Heard it Here

Wake Forest Students Cover Downtown Winston-Salem

Column: The Children’s Center

Staff members at First Baptist Church Children’s Center found out last month that the daycare center would be closing on December 22nd –six months sooner than expected.

I must have been one of the first people in the community to hear about this closing, because when I picked up the phone to call the Children’s Center about an interview, the news was still fresh in the mind of the woman who answered with a quivering voice and audible tears. I respected her wish and did not visit the center that day out of respect for everyone who was still trying to process this sudden news.

This closing will drastically impact parents, their children, and the staff of the Children’s Center. “Parents are being affected because they have nowhere to take their children,” says a staff member who preferred to have their identity kept private. “We have to find jobs sooner than what we thought.”

For years churches have accepted the responsibility of offering daycare, sometimes burdening them with them great financial and logistical stress. The closing of First Baptist Church’s Children’s Center highlights the weight falling onto the shoulders’ of some churches. The staff of the church felt that given the current financial state of the church, the Center would have to be closed, inconveniencing parents and staff alike.

After a vote taken in June 2017 by the First Baptist Church congregation, the Children’s Center, which has been in operation for 50 years, was set to be closed in May 2018. The congregation decided that it was no longer able to meet the financial obligations of running a full-time daycare center, and attempting to meet those costs was unsustainable.

Tuition for the Children’s Center is dependent on the age of the children, as well as the required staff to child ratios needed for the age group. The actual cost ranges from $190 per week for infant/toddler classrooms to $170 per week for pre-kindergarten classrooms.

According to the Children’s Center website, the Center receives a monthly subsidy from the Department of Social Services. The Center, because it is a five-star accredited daycare, also has tuition costs that exceed market rate. The amount of DSS subsidy financial assistance a family is eligible to receive is determined by their income.

When I was a child, my family footed a $1,000 bill each month for daycare for just my care alone. For us, daycare was a necessity. My mother was a single parent and a high school teacher, so she really had no other option but to put me in some sort of childcare program.

For two and a half years before I went to daycare, my days were spent alternating between locations and receiving care from a woman called Mrs. Shanny and from my grandparents. The majority of my care came from my Nana, who was a retired kindergarten teacher, and my Pa.

As my mother stated, “You were ready to learn and dying to learn.” Before I reached three years old, I already knew how to read and write thanks to my Nana. I needed socialization with kids my own age, so I was enrolled in daycare when I was three and remained there until it was time for me to go to kindergarten.

In addition to providing early child care, the Children’s Center also provides school-age programs, including an after-school program, holiday or snow day drop-ins, and a summer enrichment program. For events like these, I thankfully had my grandparents to turn to, but not everyone has accessibility to relatives.

These programs are critical for parents who work longer than the typical school day. A lot of companies and businesses provide daycare for the children of employees, leaving working parents without many options on snow-days or holidays when they still have to go to work.

When asked to comment on the closing of the Children’s Center, Pastor John Thornton wrote in an email, “The only comment we have to offer to the press is a press release we are distributing at request.” Thornton became the Associate Pastor of Youth, Missions, and Adult Formation in June 2017.

I can only imagine how difficult it would be to break the news to the community and the families’ dependent on the daycare, and I understand why Thornton wouldn’t initially comment on the matter.

According to the press release, First Baptist Church leadership began exploring options to cut expenses in order to keep the Center running. Cuts, which would have included laying off large numbers of staff, raising tuition, and reducing services, would have negatively impacted almost everyone involved in any way with the Center. It was decided that this burden would fall too heavily on everyone, and it would alter the key components of what makes the Children’s Center unique.

It’s very sad that staff at this top daycare are having to make the tough decision to suspend operations at the Center. Parents are now left with a predicament concerning where to take their children for daycare.

The press release outlined how enrollment at the Children’s Center steadily and significantly dropped since the June announcement to close the Center. In the past three months alone, the Children’s Center saw growing monthly losses of tens of thousands of dollars.

With the impending closure of the Children’s Center, parents continue to search for other childcare options for their children. A Child’s World Learning Center, which opened in 1992, is another daycare center located in downtown Winston-Salem on Cherry Street. The highest enrollment they can handle is up to 125 children.

“We already have some of their children,” said Miss Jackie from A Child’s World. “As long as we have availability in our classrooms we’re happy to accept them.”

There could be a solution to the issue parents are facing – companies, especially those located downtown, should begin to consider providing daycare services for the children of their employees. This care would not only be convenient for parents, but also for daycare staff should a child ever be faced with an illness or issue. A parent could simply walk downstairs from their office and directly to their child.

Having a daycare in the workplace would allow parents to cut down on the amount of stops they have to make before work, and it would ease some of the morning chaos characterizing the lives of parents with young children.

Children get sick, just like the rest of us. Providing childcare in the workplace would allow parents to quickly respond to a sick child, rather than taking off of work to pick the child up from another location.

Even with some clear benefits of workplace childcare, the question remains: will companies step-up and begin to provide care or will parents have to continue the search for daycare centers that are quickly reaching capacity?

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