December 17, 2018
The children at the Child Care @ Sarah’s House are often only there for a short time. Some are getting daily structure for the first time, while others are having their first lessons to learn letters and numbers.
And all are receiving love, care, and security in a safe environment as their families prepare for a better future.
The child care center, a Maryland EXCELS quality rating 3, is an integral part of Sarah’s House located at Ft. Meade in Anne Arundel County. Sarah’s House offers emergency shelter and housing to families experiencing homelessness and serves up to 125 people each day—half of whom are children.
“We see people grow and rebuild their lives and succeed. They’re very vulnerable when they’re here,” said Alexis Tucker, director of Child Care @ Sarah’s House. “Many families come to us when they’re at the lowest point in their life.”
The Child Care @ Sarah’s House can serve up to 40 children at a time, from ages 6 weeks to 12 years old.
Established in 1987 as a partnership between Anne Arundel County, Catholic Charities, and the U.S. Army, the mission of Sarah’s House is to help provide shelter and opportunities to families experiencing homelessness. The goal is to help these families gain independence through a range of services and support.
Tucker said families come to Sarah’s House because of many circumstances, such as generational homelessness, house fires, falling chronically behind on bills, and mental illness.
In addition to the shelter, temporary housing, and child care, families can receive behavioral health services, transportation to and from work and doctors’ appointments, life skills classes, and help finding jobs.
Because the families’ stay at Sarah’s House is temporary, the children may only spend a few weeks or months in the child care center.
The staff of Sarah’s House strives to make the most of the time they do have with the children in their care by keeping up-to-date with the highest standards for quality care. Using resources available through Maryland EXCELS and having the opportunity and support to work toward a higher quality rating help the center consistently provide the solid foundation the children and families need.
“We use [Maryland EXCELS] as a tool to make sure we’re on point with things and to make sure we’re giving the best to the children,” Tucker said.
When parents bring their children to Sarah’s House, Tucker takes the time to explain what it means that the center is a Maryland EXCELS participating provider.
“I always bring it up. I try to explain that it’s a higher standard of service,” she said.
For the children and their families at Sarah’s House, a higher standard of service means that they are being nurtured and supported at a time when they need it most.
The child care center staff is mindful that many families may not have had strong parenting examples while they were growing up, so they take a holistic approach and try to include the families as much as possible in what goes on each day with the children.
“Sometimes they don’t have a clue and they’re overwhelmed, so we’re helping to give them the guidance and structure that they may not have had in a long time,” Tucker said. “They really appreciate that there’s a licensed facility here on site to help their children.”