Children begin learning before they are even born. The brain development that takes place during the early part of a child’s life is the foundation of learning, behavior, and health. Quality educational settings and early child care are key to maximizing brain development.
Meet Amanda* who lives with her family in Southeast Arkansas. She and her husband have three children ages 7, 4 and 1. They served as a foster family before adopting their youngest two children. Amanda and her family have experienced several challenges finding quality early care for all of their children. In the Q&A below, Amanda shares the struggle to find quality child care facing many families in rural parts of the state.
What was/is the biggest challenge related to childcare for your family?
As a foster parent, we would often get children at a moment’s notice. There is only one child care provider in our town and it has a long waiting list. So finding quality child care with immediate openings was impossible without traveling to another town.
What services or resources would have been helpful to your family?
Foster and low-income families access child care through the Child Care Assistance Program, often referred to as a voucher. Unfortunately, not all programs accept these vouchers. And none of the available programs in our area are using trauma-informed practices needed to care for our children. In my experiences as a parent educator, I know many children in our state have likely been exposed to or experienced trauma and would benefit from teachers with this skillset.
When fostering my daughter, we qualified for vouchers, but ultimately chose not to use them because the centers that accept vouchers were not able to provide the specialized care she needed. Instead, I was forced to drive 40 miles round trip, twice a day, to take her to an expensive private facility that met her needs. Thankfully, she now qualifies for an Early Intervention Day Treatment (EIDT) center and is able to receive the occupational and developmental therapies she requires.
How has this challenge affected your family?
Of course, driving time, gas and money have all been burdens to my family. But the biggest cost has been the children being in a facility with staff who could not meet their needs. The faster we’re able to get a child into an appropriate learning environment the faster they begin to thrive and grow developmentally. Unfortunately, getting children into the right facility can be a long and daunting process. Many times it would take more than a month before those children were placed in care that was able to meet their needs.
Why do you want to share your story with others?
Unfortunately, many children are like mine, impacted by developmental delays, trauma and loss. Families across the state are already struggling and when basic child care is costly or otherwise hard to access we have to do better…for all families, especially those with special needs.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.