Late one sunny afternoon, I took a break from meetings to stop by the youngest classroom in our downtown Fort Worth Child Development Center. I sat down on the blue braided rug, held the nearest baby and listened to the sounds of loving teachers and their eight infant students.
The two teachers agreed that this class is the most challenging and most rewarding they’ve ever encountered – despite their combined almost 30 years teaching in early childhood.
Of the eight infants, five have been diagnosed with special needs and require daily intensive intervention. Another is in the testing process for significant hearing impairment. Another was premature and has significant differences between how the right side of her body functions and the left. She’s being tested too.
All but one of the eight are in services for the homeless, including shelters or housing programs. The other little one is in foster care. In utero drug exposure. Microcephaly. Language disorders and gross motor delays. They all require individual attention to build skills, build muscle tone, develop responsiveness –one is 13 months, but his abilities are only that of an 8-month-old. Another needs to be held upright for three hours after every meal to keep him from choking.
One of our volunteers, Mary Ann Kleuser, gives her time and occupational therapy expertise to augment the therapy provided by partner agency Early Childhood Intervention. They are working together to help one learn to stand, but for him special equipment is needed and we don’t yet have the funds, so they are making do with what they have for now.
As I sat, I listened for crying. I heard coos and baby babble. I listened for sadness. I heard laughter and joy. I listened for frustration. I heard gratitude. The ladies are so grateful that they get to change the lives of these little ones and their families. As one said, “It doesn’t get more real than this.”
Transforming these little lives takes a significant investment and personal commitment. Private donors make up the difference between the contract funds we receive from the government and the true cost of care. $5,000 per year for every child. But what an incredible return!
In Texas, special education services cost tax payers more than $10,000 per year per child, but our intensive, high quality early care means they will likely not need special education. Through our work, most of these children will overcome their special needs and go on to be completely ready for school. In fact, last year, 100% of our children entering kindergarten were completely ready.
Your generous support makes a real difference. And I agree - It doesn’t get more real than this.
Click here if you want to know how you can make a real difference today for these little ones
About the author:
The Center for Transforming Lives' CEO, Carol Klocek, provides strategic leadership for all programs in alignment with the mission to move women, children, and families from poverty to independence. Ms. Klocek has more than 25 years of results-oriented nonprofit management experience, all within human service organizations, and holds master's degrees in social work from University of Texas at Arlington and a master's in business from Texas Christian University. Carol has been with the CTL 8 years.