Children in the City:
Parent Involvement is Alive and Well at Local Child Care Center
By Amy Turner (Weiss)
Parents at the Alice Williams Child Care Center don’t need to worry about whether or not the management at the center is listening to their concerns. With an innovative, inventive parent involvement program and monthly parent meetings, the center is setting a standard for parent groups in child care centers.
Since July 1999, Alice Williams, located on Gadsen Street, has operated a monthly “Parent Meeting Night.” Held on the third or fourth Friday of each month, meetings include speakers on topics that the parents indicate they would find interesting. Topics so far have included money management, single-family parenting, infant and toddler issues, behavioral and disciplinary problems, and getting involved with children at school. The parents also use the meetings to discuss changes and improvements they would like to see in the center.
“It’s been really good,” says center Director Diane Singletary. “Wed like to see more of the parents get involved.”
Parent Connie Evans is the leader of the group. “She’s determined – that’s the main thing,” says Singletary of Evans. “She’s really been trying to get those other parents to attend.”
The meetings average anywhere from five to 10 parents, although the Christmas meeting, which was also a dinner, had much higher attendance, Singletary said.
Parent involvement has been shown to be critical in helping children develop, and in preventing educational and developmental problems. Parents who are involved in their children’s lives and education are more knowledgeable about the needs of their children and how to meet those needs.
The Alice Williams program was initiated by Children’s Services Center, the area’s child care resource that has long promoted the importance of parent involvement, periodically holding on-site parent involvement classes both at Children’s Services Center’s offices and at child care centers. Parent Resources Coordinator Saundra Bell teaches most of the classes, and has nothing but the highest praise for Singletary and her program.
“She really puts forth effort to let her parents and children know they’re important,” says Bell of Singletary. “She’s more than just a team player, she’s a team leader.”
Bell taught several of Alice Williams’ classes as the programs was getting off the ground, but says that even when she is not able to be as closely involved, the program continues successfully – the mark, she says, of a dedicated director and staff.
“Directors have to set aside time for this, and they have to be enthusiastic so they can get the parents excited about it too,” Bell says.
What does the future hold for the program? Parent suggestions for a sleepover night have been turned into a reality – it will happen this summer. Other suggestions are taken seriously, and will be evaluated to see if they can be implemented. Continued support from the center’s parents and staff are critical to the program’s success, but based on past performance – and Singletary’s dedication – that won’t be a problem.
Pensacola News Journal, February 2000