(Host) Finding good childcare is a problem for a lot of two-income families. But what if you’re a single parent working the three-to-eleven shift?
An agency in Brattleboro has one answer: Evening childcare.
VPR’s Susan Keese reports:
(Keese) The old stone school on Brattleboro’s Canal Street has served a lot of children in its hundred year history. For the past few years it’s housed a few early education programs. But much of it’s stood empty.
Starting this fall it will serve local families in a new way: As Vermont’s first dedicated evening child care center.
(Moreland) “So this is the space where it’s all going to happen.”
(Brennan) “This is the infant toddler room for the youngest children.”
(Keese) Patrick Moreland is the director of Community Action Brattleboro Area, an antipoverty agency known locally as CABA. He and his colleague, Kevin Brennan, have spent the last three years working to launch this center. They say that Brattleboro has a higher than average number of single parent families, and that seven out of ten of them live in poverty.
They also know that in this town second shift jobs often present good opportunities for people to break into higher paying work. That’s if they can find someone to watch their children.
Elizabeth Christie directs the Windham Childcare Association, the local child care referral agency.
(Christie) “We have been struggling for twenty-four years as an agency with requests from families for evening child care. And we have to say: ‘ there is nothing.'”
(Keese) Christie’s agency, and many others, both state and local, have helped to make the CABA Center a reality.
The town of Brattleboro wrote the Community Development Block Grant that will pay for renovations to the old school’s kitchen and first floor classrooms.
Patrick Moreland, the center’s co-founder, says the changes will be extensive.
(Moreland) “We have endeavored to create a program that really tries to mimic the natural activities that would occur in a home during those hours. So there’s going to be a strong emphasis placed on the ability to prepare a meal, and to be able to sit down and serve meals in a sort of family-style setting, to have our kids participate in cleaning up just like you would at home. We want space where they can retire to after that, where we can do group activities, play games, but then gradually wind down and eventually get some rest.”
(Keese) The center will be open from two until eleven thirty, at the beginning at least. It will serve up to thirty children, from infants to age twelve, and employ at least ten skilled childcare professionals.
Parents will pay on a sliding scale. Most will qualify for state child care subsidies. The children will have their own beds, where parents can scoop them up and take them home when they get off work.
Looking at the big empty classrooms, Moreland envisions them as the next best thing to home. He sees small semi private bedrooms arranged around central living areas with comfy sofas, where teachers can help with homework or read stories.
(Moreland) “Our goal is to create that environment and to create that space that a child can know that when they leave Snoopy Dog on their bed, Snoopy will be there the next day. It’s not a temporary solution. It’s their space.”
(Keese) Moreland sees that stability as the program’s best asset. It’s not quite the same as being at home with Mom or Dad. But it beats a pullout couch in a different neighbor’s house several nights a week.
Officials say the program could become a model for other communities with similar needs.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.