Childcare Wellbeing Initiative

The Child Care Workforce Wellbeing Initiative focuses on understanding and supporting the health and wellbeing of the child care workforce. Our work is grounded in the idea that interdisciplinary approaches are best positioned to support this important workforce. This work is done in partnership with the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC) in the College of Education and Human Development and the Department of Health Behavior & Nutrition Sciences in the College of Health Sciences. The goal of the work is to elevate and support early care and education professionals.

Please contact Laura Lessard ( for more information or to learn how to partner with the Initiative.

Learn more about our initiative below

Our Team | Partners | Projects | Publications

Our Team

The Child Care Workforce Wellbeing Initiative is a partnership between Dr. Laura Lessard from the Department of Health Behavior & Nutrition Sciences and Dr. Rena Hallam and her colleagues from the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood. 

Laura Lessard, PhD, MPH is Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior & Nutrition Sciences. Her work focuses on the implementation and impact of policy interventions in child care settings, including health and wellbeing policy. Along with Dr. Kyong-Ah Kwon from the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Lessard co-leads a national working group focused on early childhood education workforce wellbeing, which is connected to the Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (NOPREN). She is also co-chair of the Child Care Committee of the American Public Health Association’s Maternal and Child Health Section.

Stephen McLaren, MS, NBC-HWC is a Board certified Health and Wellness Coach with a Master’s degree in Health Promotion. Stephen provides one-on-one Health Coaching and group coaching within our programs and leads the Lunch Breaks program.


In addition to partnering with DIEEC, we also proudly partner with Health and Wellness Coaches and staff from the Health Coaching Clinic at UD. Our programs engage Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches, Eric Plautz, MS, NBC-HWC; M. Chaplin Mazzocchi, MS, RD, NBC-HWC, Nadin Benrey, MA, NBC-HWC, Lorene Clark Lacayo, MA, RYT, NBC-HWC and Alyssa Whittaker, MS, NBC-HWC.

Our Projects

Shining the Light on You

Shining the Light on You is an evidence-based wellbeing program designed specifically for family child care (FCC) professionals and offered in both English and Spanish. The program includes weekly virtual sessions co-facilitated by a Health and Wellness Coach (HWC) and an Early Childhood Education Coach and three individual coaching sessions with the HWC. The sessions are specifically designed to 1) develop individual and group wellbeing goals; 2) provide ongoing monitoring and support, and; 3) connect participants with existing community resources to meet goals. HWC is built upon a foundation of behavior change theories, motivational strategies and effective communication approaches from psychology, medicine, public health and related fields. The Shining the Light program is approved for up to 15 hours of quality assured professional development hours for FCC professionals through the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood. The program first began in the Fall of 2020 and is currently in its seventh cohort. Since Fall 2020, Shining the Light has reached more than 65 FCC professionals in the state of Delaware, with hopes of expanding in the near future. Click here for more information about Shining the Light.

Lunch Breaks

In collaboration with New Directions Early Head Start (NDEHS), we developed a tailored wellbeing program for infant and toddler teachers at their center-based programs. We currently offer this program to three center-based sites as a pilot project. Lunch Breaks includes on-site, brief counseling and coaching provided by a Health and Wellness Coach (HWC), healthy snacks and food demonstrations, quarterly events for staff and other support activities. All activities are planned and designed in collaboration with staff and teachers.

Family Child Care Professional Surveys

The Child Care Workforce Wellbeing Initiative is involved with a number of studies to better document the health and wellbeing of family child care (FCC) professionals. We fielded a statewide survey of FCC professionals in Delaware in September 2021. This project was designed to capture the physical and mental health status of the workforce along with COVID-19 attitudes, beliefs and vaccination behavior (e.g. our recent paper on vaccination status). We are collaborating with several other researchers on another FCC professional survey and are always looking for opportunities to continue to build the evidence on the health and wellbeing of FCC professionals.

National Early Care and Education Workforce Center

Dr. Laura Lessard and Dr. Rena Hallam are part of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) funded National Early Care and Education Workforce Center. Learn more about their work at 

Be Well Care Well

Dr. Laura Lessard collaborates with Kerrie Schnake, South Carolina Program for Infant/Toddler Care and Dr. Angela Moreland, Medical University of South Carolina, on the evaluation of the Be Well Care Well program designed to improve the health and wellbeing of child care professionals in South Carolina, Arkansas and beyond. For more information about their work, please visit: 

Recent Publications & PRESENTATIONS

NEW in 2024! Our programs were featured on the X WHY Z Podcast, featuring Dr. Laura Lessard, Initiative Co-Lead alongside Stephen McLaren, MS, NBC-HWC who leads our Lunch Breaks program. Listen to the episide wherever you get your podcasts or on the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood website:

Dr. Lessard was featured as a guest on the Early Childhood Policy Matters podcast in December 2022. Listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Lessard, L.,Hallam, R., Albrecht, S., Plautz, E., Fulgence-Bellardo, K. (2022). Shining the Light on You: An Evidence-Based Program Designed to Improve the Health and Wellbeing of Family Child Care Professionals. Delaware Journal of Public Health, Doi: 10.32481/djph.2022.08.010

Lessard, L. M., Wilkins, K., Rose-Malm, J., & Mazzocchi, M. C. (2020). The health status of the early care and education workforce in the USA: A scoping review of the evidence and current practice. Public Health Reviews, 41(1), 1-17.

Lessard, L., Hallam, R., Drain, D., & Ruggiero, L. (2022). COVID-19 Vaccination Status and Attitudes of Family Child Care Providers in Delaware, September 2021. Vaccines, 10(3), 477.

Fulgence K, Lessard L, Hallam R. (2022, June). Shining the Light on You. Workshop presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Family Child Care, San Francisco, CA.

Lessard L, Hallam R, Albrecht S. (2022, June). Shining the Light on You: An Innovative Model for Promoting Well-Being for Family Child Care Providers. In Understanding and Improving the Well-Being of the Early Childhood Workforce: Innovative Research and Practice (Poster Symposium) at the National Research Conference on Early Childhood (NRCEC) (virtual).

Lessard L (2022, May). The health and well-being of the early care and education workforce. Oral presentation at the 2022 Child Care Aware of America annual symposium, Washington, DC.