When Jennifer’s husband lost his welding job in July 2008, she started working to help support their four children. While her husband looked for another job in southeast Arkansas, daycare would be needed for the youngest children – now ages five and four. Jennifer knew how expensive daycare could be from her days as a working young mother also attending the University of the Arkansas at Monticello. The couple couldn’t afford it on her approximately $800 monthly wages and his $300 from unemployment benefits.
That’s why Jennifer’s so thankful the Hamburg Arkansas Better Chance Program (ABC)* has provided free education for her three youngest children. “If this ABC program wasn’t available, over half of that [income] would’ve been spent on daycare,” Jennifer said.** “What am I supposed to live off of?” The two-year program provided time and peace of mind that freed her husband to find another job in October 2009 and has allowed her to work a couple of jobs as a child caretaker and steakhouse server. “If you’re a parent who does not have a degree and you’re not making a comfortable living, then you can’t afford daycare,” said Jennifer.
With curricula that includes writing, basic arithmetic, problem solving through puzzles and blocks and structured role playing, Hamburg’s Pre-K program has also given her kids a crucial head start. “Because when you get to kindergarten, it’s not just learn your ABCs and color anymore,” she added. A focus on motor skills especially helped her developmentally delayed son Caleb, 8, who has epileptic seizures, acute sleep apnea and difficulty differentiating between hot and cold. For her daughter, Rayleigh, who in August 2008 became one of the few 3-year-olds to enter the program, the problems weren’t physical, but emotional and social. A past traumatic event caused her to “just shut down,” Jennifer said.
Rayleigh didn’t want to socialize when she first started the program, but slowly, surely, the teachers’ constant care helped her open up once more. By year’s end, “she got out of the car without crying. She loved it” Jennifer said. ‘They’re just wonderful here. They love the kids. They give them so much more than just an education.”
*The Hamburg Arkansas Better Chance Program uses Title 1 funding, NSLA funding, and has a Head Start facility.
- U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2007 American Community Survey (accessed May 2011). Data came from the following tables: Statewide poverty percentages, GCT1701, Ratio of income to poverty level, C17002
- U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2009 American Community Survey (accessed May 2011). Data came from the following tables: Statewide poverty percentages, GCT1701, Ratio of income to poverty level, C17002
- Half in Ten analysis of Table 1, 2007 State Expenditure Report, National Association of State Budget Officers.
- Half in Ten analysis of Table 1, 2009 State Expenditure Report, National Association of State Budget Officers.
- U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2009 through 2010, table C23008