providers died on Christmas, 2015. In 1972, like a spontaneous combustion on both sides of the Bay, Patty created a child care resource and referral agency in San Francisco while BANANAS was developing as one in Berkeley.

For Patty it all began with family, her own and then the thousands of families who she touched through her work. She and Sandy Siegel, her husband of almost fifty years, raised a family of three children, Toby, Tara and Kelsey, and four grandchildren. Her real life experiences and needs influenced every part of her work and led to legislation and initiatives which have greatly benefited families in California and nationally.

She established and led the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network while also founding a national agency of resource and referral agencies. Among her myriad accomplishments, she helped spearhead TrustLine (a system for checking the backgrounds of nannies and babysitters), the Child Care Initiative Project (enlisting corporations and government in expanding and improving the provision of child care), the Child Care & Development Block Grant (federal legislation providing child care subsidies for low-income working families), and Parent Voices (organizing parents to tell their authentic stories to policymakers in order to improve all aspects of child care and family life).

Although we mourn her untimely death, we strengthen our resolve to move forward and work towards a child care system that

  • honors parents’ real needs and wishes,
  • ensures safe, healthy, playful services for all children in care, and
  • encompasses and empowers a variety of child care providers in their important work.

~ Arlyce Currie

For more information on the amazing life of Patty Siegel, we invite you to enjoy this piece published on And don’t forget to mark your calendars every December 21 to celebrate Patty Siegel Day. She will be missed but never forgotten.