By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – When children spend their days at Karitas Day Care, a ministry of Catholic Charities, they get much more than just educational opportunities, structure and healthy food. They also get extra grandparents. One of the perks of the daycare is that several foster grandparents spend a couple hours every day providing extra love and attention to the babies and children there.
The daycare was recently approved by the Mississippi Department of Human Services’ Division of Early Childhood Care and Development (DECCD) to accept Child Care and Development Fund Certificates to provide child care assistance to low-income families. Previously, families had to be referred to Karitas, but now anyone can apply for a certificate and enroll a child.
The center takes children aged 6-weeks to 12 years and is open from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. “We offer children a structured and secure environment – a safe place,” said director Caroline Bealer. She has been on the job for 19 years. “This is more than just a job to me, it’s a mission,” Bealer said and that seems to hold true for other staff members as well. One of the teachers has served the center for 30 years.
Karitas provides tutoring, field trips, arts and crafts, opportunities for sports and dramatic play, tutoring and homework help for school-aged children who come for after school care and welcomes special visitors such as firefighters. Karitas provides lunch, supper and snacks. The children are divided by age and there is a limit to how many children can be enrolled so teachers can maintain a good ratio with the kids. Computers are available for older children who need them to complete homework.
The foster grandparents are just a bonus. Many of them have also been coming for years. Bealer said for low-income parents having a child care option is good for the whole family. “Having a daycare option will allow a parent to do things they may not be able to do with small children at home such as seek employment or seek challenges and goals to better themselves,” she said. She added that the children benefit as well.
“Sometimes, you will see a child who has never been away from a parent so when they go to school it can be a struggle,” she added. The teachers at Karitas all have certifications in early childhood education so they help the children with social skills, gross and fine motor skills as well as some of the educational benchmarks that can benefit them when they do start school.
The center is located directly behind Jackson Holy Family Parish on Forest Street in Northeast Jackson. Parents interested in sending their children to Karitas should first apply for a certificate on the state website: www.childcareinfo.ms. Select Catholic Charities as the provider and fill out the application. For more information on the programs at Karitas, call the center at 601-366-8281.
By Maureen Smith