Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Finding Early Education and Care: Voices from the Community

Preschool Registration is upon us in Somerville.  Parents file into our Parent Information Center for a streamlined process with lots of attention to parents' needs. It is a model for helping families to enter the public school system.

Interpreters give individualized attention to those who need help filling out forms. The Somerville Family Learning Collaborative is on hand with information about parent education and family engagement activities.  The public health nurses make sure children's health records and exams are up to date.  The district's after school program, Community Schools is on hand. And for the first time, the Head Start enrollment specialist is there to help income eligible families know what comprehensive programming is available to them through our collaboration

As parents file in we offer them a short survey to assess their needs for full day care, after school programming, summer options, and support they may need with housing, food, services for children with developmental needs, etc.

Turns out the need for full day care is great.  Even dire.

We hear their stories:

"I am a single mother with two children.  Most of my salary goes to rent and full time childcare so I am excited about the public school which are free.  But I don't know what I am going to do after 1:45 (when the preschool programming ends).  I know I have to pay a little for after school but will I get a spot?"  

"I would like to go back to work soon, I need to go back, but I have no place for my son after 1:45.  I couldn't find care I could afford so I brought my aunt from Mexico to take care of my kids."

And this story:  A teen couple paying $1500 a month for rent with little left over for anything else - makes the choice to tag team their work hours to take care of their child before school and after 1:45 rather than finish their high school education because they don't have childcare they can afford and the school schedule for preschool doesn't allow them to attend their classes.  What is available to them? 

Two families in line:  Reading the survey they ponder: "Does my child have problems with speech? We went to Cambridge Health Alliance and they really helped us."  Another family listening in said, "Oh maybe we need to go there and find out. We didn't realize that was something we should think about - who helped you?"

Somerville is working to not only help families register for school, but to understand the range of needs so that we can be responsive to family needs.

Preschool registration continues through April 28 at the Parent Information Center at 42 Prescott Street.  The lottery is May 4.  Please visit the The Somerville Hub for information on schools and centers in Somerville.  Please call the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative at 617-625-6600 x6965 if you need help finding education and care and other programs, family services, and family-friendly places in the city.