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  • Writer's pictureBrooklynn Thomas

East Coast Migrant Head Start Project launches family child care home initiative

Today, the role of child care cannot be overstated. Without access to reliable child care services, many parents find it challenging to balance work responsibilities while ensuring their children are well-cared for. This predicament not only impacts parents' ability to work and meet financial obligations, but also hinders children from engaging in high-quality early learning experiences crucial for their development. 


Parents seek reassurance in knowing that their children are in a safe and nurturing environment under the guidance of experienced and qualified providers. Moreover, establishing in-home child care services presents a unique opportunity for individuals interested in entrepreneurship to create their business while offering a valuable service to the community. By fostering economic empowerment and flexibility through home-based child care, individuals can pursue their professional aspirations while contributing to the well-being of children in their care. 

With all this in mind, we are thrilled to announce the launch of the First Start Family Child Care Home (FCCH) in Smoaks, South Carolina, an occasion that marks a significant milestone for East Coast Migrant Head Start Project (ECMHSP) to provide early care and learning in areas where there is a need, but not a large enough population to establish a larger center. This innovative initiative was celebrated during an open house event with families in the community and the new owner and operator, Aretha Davis.  


The Family Child Care Homes program is designed to provide children from the agricultural community with access to high-quality child care services in a warm and personalized setting, just like the many other ECMHSP educational campuses and their standard, but from the comfort of someone's own home.  


Exploring a new chapter in early childhood programs 

In 2018, the FCCH model was initially contemplated. Ultimately, it was not pursued due to the significant challenges related to the geographical distance between eligible migrant and seasonal farmworker families and their residing areas. Everything changed, starting in 2022, when ECMHSP’s leadership team actively participated in an FCCH forum, hosted by FHI360, to dive deep into this approach. With the leadership of our FCCH Manager, Andrea Langlois, and FCCH Specialist, Destiny Simmons, the real fruits of labor started to materialize with the development of the very first FCCH, with others underway.  

“When I came onboard, I didn't know a lot about FCCHs, but was excited by all the possibilities,” said Langlois. “I knew that one of the basic tenets of child development is that you want to work with children in an as natural environment as possible and what could be more natural than someone's home environment?”  


The goal for 2024 is to establish 15 FCCH, caring for 60 children spread across four states. This strategic initiative not only reflects a proactive response to the evolving landscape of child care needs, but also underscores a commitment to providing quality care within accessible proximity for eligible families.  


“We are currently developing another provider in SC, starting a location in Indianapolis in March and have plans for starting in North Carolina through our Provider Development Program.” said Langlois. “We are also working on identifying the areas that have the most need and best fit for family child care.”  


Many child care homes operate informally in communities to take care of children, in the absence of accessible, affordable, available care. The child care homes that ECMHSP supports will all be licensed, therefore providing additional quality assurances for families.


First Start Family Child Care Home  

While not new to ECMHSP, Aretha Smalls Davis is the new founder of “First Start Family Child Care Homes,” the first child care home to open in partnership with ECMHSP, and the proud author of a children's book entitled, "A to Z Child Affirmation."  


Davis has always wanted to be a teacher and own her own child care one center. After working as a youth director at a community center in her hometown of Jacksonboro, SC,, a friend told her about a teacher position opening at EMHSP in Lodge, SC. She has now been with the organization since 2008. She then learned that ECMHSP was considering contracting for child care providers. “My eyes lit up,” said Davis. With the help of the child care team and ECMHSP employees, she signed right up. “I consider it a blessing to work for an organization like ECMHSP because it has taught me so much about child care, child development, family, school readiness, and training.” 


At the heart of this initiative is the goal to not only offer exceptional care to our children, but also to empower community members to establish their own businesses. Through comprehensive support and development opportunities provided by ECMHSP, individuals like Aretha Davis can pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, while ensuring that children receive top-notch care. This groundbreaking program exemplifies our commitment to fostering a strong sense of community, helping add value to drive economic empowerment, and providing quality services to all children in our care. “It was amazing to see that ECMHSP could be a part of supporting someone to support their own community. We are just that piece to professionalizing and supporting the providers and when the providers are taken care of, the children are taken care of,” said Langlois. 


Family child care homes have the unique opportunity to create a supportive and nurturing environment where children can thrive and reach their full potential. By recognizing the importance of positive early experiences in building a strong foundation for learning and future health, caregivers in family child care homes can truly make a difference in the lives of the children they care for. 


 About ECMHSP

East Coast Migrant Head Start Project was established in 1974 through a grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, ECMHSP operates in 43 Educational Campuses across ten states providing holistic, high-quality early childhood education services for approximately 3,000 farmworker children between 6 weeks to 6 years old. For more information, visit https://www.ecmhsp.org/ 

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