Children Today, a Long Beach-based nonprofit dedicated to providing childcare services to young babies, toddlers and preschoolers who have experienced homelessness, abuse or neglect, has provided a nurturing environment to some of the community’s most vulnerable for nearly two decades.
With two centers, Play House West and Play House North, the organization has leased spaces from local churches to ensure there is a place for young children to receive care when families are in transition.
But this fall, the group will get its own permanent home designed especially for them – everything from the paint colors to the outdoor play areas have been customized for the kids of Children Today.
“It’s gorgeous, just beautiful,” said Executive Director Tonya Burns. “There’s so much natural light, cheerful colors and a wonderful outdoor space with room for a vegetable garden, trees and plants to attract butterflies, and lots of room for the kids to play.”
EcoHouse, which will replace the other two facilities and allow all teachers and students to be under the same roof, has been in the works for several years. Scheduled to open in December, this new state-of-the-art preschool and daycare will combine all the organization’s best practices at a single site, and additionally increase the group’s capacity from 64 to 75 children.
The new childcare facility will feature an infant wing, toddler classroom and preschool room, and will continue to offer a 1:8 teacher-to-child ratio, allowing the staff to really assist the young kids, often suffering from a lack of stability and routine in their lives.
“The children we serve have lost a home, or perhaps have escaped a domestic violence situation, or they’ve come to us from some other disruptive event,” said Associate Director Elia Rocha. “One of our biggest principles is to establish a relationship that is consistent and predictable – not just for the kids, but for the parents as well. We want the kids to feel safe, and we want to parents to know their kids are being cared for as they work to get their lives in order.”
Children Today is a referral-based system supported by the City of Long Beach. Some families rely on the childcare needs for just a week or two, while others stay for longer stretches, typically four to six months.
“Having a safe place to drop their kids off allows the parents to attend job training, or treatment programs, or interview for work,” said Rocha.
Meanwhile, the staff at Children Today, who have been trained to recognize and work with kids who have experienced trauma, ensure the young child’s social, emotional, physical and educational needs are met. Within the first few weeks of enrollment, an individualized plan is developed based on a child’s unique history and interests, and the primary caregiver works to nurture a relationship that is safe and secure.
They eat meals together, play, and make sure basic needs – like toileting, hygiene and napping – are met.
“In situations like these, we often see kids acting out,” said Rocha. “But we are trained to recognize the trauma and figure out what the child is trying to communicate, not just focus on the behavior.”
Rocha and Burns both agree EcoHouse will be a fabulous move for the organization, and are delighted with the finished product Marsha Nasaify, a Children Today board member, has brought to life.
“This new facility is going to bring so much joy to these kids in need,” said Burns. “And these children are definitely deserving of a little sunshine.”
To learn more about Children Today, and to figure out how to support, visit http://www.childrentoday.org/.