Since age 17, Shemik Sellars has cared for countless children at different points in their life journeys. She opened her first registered child care business, Legacy House, in September 2020 with the help of community allies like ChildSavers. Though she was terrified to open her business (and home) during COVID-19, Shemik pressed on to create a safe space for infants and toddlers to learn and grow through this difficult year.
When Shemik and her siblings were young, her mother enrolled in nursing school and continued working to provide for her family. To save her mother the expense of child care, Shemik’s grandmother left her job on Wall Street to look after the kids. Other women in the family stepped in when her grandmother needed a break. Throughout her journey, Shemik remembers the powerful presence of these trusted adults.
“I’ve always wanted to be that for someone else,” says Shemik. “I wanted to recreate that safe space I grew up in. I want parents to feel like their child is safe in my care. I know it takes a village to raise a child. And I wanted to be a part of people’s village.”
Shemik also recounts cherished conversations with her grandmother about one day building a business.
“I miss my Grams a lot and it makes me sad because she didn’t get to see this… We would dream together,” she says through tears.
Pursuing her aspirations of becoming a trusted adult for children, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in hopes of becoming a youth counselor. After a few career changes and gaining years of business experience through private day care centers and caring for multiple nieces, nephews, and children of friends, she prepared to open a registered family day home.
Shemik connected with ChildSavers’ Voluntary Registration team who helped her register with the Commonwealth to become a licensed provider. Registration and licensure in Virginia indicates a higher level of care to parents. By voluntarily registering and becoming licensed, providers agree to meet basic health, safety, and learning requirements to improve the wellbeing of up to twelve children.
Licensed child care providers like Shemik can also participate in additional ChildSavers Child Development Services:
- The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) reimburses child care providers for the healthy food they serve to children in their care.
- Virginia Quality and The Infant and Toddler Specialist Network provide a framework of quality care measured by advancing through levels of standardized health and education practices.
- Voluntary Registration increases the visibility of registered day homes locally and attracts more business for providers.
- Additional, free professional development and training opportunities.
In addition, Shemik participates in the Ready Network, a year-long program that supplies providers with training and marketing tools to develop their business, attract clients, and better communicate with parents.
“Child care was not intimidating to me. It was the business model that was a challenge I was determined to master,” says Shemik. “I wanted to build a business that was affordable for both myself and parents. All of these tools are invaluable to me.”
Five months in, her business is thriving and taking on more children and staff. Some of her clients are essential personnel including first responders, warehouse and grocery store workers, and medical professionals.
When asked if she has any advice for her 16-year-old self, she laughs and says, “Enjoy the bumpy ride.”
On our paths, we can encounter rough terrain, storms, and dead-ends. But the people on our journeys help guide us to smoother roads, clearer skies, and nudge is in the right direction. Shemik has dedicated her life to building a solid foundation for children to learn and flourish. Her impact is far-reaching and will span generations to come.
Statistics paint a grim photo of Virginia’s early child care:
- 40% of children in Virginia are not entering K-12 with the literacy, math, self-regulation, and social skills needed to thrive.
- 70% of children in low-income families are without access to affordable, quality care and education.
- Virginia ranks 37th nationally in early childhood governance.
Child care champions like Shemik are changing the narrative and you are providing the resources to make this possible.
When early child care providers and educators are given the resources they need to provide quality care, we see:
- A 13% return on investment due to lower incarceration rates and reliance on government programs in adulthood.
- Special needs intervention at an early age to help parents and teachers detect developmental issues sooner.
- Equitable opportunities for growth so all children can enter kindergarten on the same playing field.
From July 2019 – June 2020, you connected 534 child care businesses with ChildSavers’ Child Development Specialists. Our teamwork helped improve early care for 25,778 children in Virginia. These new opportunities pave fresh paths for children as they navigate life.
Partnering with ChildSavers and providing financial support for our Child Development Programs can change the trajectory of thousands of lives. When you give, you’re connecting even more providers with resources, training, and technical assistance to positively influence future generations.
We thank you for your continued support as we forge through this year together.