Early Childhood Education in the area in which I live and work is extremely valued – we have the hub of our North East Regional Key (www.pakeys.org) located in our area which affords us incredibly local and accessible training, we have an extensive Head Start program in our communities, there are six local four year institutions as well as two community colleges that house a robust education department and highlight early childhood education in it’s learning models and more. Despite all of our positives, there are clearly many challenges that can still be had.
I think that there is a huge challenge with accessibility for families in our area. Though we have some very high end, successful and stable communities we are littered with areas that need all the assistance they can get in order to live, eat and survive. The center that I just opened is in one such area – where to my right and immediate surrounding areas there are affluent families or every-day blue collar families who go to work, need care, pay for their child care as part of their lifestyle and call it a day. To the right of my facility, just a few blocks there is extremely impoverished neighborhoods where just the other week, a shooting occurred just moments after a bus pulled away from the bus stop, leaving all those children in harms way.
For myself, in my current location and situation, I feel it is important to overcome the challenge of my immediate area not feeling that there are any other accessible options for their school age children to be cared for. The after school programs directly in school, though most favorably priced, have reportedly come with lots of bullying, low supervision and general disrespect. I would like more families and parents to know that there are other options out there – like our school age program that cares and transports children up to 8th grade – and not allow them to be scared off by cost or availability.
In my eyes, community presence and education to the parents allowing them to know their resources – Title 20 Child Care Funding, etc – so that the families on my right can put their children into the same safe and high quality places the families on the left are able to.
One of my own professional goals piggybacks on this notion, as I want to build my school age program and at least double it’s enrollment by January of 2017. I truly do feel that part of it is knowledge of availability, but the other half is allowing families to know that it CAN be accessible to anyone as long as they know their resources and take advantage of it. Almost 90% of my school age program now is currently receiving subsidized child care. It is a challenge because subsidized child care is not fully reimbursed to the host school, therefore a parent may pay $X out of pocket, and we receive $Y through our reimbursement from the state for that child, it never comes close to totaling the true tuition amount designed to may our program thrive. Though from the perspective of a business, really hits us hard, to me the ability to provide these children care when they need it most is the most important.