Innovative Childcare Program at Oregon CAA Helps a Community Play, Share, and Grow
We know from extensive research studies that low-income families with children often face additional challenges and obstacles in becoming economically stable, compared to those without children. One of the premiere challenges that these families face is finding affordable and quality childcare. Lack of proper childcare prevents parents from maintaining employment and taking part in economic-advancement opportunities, such as job training, job interviews, and overtime. Without childcare, parents are forced to forgo these opportunities that could allow them to create a better economic situation for themselves and their children.
Recognizing that childcare can be a barrier to economic security, Klamath Lake Community Action Services in Oregon opened the Sunshine Tykes Drop-By Day Care Center in January 2010. The day care center provided a safe and trusted place for families to leave their children while they worked. The program served children from low-income families ranging in age from six weeks to five years old. Additionally, free classes were offered to parents to help them strengthen their interactions with their children and to help improve life skills. Other learning opportunities, such as energy education and financial fitness classes, were offered with the help of community partners.
The Center proved to be an innovative approach to meeting families’ needs because it was licensed to provide services on a drop-in basis. This concept allowed parents the flexibility to drop off their children when important opportunities presented themselves, such as job interviews, job skill trainings, or medical appointments. Another way in which the program met the needs of the low-income families is by eliminating the barrier of the typically high cost of childcare. The program was free of charge for the first four hours of each week for each family. The agency arranged this by recruiting retired teachers and community members to volunteer at the center when needed. This not only reduced costs, but also allowed for excellent learning experiences for both the children and parents. CSBG Recovery Act funds were used to operate the center through September 2010. The program also attracted several local partners. The Oregon Department of Human Services and Head Start provided most of the referrals. BBC Ministries allowed the program to use their facilities when needed. In addition, the program sought the services of local law enforcement, fire department, and medical staff to educate the Center’s participants on emergency procedures. Several partners also provided assistance in various work programs for the Center’s parents in exchange for job skill training.
At the end of the first year, 121 children were enrolled at the Center (three of whom had special needs) comprising of 88 families. More than 5,000 day care hours were provided, with an average of 34 hours per child. About 23 children visited the Center every week. Thanks to the convenience, flexibility, and safety the Center provided, families were afforded several educational and economic-advancement opportunities that will take them on the path to economic security.