Letter to Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

60 Minutes
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019


March 12, 2018

Dear Ms. Winfrey,


Thank you for championing a cause for which we have stood since the inception of our non-profit early childhood organization 20 years ago.  We share your enthusiasm for changing the question we are asking from, “What’s wrong with this child?” to “What happened to this child?” LifeWays’ whole approach to child care and parenting is based on relationship-based care.  We seek to support parents and educators in creating a foundation that is truly worthy of our children.  We are inspired that someone of your stature and entrepreneurial spirit is heralding the changes that must be made in early childhood care and education.


We are grateful to share with you below a few of the projects with which we have been involved and would be honored to work further with you to expand a model of life-changing care whether in the home or other structured child care.  You have so aptly noted that we not only need to nurture the children but the parents and caregivers as well.


Our model has always emphasized nurturing relationships and consistency of care over equipment or expensive curricula.  Our relationship-based approach has increased the sphere of influence of our work, and we have supported and informed families and early childhood programs all over the United States, in Canada and Mexico, and recently in South Korea and Botswana. The accessibility of our approach allows it to be replicated and established in a variety of cultures and settings with minimal financial investment. Here are some recent examples of LifeWays’ work in the world:


  • With the continued support of the Newman Foundation, LifeWays has transformed the lives of children and their teachers at Escuela Popular, a California school serving mostly Hispanic, low-income families with a range of adverse challenges that can cause lasting trauma. By fostering healthy social emotional interactions through the inner work of the teachers, parenting enrichment programs and play groups, elementary school staff report that the children are ready to learn and socially well-prepared for school. The children being cared for at the school are primarily the children of the high school students there.


  • LifeWays has partnered with colleagues at “We, The World” in Botswana to offer a curriculum of relationship-based care to groups of teen mothers, helping these young women heal their own trauma and provide their young children with a wholesome and strong foundation for growth.


  • Esteemed colleagues Kimberlee Belcher-Badal, PH.d. and Ingrid Anderson, Ed.d, in their Department of Defense report, “Serving the Military Child,” have recommended LifeWays’ relationship-based approach to childcare as a replicable program to install on military bases to heal and prevent childhood trauma in the children of those serving in our armed forces.


  • We have LifeWays Representative Programs across the continent, including one in the diverse Riverwest neighborhood of your home town of Milwaukee, that offer examples of the highest quality childcare available to children and families.


  • LifeWays has a proven track record of success, offering in-person personal and professional development courses to hundreds of participants across North America who have implemented relationship-based care in their early childhood programs. Our Early Childhood training offers professional development and mentoring tailored to individual needs of teachers, caregivers and parents with identified goals to deepen theory (including that of Dr. Bruce Perry) and practically apply relationship-based care for infants, toddlers, preschool and kindergarten children. Enlivened inner work, self-care and artistic work promotes the personal development and healing of the adult teacher, parent or caregiver so s/he can more fully meet the needs of today’s children. When adults learn how to create meaningful relationships with children, both the adults and the children are healed through the opportunity to connect and love.


As you have discovered, brain development research is clear that warm, nurturing, consistent relationships in the early years are critical to a child’s success later in life. No amount of learning materials or academic rigor can make up for a hole in the soul of a child. As Bruce Perry said in your 60 Minutes report, the most important factor for a child to grow up healthy and whole is relationships. “Somebody helped you pull on those boots.” So often the conversation about how to help children, particularly those who have grown up in poverty, focuses on skills development, learning materials and early academics. But the consistent warm relationship with an adult who helps you with those boots is what matters most.  We bring this awareness to thousands of people in the early childhood field every day.


If indeed we have managed to reach your desk and your eyes, we would love to explore how LifeWays can offer our unique Living Arts curriculum of relationship-based care to further your mission of strengthening parents, children, teachers and caregivers in your philanthropic programs. Some projects we are currently developing are more online support forums and courses; a free app for parents and early childhood caregivers to help them assess children’s needs and support their development with simple, loving care practices; and a variety of local in-person workshops and seminars to meet parents, teachers and caregivers where they are and just as they are.


Thank you for taking the time to read our letter.  If we can talk with you or members of your staff to explore how LifeWays can help further your mission, please contact our board president Mary O’Connell in Milwaukee at lifewayschildcare@gmail.com (414) 218-8558 or LifeWays founder Cynthia Aldinger in Sacramento at cynthiakaldinger@gmail.com (405) 245-8033.


In gratitude,

Cynthia K. Aldinger

Cynthia K. Aldinger

For the board of LifeWays North America, Inc.