Investing in Our Children – Expand Your Horizons

In this conversation, speakers examined childcare issues faced by parents and providers like access, affordability, and workforce pay. See the conversation above to learn about recent updates on current research that uncovered disparity and lack of equitable chance of future success and opportunity for children of color. Take a look at how children benefit from receiving strong family, community and government support.


  • Theresa Wiggs – owner and operator of Miss Theresa’s Montessori Nature Center, LLC; a volunteer at Heart Ministry; an Associate member of the Notre Dame Sisters.
  • Aubrey Mancuso – (director) and Alfonso Vaca-Lubischer (research coordinator) at Voices for Children and Kids Count in Nebraska
  • Robyn Colgan: Childcare Provider, The Hills Montessori Child Care & Learning Center
  • Davida Anderson: Childcare Provider, Life Changers Academy Learning Center
  • Joycelyn Hardy: Mentoring Moms Facilitator, Catholic Charities,
  • Melody Hobson: Training & Licensing & Resources, Office of Early Childhood
  • Dena Johnson: Parent Referral for childcare providers, Office of Early Childhood
  • Aubrey Mancusco, MSW: Executive Director, Voices for Children in Nebraska
  • Alfonso Vaca-Lubischer: Data for Policy Makers, Voices for Children in Nebraska
  • Selina Martinez: Field Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Below are slides from the conversation:
Expand Your Horizons is a series of informative gatherings hosted by the Education Outreach Team of the Notre Dame Sisters & Associates. Partnering with professionals is how we can directly invest in children.  For many years, the Notre Dame Sisters and Associates have been committed to help alleviate family violence.

 A partnership developed with Catholic Charities to assist women & children fleeing domestic violence. Catholic Charities created a plan and The Shelter was established in 1978. The need for help with utilities and rent when leaving the shelter was an issue from the beginning. Funds were raised by the sisters and staff. Eventually research began by members of the Social Justice Committee. Motivated by a vision of service, the committee could see that the data clearly indicated there was a need beyond what Catholic Charities could provide.

Thus, Safe Homes was born and developed by the year 2000.  We invite you to watch a 4 minute video that describes how Safe Homes is a ministry that truly is “investing in children.”

See the video here.

 … As stated at the end “better families, better adults, better children, better humans, creating more safety and love.”  …and to be provided “so many resources.”

Theresa is a wife and parent, a Notre Dame Associate, a volunteer at Heart Ministry, a mentor to refugee families, and active in OTOC. Since graduating from the College of St Mary in 1980 with a degree in Early Childhood Education, Theresa completed Montessori certification, and earned credits needed for a teacher’s license. She has been a substitute teacher, served as a consultant, and provided teacher trainings. Theresa has small business owner experience setting up and operating her own Montessori preschools in Nebraska and Kansas. She is a musician and has self-published over 40 children’s songs.

With Theresa’s wide experience, she helped focus this presentation on significant aspects of the early childhood development industry and its many issues for parents and providers around access, affordability, & workforce pay.

From Theresa Wiggs:

As a Montessori Educator, mother, daughter and sister, I have had many opportunities to think about, discuss, and work with children and parents to help them as they are raising young children.  As a mother of three adult children much of my life’s work has been to nurture, care, and provide for them.  I have also had a satisfying career as a Montessori Educator; yet, like most parents, I see the role I had in raising my children to become healthy, happy, functioning adults as my most important and rewarding “job”.

Investing In Our Children is a very broad topic that I am happy to have long conversations about with anyone interested in speaking with me. For our program tonight we have gathered a wonderful panel of speakers that will share with you relevant research, current trends, and aspects of their work experience that will help you understand why it is so important for all of us to become “invested” in the very youngest of our children.

From Theresa Wiggs:

Birth to 5 years old, as Dr Maria Montessori, the respected creator of the Montessori Method, says, “The ‘absorbent mind’ accepts everything, puts its hope in everything, accepts poverty equally with wealth, adopts any religion, and the prejudices and habits of its countrymen, incarnating all in itself. This is the child.”

Investing in young children is beneficial to all of society.  Our children that are loved, nurtured and safe in those precious first few years of her life reap the benefits for a lifetime.  Sadly, children that grow up without these essential needs adequately met will struggle and need help to grow and reach their potential.

We will be focusing on working parents raising young children.  All working parents, regardless of their financial situation, must find childcare for their young children.  When I was a new mother, nearly 40 years ago, I chose to be a, “Stay at Home Mom”.  Looking back, I realize now what a privileged position I had to even have that as an option. Back then, and now, very few people leave their job when they become a parent. Maternity and Paternity leave in the US typically is 8 to 12 weeks, and many jobs provide no leave at all when a worker becomes a parent.

Parents in need of childcare most often choose to enroll their children in a Licensed Childcare facility.  Fewer have the option of In-Home care such as hiring a Nanny or asking grandparent, or other trusted relative to care for their children while they work.

Our panelists will help us understand the role that our communities and the government programs that exist to support Childcare Providers with the knowledge, resources and expertise needed to help the children in their care grow up and reach their potential.

Unfortunately, you will also hear about the inequities that exist in our society when it comes to parents and children having access to affordable, high quality childcare. Tonight our speakers will help us understand both the benefits and challenges families face while raising young children. We will be addressing the following topics:

  1. The need for access to high quality childcare and well trained childcare providers.
  2. The challenges families face to find childcare they can afford.
  3. We will also look at how Workforce Pay impacts the Childcare industry.