Recent research has shown that the rising cost of childcare in Indiana has almost caught up to the cost of attending a public university. On average, single parents raising two young children spend more than 70% of their income on childcare. For anyone struggling to break the cycle of poverty, this high expense is hard to overcome.
The Salvation Army’s Block of Hope, located in downtown Indianapolis, has found a way to relieve parents of this burden as they seek a way forward for their families. Nestled among the transitional housing units and domestic violence shelter on the campus is a daycare center like no other. Open Monday through Friday, the center provides free childcare to any resident of the Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center, Barton Center, or Carpenter Apartments.
Stephanie Pate has been overseeing the daycare center for twenty years, but she also knows what it is like to be a mother in need of help. As a young mom, she had sought shelter with The Salvation Army, so she understands what these parents are going through. Every day Stephanie witnesses firsthand the impact this service has on families.
“When they find out about the daycare, parents are always very excited,” she says. “It’s a big barrier to find affordable childcare so they can get out and look for a job or get medical care.”
Former residents that have found employment can continue using the service for up to 90 days after moving. This is the time when it’s easiest to slip back into homelessness, so The Salvation Army provides the extra time to ensure that the transition to permanent housing is successful.
As for the children living on the Block of Hope, the care they get plays a big role in the healing process. “They feel comfortable and can relax,” Stephanie explains. “A lot have been thrown into a grown up world, and it gives them a break. We do all we can to let children be children. They leave their worries outside the door.”
The daycare center is also a place of learning and exploration. Babies are surrounded by toys that encourage curiosity and board books that help to instill an early love of reading. Toddlers and young children can imagine themselves as chefs in a play kitchen, carpenters at a work bench, or artists in the huge craft room. The brightly-colored “gymnasium” recently underwent a remodel thanks to First Financial Bank, and the kids enjoy riding trikes, playing hopscotch, and getting lots of exercise.
Stephanie also takes time every day to focus on building up the children’s self esteem, which is often low because of the abuse and hardship they witnessed before coming to The Salvation Army. Activities that point out what makes each child special are incorporated in the activities of every age group, from babies just learning to talk to preschoolers getting ready for Kindergarten.
“We want the children to feel better about themselves,” Stephanie says. “My goal is to make sure every child feels love and knows that they are somebody important.”