Sit-Down with Nou Thao
Nou Thao is the Associate Director of Programs at Child Care Aware of Minnesota. Nou joined the organization six months ago after managing school-age and early childhood programs for AmeriCorps.
One of Nou’s most important roles is supporting the Child Care Aware district and regional coordinators throughout the state, including their efforts to build an equitable and inclusive early childhood system. She is also focused on finding the intersections and crossover between the many different units within the Child Care Aware Coordinating Office. Nou says, “I appreciate the relatively small size of this organization as opposed to the very large organization I used to work for.” She welcomes the chance to explore how continuing to build its infrastructure and communications can support Child Care Aware’s work.
When Nou was asked about the biggest challenge for the early childhood field, she didn’t hesitate. “This field doesn’t pay a living wage, and how do we promote it knowing that it’s not financially sustainable?” She notes that this is because early educators are not valued by society, and she wonders how we can value them as highly as we value lawyers and doctors. “They are helping us educate and build skills in these little humans for the future. How do we not pay them for that important work? People think anyone can do it. How do we create living wages in the field while maintaining affordability for parents?”
“At six months in, I am still new and learning,” says Nou. “The Child Care Aware system work is very complex, and progress takes time.” She has been impressed to meet colleagues who have worked in the field for over two decades and how much change has happened over that time, but notes that “we still have a lot of work to do.”