Federal program offers $200,000 for local daycare

Eunice Lee

To relieve the dozens of Evanston families that cannot get into daycare programs, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 approved Dec. 17 an educational daycare program for infants from low-income families.

Called “Doorway to Learning,” the program will be located at the District 65 Family Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

The state-subsidized program will serve families with infants 6 weeks to 3 years old and will run Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The family center received $212,108 from the Birth-to-Three Block Grant to implement the infant care program.

“We applied for this grant because every center for daycare in Evanston had waiting lists,” said Family Center coordinator Angela Johnson, who runs the program.

The program already has a waiting list of several families and has had multiple inquiries concerning enrollment, she said. To be eligible for the program, families must meet state guidelines for receiving subsidized child care.

Other daycare centers are facing the same issues. At KinderCare Learning Center, formerly Central Evanston Child Care, there are usually no more than two to three spots available for infant care, director September Larson said.

“There definitely is a deficit in Evanston and even the North Chicago area for infant care,” she said. “I already have a wait list of 15 to 20 people with infants for the summer.”

There is also a wait list for the infant program at the McGaw YMCA Child Care Center said Sonja Coster, vice president of child care services.

“Last year we made our classes bigger but with the same teacher-student ratio to accommodate more children,” she said. “However, we still have a waiting list of about 12 infants.”

Johnson said she hopes that the Doorway to Learning program will provide quality infant education and parenting skills for families in need of daycare. Home visits will be made by family advocates, who will help establish goals for both the family as a whole and for the individual infants.

Also, a parenting education program will teach parents about potty training, the developmental stages of their child and making their homes safe for their children.

“We emphasize parents being their children’s first educational teacher,” said Johnson. “We want parents to understand that the first few years of a child’s life is crucial.”

Three classrooms are already available at the Family Center to facilitate this program when it opens this year, although there is no set date for the final opening.

Parent-child activities will also be an important component of Doorway to Learning. Each parent and child will interact at least two times a month in different activities such as baby massage, sign language, hand-eye coordination tasks and other learning activities.

“These activities are to promote the bond between children and their parents, and reinforce the idea of parents being their children’s first teachers,” Johnson said.

Nine staff members will implement a curriculum that will concentrate on certain developmental areas including language, cognitive development and motor-skills development.

“Hopefully this will provide a needed service to families that require daycare that are not receiving it at this time,” Johnson said.

Reach Eunice Lee at [email protected]