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For families in transition, efforts to find a job can often be hindered by the need for child care.
“I found myself where I had no job, no vehicle, no money and no resources,” said Holly, who asked that her last name not be used so she wouldn’t be specifically identified. “My significant other, it was just a really bad situation and I could not stay in that… I found Family Promise and I got out.”
Family Promise, which works with others in the community to help homeless children and their families, has been helping Holly and her preschool-age son. More than a month since she got involved with Family Promise, Holly is working part time in a job where she is used on an “as-needed basis.” She said she wants to get a full-time job, but needs child care in order to work the job she has now and look for more permanent employment.
Holly and her son are among those who will soon be getting that help when Family Promise opens a Little Steps Community Day Care Aug. 7. Tracie Maxey has been hired as the first director of the new day care. The program will be offered for children six weeks to 5 years old.
Little Steps, which is a collaborative effort of Family Promise and several other nonprofit organizations in Hall County, recently received an exemption from the state to provide child care for those in transition. As is required in the exemption, the program will be offered to families free of charge.
“Our concept was to make it a community day care that we use with the other nonprofits that run into the same problems that we do,” said Lindsey McCamy, executive director of Family Promise. “We wanted to collaborate with the community and offer this service because we see it with the other agencies being a need, not just for us, but for them too. We just sort of thought we would all come together and use one daycare and all get a benefit out of it.”
In order to qualify for the program, a family has to be involved with a case manager in local organizations such as The United Way, Gateway, My Sister’s Place, Salvation Army, Sisu and Gainesville Housing Authority. The case manager from the organization will need to call to refer a family.
McCamy said it will be the responsibility of the case managers with the other programs to make sure the adults are accountable and working or looking for a job while their child is at the the day care program.
“It’s going to be used as a drop-off (of children) while they’re looking for jobs, job searching, job interviews,” McCamy said. “One thing that we’ve noticed with our families is when they get a job, they don’t get paid for two weeks, so it will help with that time in between.”
She said the program will also be able to help with families who are applying for the state Childcare and Parent Services program, which provides subsidized help with child care costs. McCamy said applicants for the CAPS program usually have to show four pay stubs when they apply.
“To show four pay stubs, you have to put your kids in daycare to work, so it becomes a hinderance,” she said.
McCamy said the program will have 12 slots available, but is designed to be temporary for the families in transition, which should mean slots opening up as families move on when they are more stable and get CAPS or can afford child care on their own.
Holly said the program will give her more opportunities to gain long-term employment.
“It helps me look for a full-time job and the days that I do work, I have a place for him to go until I get the funds to afford for him to go to day care,” Holly said. “If you don’t have resources, if you don’t have family or friends, you don’t have a way to look for a job.”
Maxey said she plans to hire three part-time employees before the center opens.
“One of the things that worries every parent is how well their child is being cared for when they’re not around,” Maxey said. “I knew how much I loved kids and I knew that I could provide that environment where they could walk through the door and feel like this was a great place to leave their kids and they wouldn’t have that worry.”
The program is funded mostly through a grant from The United Way of Hall County. Little Steps has also received a grant from Jackson Electric Membership Corp. and is accepting donations from other organizations of supplies, snacks and money.