Finding quality and affordable child care options for young children is challenging for Montgomery County parents. According to the Child Care in Montgomery County report, published in 2015 by the Office of Legislative Oversight, “The availability of child care for children under two is limited across the county.” The report counts at least four children for every available slot in that age group.
To meet this need, the Community Engagement together with the WD&CE Early Childhood Education Department began offering a free child care provider 90-hour MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education) required course. The course prepares students to work at a child care center or open a family child care. In June 2017, the Montgomery College Foundation received a $20,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, providing funding for several additional classes that participants must complete as part of the requirements to open a family child care. The grant, Pathways to Meaningful Employment/Entrepreneurship in Family Child Care, includes individual advising for participants regarding all legal and financial aspects of opening their own business.
“Most of our students did not have access to computers, so we opened up the computer lab at our centers to make sure they could work on their papers/projects and have access to printers,” said Susan Ucanay, community engagement manager. “We also provided one-on-one assistance because that’s what they need to successfully complete the program and start improving their current living situation.”
Last month, 21 students received a certificate of completion at the College’s East County Community Engagement Center. Many of them attended the 15-week course at East County; others attended the Gaithersburg Community Engagement Center at the Gaithersburg Library.
“We have a county that has a high need for infant and toddler care—and for trained staff,” said Dr. Kathi Carey-Fletcher.
She said many of her students are immigrants, mainly from Ethiopia, looking to continue their career as teachers or to change careers.
The participants did not know each other when the course started. But they built a community over almost four months, sharing a potluck brunch at their graduation ceremony. Some of them even discussed opening a child care center together in the future.
Emebet Negash, originally from Ethiopia, cared for her two kids at home while taking the course. “We learned how to prepare curriculum and lesson plans [for preschool children]. The support of the college was very helpful,” she said. Her short-term plan is to start working in a center, and later, open her own facility.