24-Hour Daycare Addresses Significant Need in Edison District of Kalamazoo
KALAMAZOO, MI – The little cubes, colorful toy blocks and miniature chairs look like those found at other Michigan daycares.
But what makes The Dreamery in Kalamazoo unique is its location in an affordable subdivision and its 24-hour care.
As a lullaby floats quietly from the speakers, babies and toddlers sleep on small beds; it’s siesta time at The Dreamery. But once these children have returned to their parents, others will come to take care of them while the parents work in the evenings or even at night.
The Childcare Learning Centre, which opened in September, offers childcare services to parents working on first, second and third shifts and 24-hour childcare for people in need of emergency assistance, said Tricia Ryan, Senior Director of Improving Children’s Lives.
The Dreamery is the second daycare center owned and operated by YWCA Kalamazoo, the first of which has been open since the 1980s.
On average, The Dreamery serves about 50 children between its regular care and drop-in center, Ryan said. The regular center is open 24 hours Monday through Friday, but only during the day on weekends, she said. The goal is to be a 24/7 operation, but staffing issues are a hurdle that center leaders are trying to overcome.
Child care is a barrier for many parents who need to work, and Ryan said The Dreamery is one way to break down that barrier.
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And the center is more than just a daycare. Children as young as 6 weeks old are nurtured with play-based learning while the ‘resource room’ helps connect parents to other needed community resources that provide food, shelter or even counseling. addiction, Ryan said.
“To really focus on the whole child, which is the family, the community, and the systems that they have to navigate,” she said.
It goes beyond removing the barrier to child care, said Sandra Calderon-Huezo, Family and Community Liaison Officer.
“It’s not just about lifting the barrier, now you can build a support system around this family, around other things that they didn’t even know they were going to come here and get help with. “, she said.
Moving to the Edison neighborhood of Kalamazoo was intentional and a significant outreach effort, said Demetrias Wolverton, senior director of social justice and advocacy at YWCA Kalamazoo.
“(Parents) don’t have to sacrifice quality of care,” Wolverton said. “A lot of times when you live in neighborhoods where there are concentrations of poverty, when there are a lot of people of color, who also live in poverty, when you’re a single parent and you often have children because of other historical and structural oppressions racism, quality child care is not available to you.
“Having child care that is affordable and accessible to your finances, or your financial constraint, without having to sacrifice the quality of care for your child, I think is the most important thing,” they said. .
The Dreamery serves Edison families but also those who live under the same roof inside the Creamery, an affordable housing development designed to meet the needs of low to middle income families.
“It’s a really good idea,” Calderon-Huezo said of the integrated daycare.
The centre’s prominent location on Portage Street is also helpful in bridging the gap between organizations working towards the same goal of a thriving community. Nearby are a branch of the public library, Urban Alliance and Loaves & Fishes.
Inside, the facility is divided into five classrooms that can accommodate up to six children, ages 0 to 3, Ryan said.
Unlike the traditional child care model, children aren’t divided by age, but rather kept together to create a “family dynamic,” Ryan said. Older children help look after babies and siblings are kept together, she said.
The dining room also looks more like a family dining room than a traditional cafeteria. Children can watch food being prepared and ask questions – both a way to ensure food gets to those who may be struggling with food insecurity at home and an educational opportunity to learn about healthy food and cooking.
Although the daycare is located in a busy urban area of Kalamazoo, it was important for the staff to take the children outside. Large windows let the sun in while an outdoor play area lets kids make music, draw with chalk, and enjoy the fresh air.
Another distinctive feature of The Dreamery is the demographics of those employed to care for children. Calderon-Huezo said many men and women of varying ages work the three different shifts caring for babies and toddlers. It was important for child care professionals to reflect the community they served, she said.
But they need more staff to become a 24/7 operation, and the YWCA is a great place to work, Ryan said. Lack of staff prevents them from providing round-the-clock care on weekends.
More openings would allow more families stuck on a waiting list for child care.
Like many others in Kalamazoo, the YWCA’s Downtown Daycare and The Dreamery have waiting lists full of families in need, she said. Currently, at The Dreamery, the waiting list is over 130 families.
Although its tuition is similar to other daycares in the area, Ryan said The Dreamery’s efforts to make childcare affordable and accessible sets it apart. YWCA staff connect parents with stipends and offer their own tuition assistance to families in need, Ryan said.
Being open 24 hours a day is also a way to make The Dreamery more accessible to families, Calderon-Huezo said.
“We know we’re going to be able to help more families who have different needs than those provided by traditional daycares,” she said.
The center’s Intake Services also help families in times of emergency, whether it’s medical professionals working during a pandemic at Bronson Methodist Hospital or refugee families connected through Bethany Christian Services, Calderon-Huezo said.
Children benefiting from this accessibility now wake up from their afternoon nap. The lullaby is over and the speakers are now playing “The Wheels on the Bus”.
Another group of staff arrives for the evening shift, because at The Dreamery the doors don’t close.
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