Joleen Patton is the Program Director for the Blessing Hospital Early Learning Center in Quincy Illinois. She studied at Lincoln Land Community College (Associates Degree), Western Illinois University (Bachelors) and National Louis University (Master’s in Education with emphasis on Early Childhood Leadership). “College learning is great and provides good instruction” Joleen says, “but my best education has been the experiences I have had in the field, which started out 45 years ago!”
Joleen M. Patton
In the early years of her career she served as a Center Based teacher in a Child Care Center. She moved on to a rural Head Start program where she worked as a Home Based Teacher and then Education Coordinator. In 1989 a local hospital wanted to start a child care center, and she was hired for the task to start this Center for 36 children. After years of expansions and a merger with Blessing Hospital, Joleen still serves in that role. The Center is licensed for 396 children in normal (non Covid-19) operations and is open 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days per week and all holidays except Christmas day.
A Department of Blessing Hospital, Joleen oversees a staff of 110 employees and approximately 600 children who have varying schedules. The Center serves drop in, part time, and full time children of parents who have fluctuating schedules at the Hospital. Under her leadership, the Center has gained National Accreditation Commission’s Accreditation and the Gold Circle of Quality in Illinois. Joleen is Chairperson of the Board for PACT Head Start, (where she formerly was employed), is a member of the Board of Directors for the local Jackson Lincoln Swimming Pool Complex, and has recently been working with the local Community Foundation to raise awareness for the need and the importance of high quality early childhood education. She is also a member of PDAC (Professional Development Advisory Council), Child Care in Health Care, National Association for Early Learning Leaders, and ILDOCC (Illinois Directors and Owners of Childcare Centers).
Through the years, Joleen has seen many changes in licensing and operational processes. She recalls when she started as the Director, she didn’t have a computer and completed all budgeting and billing with hand -written calculations. While Illinois Part 407, Licensing Standards for Day Care Centers has always been her guide to operations, she has observed many additions to those regulations through the years. “Rules are good and are for the safety of young children”, she states, “but sometimes, they can be a hardship and a barrier to operating consistent processes and a quality program.” Most recently, the hardships that come with staffing the program are most prominent. She sees it as imperative that we communicate our needs to our Governmental officials, but believes to be most effective, we cannot do it in isolation. “The work of ILDOCC is imperative in our quest to maintain high quality in our programs.” In this environment, however, when programs are closing due to the fact that they can’t find staff, one might rephrase that statement to say, “The work of ILDOCC is imperative in our quest to keep our high quality programs.”
On February 24, 2020, Joleen invited Representative Randy Frese to a help support HB 4490 and meet with other Directors of Early Childhood Centers. Representative Frese toured the Center, and listened to the voice of our members. After listening, he agreed that the statewide teacher shortage is impacting students in the classroom and he supports new legislation to help fight the teacher shortage. He said House Bill 4490 aims to give aspiring teachers more opportunities to become qualified for a job in the field. In an interview with local news media, Frese stated, “We want to do what’s best for the children,” We want to do what’s best for the childcare worker. If we do that in this bill, it will be a wonderful, wonderful, positive change.”
“Advocacy work can be a challenge due to all of our other priorities pulling at our attention throughout the workday, but it really isn’t when you have the professionals at ILDOCC to help you.” Joleen states. Additionally, she says, “Many of us in the field may think it is useless to try because they won’t listen”, OR, “It is just too intimidating as the process in our government can appear complicated.” Joleen would like to emphasize that Advocacy is easier and more effective in our ILDOCC group. She states we have a GREAT lobbyist and Board, and together we can make a difference!