Child care is often regarded as a service that enables parents to work. At Baby’s Space, it’s much more.
Baby’s Space primarily serves Little Earth, an American Indian housing development in Minneapolis. The center was started in 2000 not only to provide excellent child care, but to catalyze change in a high-poverty community.
“We work with the whole family around whatever struggles they’re having,” said Debbie Lund, executive director of Baby’s Space.
All babies need warm, consistent relationships with adults, and staff members at Baby’s Space work hard to nurture these relationships at the center – but they also help parents strengthen them at home.
The center reaches out to families in many ways. “We’ve learned that standing in front of a group of parents and teaching them does not work,” Lund said. Instead, Baby’s Space attracts parents with muffins on Monday mornings and scrapbooking sessions where they can talk about challenges informally. On Fridays, all the children – even the infants – get “homework” that families complete together.
“Baby’s Space prepares kids for success in a way that most daycares don’t,” said Kathy Gullickson, whose family has supported the organization through their fund at The Minneapolis Foundation. When Minneapolis Public Schools recently screened the 3- to 5-year-olds at Baby’s Space, 100 percent of them were developmentally on track for kindergarten.
Baby’s Space staff members are trained in best practices for early learning, but they also understand how trauma affects kids – critical knowledge in a community that struggles with violence and drug abuse.
The center has helped families respond to problems ranging from domestic violence to heroin addiction to shootings down the block. Staff members rely on their relationships with families to understand what’s going on at home, and how that may be influencing their children’s behavior. “We know that behind every tear and every temper tantrum, there’s something they’re trying to let us know,” Lund said.
Knowing the value of cultural competence, Baby’s Space recruits many employees from Little Earth – a strategy that gives the children role models from their community and enables staff members like Yolanda M. Reyes to keep an eye on them when she’s not at work.
Reyes’ job goes far beyond child care. When parents need a ride to a job interview, for example, she’s there. “Wherever they need to go to meet their goals, that’s where we’re going to go.”