Shepherd’s new child care center will set foundation for lifetime of learning

 

It doesn’t take much imagination to see what Christmas programs will one day look and sound like at the Minnie Hartmann Center on Indianapolis’ near east side.

As scores of young children sing carols, dozens of senior citizens will join in the songs and maybe a holiday skit or two. Generations at the beginning and late in life will come together to celebrate, to build community, and to learn from and encourage one another.

The Minnie Hartmann Child Care Center, a joint project of Shepherd Community Center and Near East Area Renewal, is much more than just another day care. The 11,000-square-foot center is unique because the newly renovated building that houses it connects with a senior housing complex. Connecting the two is a gym and stage that serve as a bridge between the centers and the generations.

Staff at the center, scheduled to open in early August on North Sherman Drive, will initially provide care for 70 children; eventually, 140 kids will grow and learn in the attractively updated building, which was the longtime home of IPS School 78.

“When we talk about our neighborhood and think about breaking the cycle of poverty, early childhood education is a huge part of the answer,” Andrew Green, Shepherd’s assistant executive director, said. “One of the major unmet needs in the area is providing a safe place for children as parents are at work or go to school.”

The center itself will be a source of new jobs in the neighborhood, adding 27 workers to care for children from infants to 4-year-olds. In fact, 10 of Shepherd’s neighbors are now in training at Ivy Tech in preparation for work at the center.

As Green noted, access to high quality child care is a critical need for every family, but it’s one that far too often goes unmet in Indianapolis and across the nation. That fact has enormous implications for millions of children, and for the nation’s quest for social and economic equity.

Researchers at Rutgers University have found that by the time African American children reach kindergarten they are on average almost nine months behind in math and seven months behind in reading compared to white non-Hispanic peers.

That gap in early learning carries enormous consequences that can linger not only during a child’s years in school but throughout a lifetime in terms of income, socio-economic status and even physical health.

The Rutgers researchers determined that African American children attend preschool at about the same rate as white children, but the quality of the schools is significantly lower. And it’s the quality of early childhood education that makes all the difference in children’s lives.

Green said the Minnie Hartmann center will open at Level One on the state’s four-stage Paths of Quality but should move quickly to Level Three, which means the staff will have shown they have the knowledge and skill needed to plan age-appropriate activities and lead children toward school readiness. Level Three status also means that the child care center’s operators have invested significantly in the staff’s professional development.

Shepherd is still hiring for positions at the center, and Green said volunteer opportunities eventually will become available as programming expands and social distancing needs allow.

To learn more about the Minnie Hartmann Child Care Center, contact Diana Reed at dianar@shepherdcommunity.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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