By Carolina Molina and Brianna Smith
Metropolitan Family Services Learning and Wellness Center, a daycare in East Englewood, is government funded with additional funding from DCFS. They have three centers throughout the city.
Funding is a large part of how Metropolitan Family Services Learning and Wellness Center implements its policies given the lack of parent tuition and the presence of programs that use government funds. According to the 2017-2018 Head Start Annual Report, they receive both private and public funds.
In terms of public funds, Metropolitan Family Services receives $6,287,229 from the City of Chicago and $232,938 from the State of Illinois. Private funds come from In-Kind in the amount of $17,667, Foundations/Individuals/Corporations in the amount of $39,000, and client fees in the amount of $115,538.
The company receives funding for having a Head Start Program. Enrollment depends on whether the family meets certain criteria regarding their income and employment status among others.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Metropolitan Family Services Learning and Wellness Center has all three of its centers closed down. According to Ahyshia Faines, teacher at Metropolitan Family Services Learning and Wellness Center, they applied for a new license to open up two of their centers to be emergency centers for essential workers, but did not receive it because it would have affected their funding.
“As a result we have supervisors and supervisors have supervisors to ensure that everyone is doing their jobs properly,” Faines explained. “There are so many people that are there to make sure we are in line with our funding and funders can make unannounced visits and can check online to see how the center is doing. They often do weekly visits.”
The funding for the Learning and Wellness Center has not been affected as a result of COVID-19. The manner in which the curriculum is implemented has shifted and is now more reliant on parents.
“We are using My Teaching Strategies which is a website and app,” Faines explained. “We use [the] Remind App to communicate through text and we are emailing a few times a week. Once I pick a few activities I send it through the website. I then let parents know to check their emails for any resources we sent. On Mondays we do check-ins and talk to the parents about the activities.”
“We use a planning guide,” Faines stated, “We don’t do this at random; we plan everything to match up to the objectives we are trying to observe and rank for each child.”
Ladybug & Friends Daycare and Preschool, a private daycare in Edgewater, a North Side neighborhood in Chicago relies entirely on parent tuition to fund their centers. Their policies are finalized by upper management with little to no parental influence.
The Ladybug & Friends Daycare and Preschool company has five locations throughout the city and is fully funded by the tuition parents pay weekly. Tuition rates depend on the age group of the child with infants being the most expensive at $444 per week.
“The funding goes from the parents to the owners and from them,” said Andrea Urbina, 30, the director of the Edgewater location of Ladybug & Friends, “We get [funding] for the curriculum and materials. For a very short period we were given a budget, but after that we’ve never really had one, so we just purchase what is necessary after getting approval from the owners.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic Ladybug & Friends Daycare and Preschool transitioned most of their activities online. Teachers send out daily videos and have been doing Zoom meetings to make sure the children have the best education they can during this pandemic. The daycare stays in contact with the parents as much as they possibly can. All videos and activities from teachers are sent to their directors and the directors send them out to parents in order to keep the teachers’ contact information private.
“Our teachers have been amazing at keeping up with their videos and doing Zoom meetings and adapting the best they can to doing the most they can at home for all our kiddos,” Urbina stated, “We are very proud of our teachers.”
The curriculum is being followed closely and was given to teachers as the basis of the educational videos they are creating.
Ladybug & Friends is working closely with officials to open an emergency center for first responders and other essential workers. Their main concern with this involves their ability to staff the center appropriately, as opposed to having funds be an obstacle.
Funding has become a concern for Ladybug & Friends given that they pay their employees using the funds provided by tuition. As a result of the closures, parents are no longer paying tuition. The owners of Ladybug & Friends have opted to apply for COVID-19 Relief for small businesses. Payment for Ladybug & Friends employees relies on this loan.
Until this loan is approved, the teachers at Ladybug & Friends have donated their time to create academic videos and worksheets to send to their students independently.
Kimball Daycare is also a daycare on the North Side of Chicago. It is funded by parent tuition and the Childcare Development Block Grant Program. This grant provides daycares with funding for institutions that have programs like Head Start and Action For Children.
Programs like these, in addition to parent tuition, have a large influence on their enrollment.
“Head Start and Early Head Start Program are programs Kimball Daycare provides to help low income families with very young children,” explained Erhyn Ortiz, 24, a teacher at Kimball Daycare. “The Early Head Start Program promotes physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of infants and toddlers through safe and developmentally enriching caregiving.”
Kimball Daycare has also closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but like other daycares they remain available to parents and kids using tools like Zoom.
“Our daycare center is closed,” explained Ortiz. “We provide parents with online activities and every week we check on the children and families to see if they need our help or support. We are using the Dojo App to post videos and send activities every week to parents. We also do lesson plans and news letters every week as well as paperwork, Q&As, and checkpoints as a part of teaching strategies for the Creative Curriculum.”
More parents are turning towards online resources to keep kids on track with their educational objectives. Several websites like My Teaching Strategies have a curriculum with activities that are accessible to parents at this time.
Kimball Daycare is also using a government program to fund the payments of their employees’ salaries. There has been no change to the teachers’ salaries as a result of the COVID-19 closures, but the center is no longer being partially funded by parent tuition.
According to a Google search analysis, Zoom, My Teaching Strategies, and CLASS Curriculum have all been more searched for in the past 30 days than the past year. Zoom has been the most popular online tool that has been searched for. All three daycares use Zoom to continue implementing their curriculums and continue communications between teachers, administration, and parents.