knows the data: the benefits of early childhood education last long into adulthood. She also knows the importance of creating access to quality early childhood care and education for communities that don’t receive adequate support. As a founder of La Red Latina de Educación Temprana (The Latino Early Child Care Provider Network), she has a simple vision for quality childcare: “Happy and educated children.”
When parents are seeking care for their children, they often turn to their extended families and informal trusted networks — grandparents, aunties, uncles, friends, and neighbors. This decision is made for many reasons, including cost of care and a desire for the care to be rooted in the cultures of the families being served. In 2013, a mother caring for her own children, along with others from the neighborhood, approached Ruth.
“I love to take care of children, but I need resources — tools,” she told Ruth. “I want to do what’s best for the children.”
So, Ruth started talking with the other caregivers. She worked with them to identify their needs and created La Red to find ways to meet them. Under Ruth’s leadership, La Red now provides support and education for caregivers, including nutrition best practices, resources for meeting children’s unique needs, cultural and linguistic trainings, and guidance on adhering to state and federal laws.
Ruth believes that anyone, with the right support, can be capable of providing quality child care, regardless of formal training.
“You can offer your kids the best when you have the necessary resources,” she says.
Ruth has been a tireless advocate for community caregivers, imploring the government to recognize them as an essential part of our early childhood network. And her advocacy doesn’t end there: she helped to stop the mass displacement of over 1,000 primarily low-income, immigrant and BIPOC renters in Richfield during the pandemic, and has been a powerful organizer for affordable housing policies.
Ruth sees all of this as part of the same body of work, on behalf of La Red and her community beyond it.
“If you have a healthy and educated community,” she says, “everyone wins.”
Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards recognize the significant impact four honorees have had on the state of Minnesota and its communities.
Meet the Other Heroes: