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Anyone who’s trying to raise a child and work outside of the home at the same time knows of the extraordinary costs of child care. For low-income families just struggling to put food on the table, these costs can lead parents to leave their children in less-than ideal places or rack up thousands of dollars in debt. But, KSMU’s Kristian Kriner reports on one organization that gives parents hope for their financial future, and peace of mind knowing their kids are safe.
As children play in the spring sunshine at the Lighthouse Child and Family Development Center, they’re oblivious to the tight financial times their parents are going through.
The center provides discounted or free childcare for low-income families.
In return, the parents agree to participate in financial and parenting programs.
Erica Harris, executive director of the faith-based organization, says the center will open a new facility for 34 children in central Springfield this year, in conjunction with Messiah Lutheran Church.
“We’ve identified in our community report that we need more programming for children 0-5, in particularly those high need families. There’s not enough to service those families and so the Musgrave Foundation came up with this idea on working with children that are in need, but then also as we started pulling in experts in the field, understood the need to engage those families and really change the family situation and not just those children,” Harris said.To get free childcare, each parent must be a full-time student or employee.
They also have to volunteer at the center.
Harris took me on a tour of the Lighthouse center and let me play with some of the three and four year olds on the playground.
“We build relationships with our families,” Harris said.Harris says the program is successful because parents are learning to manage money and get out of debt.
She says since the program started in 2007, Lighthouse families’ average income increased by more than $5,000 and their average household debt decreased by $8,000.
“We are like one big family and I think that’s why we’re successful because our families are accountable to us because they understand that we care about them and want good things for them and they want to do better. So, for the first time in many of our families I can see a hope in our families that we didn’t see before,” Harris said.
The second Lighthouse facility will be a part of the Messiah Lutheran Church’s education wing and is expected to open in the fall.
For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.