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Expanding Childcare Options for Local Families with NC Pre-K

14 Aug

YWCA Is On A Mission to Nurture Children and Empower Women and Families

Providing childcare for our community helps working families, especially working mothers, continue their careers and increase the economic viability of their families. Research also shows that high-quality early education is also the best long-term investment to make in a child; preparing them for success in elementary school and beyond.

In support of local families and children, YWCA of Asheville is expanding their Early Learning Program beginning with two new classrooms opening this month. Going one step further to make sure some of the most vulnerable families can access early care and education, one of these classrooms is dedicated to NC Pre-K.

Preschool children

“There is an ongoing child care crisis in Buncombe County and opening two new classrooms this summer, serving 36 additional children, helps to alleviate this issue for local working families,” says Beth Maczka, CEO of YWCA of Asheville. “NC Pre-K removes a barrier to low-income working families by providing six hours of free high-quality care from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm, with additional wrap-around hours available at a reasonable cost.”

At its core, YWCA of Asheville is dedicated to empowering women, eliminating racism, nurturing children and promoting health. At the intersection of these goals is the YWCA’s Early Learning Program. Community-centered childcare aimed at supporting working women while caring for young children through a compassionate, whole-child approach.

“The first 2000 days of life are critical to a child’s lifelong development,” says Denise Purcell, Director of Early Learning at the YWCA. “Early experiences actually influence brain development. These connections provide the foundation for language, reasoning, problem-solving, social skills, behavior and emotional health. A child’s earliest experiences and environment set the stage for future development and success in school and life.”

To increase the school readiness of children throughout the state, North Carolina is funding NC Pre-K classrooms to offer free, high-quality early care and education to eligible children and families. Locally administered by Buncombe Partnership for Children, NC Pre-K qualifying families’ have at or below 75% of the state median income and priority is given to 4-year-olds who are not already enrolled in care.  Other factors that contribute to a child’s eligibility, regardless of family income, included identified disabilities, chronic health conditions, or developmental or educational needs such as speaking limited or no English.

“The YWCA’s commitment to racial and social justice is reflected in our classroom composition, the diversity of staff and an overall welcoming environment for all types of families,” says Maczka. “Opening an NC Pre-K classroom at the YWCA is a perfect fit for our organization.”

To make sure childcare and early education are accessible to any parent and child in our community, the Early Learning Program accepts state childcare subsidy vouchers and serves 50% voucher families throughout their center. In 2016, YWCA also opened two Early Head Start classrooms in partnership with Verner Center for Early Learning to provide not only childcare but extended wrap-around education, resources, and services for families with the lowest incomes in our community.

YWCA of Asheville believes that every individual deserves the support necessary to get an early start on learning, to succeed through school and graduation, to continue education and provide for their family.  Through the Early Learning Program, YWCA is working to improve the lives of women, children and families, and our community as a whole.

“Learning begins long before a child enters public school,” says Purcell. “It has been proven that participants in high-quality early childhood programs have higher earnings, pay more taxes and are less likely to rely on government assistance. This means better jobs, better educations, and better lives – and in terms of dollars returned from the investment in early education – society is the winner.”

YWCA is actively enrolling students for their NC Pre-K classroom opening August 27, 2018. Applications are available at the YWCA located at 185 S. French Broad Avenue in Asheville or you can access the NC Pre-K application online through the Buncombe County Partnership for Children website.

 

A conversation with Beth Maczka, CEO and Alesia Summey, Director of Empowerment Childcare

19 Mar

Alesia and Beth

In her position as the Director of Empowerment Childcare, Alesia Summey helps families access short-term childcare and other resources needed by working families in our community.  Beth Maczka recently sat down with Alesia to talk about her program and personal dedication to the mission of the YWCA.

BM: Tell me a little about your background and history with the YWCA.

AS: I’ve been working in childcare for almost 21 years, 16 here at the YW. I volunteered at the YW in high school when it was the old childcare program and came to work at the YW when the new childcare center was opening. At that point I was new and I was young, I learned a lot – I’ve been through 4 levels of ratings. I worked as a teacher for 11 years and then I was promoted to the program coordinator and then to the Director of Empowerment Childcare.

BM: How does the Empowerment Childcare (ECC) program relate to the YWCA’s mission?

AS: Being able to provide free childcare to parents, who have not had opportunities to grow, so they can go to school to get their GED or get their degree, or find a job. Without childcare they weren’t able to do that. We have empowered a lot of women and families through this program.

BM: What is your approach and vision for ECC in the coming year?

AS: To help out as many families as we can. Getting out in the community, going to different meetings in Asheville to get our name out. Doing whatever I can do to promote and increase enrollment, that’s my goal.

BM: Can you tell me more about ECC’s pay-by-the-hour childcare?

AS: For parents that are working and need care – if they have a doctor’s appointment, court appointment or an appointment that has to do with their job and they work from home – we have pay-by-the-hour, which is set up to provide up to 4 hours of care at a time. We’re able to serve all families with short-term care. It is a very critical need.

BM: Anything else you would like to share?

AS: Coming to the YW, seeing the work that we do as an organization and then being given the chance to empower myself – as a young mother, going to school, working – I consider myself a success story. There is a lot that this organization does that I don’t think people see. And I’ve had the opportunity to experience that. I can’t thank the YWCA enough.

The invisible child care crisis: school age children

6 May

 

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO

Beth Maczka, Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Columnist

 

Last week’s op-ed highlighted the Invisible Childcare Crisis in early childhood, but the crisis doesn’t stop when a child enters kindergarten.

Access to affordable, quality childcare remains the biggest barrier to a woman’s economic security, even as her child transitions from early learning programs to school.

For Melanie, a childcare voucher for her two school age children allowed her to work and support her family. Working increased her self-confidence and supporting her family increased her self-worth. Ironically, earning a small raise tipped her over the income limit for eligibility, resulting in the loss of her childcare voucher. We call this an “income cliff” and it is very real in our community. Melanie’s situation is not unique. This is happening to hundreds of families in Buncombe County, and we all lose.

Parents lose opportunities to advance in their careers and support their families; employers lose valuable employees and are forced to re-hire and re-train staff. And children lose the chance to gain critical educational enrichment during their most formative years.

In the last 18 months alone, 242 of Buncombe County’s children lost access to school-age childcare.

A primary reason families lose school age childcare vouchers is due to income eligibility requirements being tightened during the 2014 NC legislative budget process. Previously families could earn up to 75 percent of the State Median Income (or $4,187 monthly) for a family of 4 to qualify for childcare vouchers for children ages 6-12. Now that same family can only earn up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (or $2,688 monthly).

For example, Joyce is a mother of three and makes $32,000 or $2667 gross monthly. That allows her three children to receive services valued at $412 per child per month for a total of $1236 per month. Joyce receives a raise of $500, and she is now making $32,500. Under the new income guidelines, she makes $ $20 over the monthly limit, causing her to lose the $1236 a month in subsidy. A raise of $500 a year means that Joyce will now need to spend an additional $14,100 each year for childcare, or 43 percent of her income. This is a crisis.

Another income cliff occurs when a child who’s been receiving a voucher from birth to age 5, turns 6 years old. The NC state income level for a younger child is $48,504 for a family of four, but when the child turns 6, a family with earnings over $32,256 will lose childcare assistance. This happens immediately, regardless of when in the school year the child turns 6, leading to disruption of care, relationships and routines. Parents still need to work and their children are not able to care for themselves. The crisis is growing.

School age childcare programs are essential for families needing care till the end of the work day or throughout the summer. And low-income children who most need support to participate in quality afterschool and summer camp programs are also most likely to be impacted by summer learning loss.

Quality afterschool and summer camp programs keep children safe, provide nutritious snacks and meals, and provide essential academic supports including homework help, fun educational activities, and enriching field trips.

Remind your NC State representatives that school age children need afterschool care and summer camp to keep them safe and learning, and working families need access to year-round care for their school age children.

Ask your representatives to implement these recommendations immediately:

Make the income eligibility for early learning and school age programs consistent at 200% of poverty.

Create a system to pro-rate fees rather than forcing parents with all or nothing choices. If a family is $200 over the income limit, charge them a slightly higher co-pay rather than removing the full subsidy support.

Support the continuation of a child’s school age services for the school year during which they turn 6.

Working families need school age childcare now.

Beth Maczka is CEO, YWCA of Asheville.

This op-ed is endorsed by the following 5-star centers and child advocacy groups in Buncombe County:

Buncombe County Partnership for Children

Children First Communities in Schools

Asheville Jewish Community Center

Child Care availability is an invisible crisis in our community

29 Apr

 

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO

Beth Maczka, Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Columnist

Cultures are judged on how they care for the most vulnerable. How will our community be judged when the care for our youngest children is considered? Early learning programs are essential to nurturing children socially and academically while providing critical support to working families.

 

We all know that we have a less than 1 percent vacancy rate for housing in our community. Did you also know that we have well less than a 1 percent vacancy rate for child care?

Affordable child care is the biggest barrier to women’s economic security. Without child care, you can’t look for work. Without child care you can’t work. Without child care it is difficult, if not impossible, to complete your education.

For Mary, finding an available child care opening meant being able to get, and keep, a job for the first time. Yet for hundreds of families, the lack of childcare spaces is keeping them from working.

Over the last year and a half, we have lost 176 slots from our community’s child care services. For a number of reasons, including a 5-month freeze on state child care voucher payments, three 5-star-rated child care centers and two family child care homes closed.

Even if you can pay full price, there are virtually no open places for children, with the longest waiting lists for infants and toddlers. And if you have a child care voucher, a state subsidy to support low-income working parents, there is no place to use that voucher.

A recent survey of child care providers revealed only six openings for children in Buncombe County out of a population of 4,160 children enrolled in full-time care. This is a crisis.

Child care costs more than in-state college tuition. Child care tuition for an infant is about $12,000 a year. In-state tuition to UNC Chapel Hill, including books, is $10,033.

Even at the cost of $1,000 per child per month (or higher), 5-star child care centers lose money on every child under the age of three, due to the high standards of care and the required adult to child ratio. No wonder some centers only serve 3- to 5-year-olds and existing centers can’t afford to expand infant and toddler rooms.

Add on the fact that the state child care voucher reimbursement rate for an infant in Asheville in a 5-star-rated center is $757, while the same state-funded reimbursement rate for an infant in Charlotte is $870 and $1,066 in Raleigh. Yet the cost of living is higher in Asheville than it is in Charlotte or Raleigh.

We also have a critical shortage in early childhood teachers.

Given the challenge of profitability, paying competitive, if not living wages, to these hard-working saints who care for our children every day is challenging. No wonder we are seeing lower enrollment rates at community colleges and at universities in early childhood education.

Centers are also faced with the rising health insurance costs, which are projected to increase by 16 percent this year. It is no wonder that centers have closed.

Remind your N.C. state representatives that we have a less than 1 percent vacancy for child care slots, a critical child care teacher shortage, and that these conditions are unacceptable for our children, our families and our local businesses.

Ask your representatives to implement these recommendations immediately:

Make the child care subsidy market reimbursement rates fair — based on cost and adjust the subsidy market rate allocation so that it is more equitable.

Increase support for teacher training and compensation for birth to 5 years of age. School age teachers are not the only ones that need a raise!

Our child care center infrastructure is fragile, and we can’t afford to lose any more centers or family child care homes.

Working families need childcare now.

Beth Maczka is CEO, YWCA of Asheville. The mission of the YWCA is Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women. The YWCA of Asheville provides 5-star child care services from birth to 12 years of age along with a range of programs that address disparities in education, health and economic security.

This Op-ed is endorsed by the following 5-star child care centers and child advocacy organizations in Buncombe County:

Buncombe County Partnership for Children

Children First Communities in Schools

Verner Center for Early Learning

Asheville Jewish Community Center Childcare Center

First Presbyterian Church Childcare Center

Mission Hospitals Child Development Center

Nurturing Children at the YWCA & at Home

5 Jan

By Wanda Harris, Director of the YWCA Early Learning Program and Empowerment Child Care

In our 5-star Early Learning Program at the YWCA we have the children in 5 classrooms, divided by age. Everything we do is centered around helping the children in our care develop, and play is a great way to help encourage this.
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In the infant room (6 weeks through 12 months) love and attention provides the stimulation they need.

In the toddler room (12-24 months) they need more one-on-one interaction on the floor. They need a lot of back-and-forth dialogue because they’re building up their language skills, leading to what we call a ‘vocabulary explosion.’ They love music and things that make sounds and talk to them. You have to be deliberate with what you do because they’re learning how to mimic.

In the Pond classroom (24-36 months) it’s even more about language. They know what they’re saying and language skills are exploding. They love to be read to and to “read” to themselves. It’s the independent stage – ‘I can do it for myself and by myself.’ Emotions are big, and friendships are developing. They are learning how to start being independent and can be encouraged in this direction – to put on their own coats, and put their own socks and shoes on.

In the Bees and Pre-K room (3-5 yrs.) it’s important to have activities that develop the children’s fine and gross motor skills – they are learning how to cut paper, maneuver with their fingers, jump and run. They’re also getting better at following directions – knowing that they can listen and how to listen.

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Beginning in the toddler room we focus on the importance of good nutrition and exercise in developing brains. Our Rainbow In My Tummy nutrition curriculum means freshly prepared meals with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and no added sugars. To further our children’s knowledge and awareness of nutrition we have our own nutritionist does a segment called “Farmer’s Market Friday” where the children do taste testing on new healthy fruits and vegetables each week. This is imperative because the foods we put into our bodies play a very important role.  We also stress the importance of at least an hour of outdoor playtime every day.

Outside we encourage free play, where the children are using their imagination and developing their gross motor skills – they run, jump, skip, utilize the riding toys, and even balancing activities. We also have a board outside with attached pots and pans to make music.

Starting at age 3 every child in our program starts taking swim lessons in our solar-heated pool. The water is a great place for children to get exercise and have fun with friends and family, and it’s also very important for their safety that they learn how to swim from an early age.

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Families don’t need expensive toys to play with their children! Here are some l0w-cost items that are good to have on hand for playing games:

  • Take a plastic ziplock bag, fill with oil, non-toxic paints or just food coloring and seal – let the child make patterns and enjoy squishing it around.
  • Take sticky clear contact paper, let the children put different colored tissue paper on it, and put it up on the window – children will enjoy rubbing it to feel the textures and make designs.
  • Create “sensory bottles” by filling clear bottles with oil, glitter, buttons, food coloring, pipe cleaner and then seal them with hot glue.
  • Make a dress-up box filled with old clothes and accessories to encourage dramatic play.

Finally, talk to your children as much as you can. If you know a second language, even if it’s basic, start it when they’re one year-old. As soon as they can say yes and no they can start saying “si” or “uno”; it’s important to start early.

Wanda Harris is Director of the YWCA’s Early Learning Program. She is a Level 3 Child Care Administrator, State of North Carolina, holds an MA of Education, is an MBA Candidate, and has 28 years of child care experience.

Farmer’s Market Friday: Prunes!

4 Dec

Today for Farmer’s Market Friday Ms. Alex, the YWCA’s Nutrition Coordinator, brought a special guest – CEO Beth Maczka!

Beth sang a song about prunes, and the kids all got to learn about how prunes are made – they even got to taste a bite. Everyone (well, almost everyone) loved “nature’s candy.”

Learn more about the YWCA’s Drop-In Child Care and full-time Child Care.

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YWCA Awarded SNAP ED Grant – Helping Us Make Even More Rainbows!

30 Nov

058Since 2012 the YWCA has provided healthy meals and snacks from our Rainbow in My Tummy Program for our children in our Child Care, After School, and Drop-In Child Care. Rainbow in My Tummy was created by the Verner Early Learning Center and is a way to help child care centers feed their children healthfully while still adhering to government guidelines. We stick to whole grains, mostly fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and low fat dairy. Almost all of the food that comes out of our kitchen is made from scratch by our stellar kitchen staff every day. Read “A Day in the Life of the Rainbow In My Tummy Kitchen” here.

084Now, we’re proud to announce that we will be running SNAP Ed programming starting this fall, making us the first implementing agency in Western North Carolina! SNAP Ed is a grant designed to get Nutrition and Physical Activity education to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients, as well as the general public.

As part of SNAP Ed our Nutrition Coordinator, Alex Mitchell, will run Color Me Healthy, a nutrition and physical activity curriculum, with our 3-5 year old Child Care students.  Summer Camp students will get to participate in a physical activity curriculum and participate in regular food and nutrition activities as well.  We will also hold events for our parents to learn how to make good nutrition and physical activity choices at home.060

“Nutrition and physical activity education is so important to start early, and SNAP Ed funds will give us the chance to provide these lessons,” says Alex. “I’m personally excited to get to interact with our kids and families more, and to teach information that they will then take out of the YW and into their homes and communities.”

Do you have an idea for what we should call this “snappy” new work at the YW? Email your suggestions to marketing@ywcaofasheville.org!