The YWCA’s child care centers are big on writing.
Goals and objectives for each classroom are written and taped to the wall outside the classroom; each student has a written lesson plan and even the toys are labeled.
These strict requirements are one reason why the YWCA NorthEastern NY was recently reaccredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for its child care centers at the YWCA on State Street and at Schenectady County Community College’s Gateway Building.
This designation certifies that the centers are operating under extremely high standards.
“It’s basically like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for good quality child care,” said Kim Siciliano, youth and family services director for the YWCA.
As part of the reaccreditation process, the YWCA had to undertake a self-study, complete about 300 specific tasks and be visited by someone from NAEYC.
Accredited child care centers have more intense training requirements, according to Siciliano. Head teachers are required to have an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in accredited centers as compared with the state licensing requirements, which require just nine college credits.
Also, accredited child care centers are required to demonstrate a great amount of interaction with parents, rigorous safety standards and a strong educational program.
“Are you popping them in front of a TV? No, that’s not acceptable,” she said. “What kind of curriculum are you using at your center that is giving each child an edge so when they leave your center, they are prepared to enter kindergarten?”
Between the two facilities, the YWCA sees about 60 children from ages 6 weeks to 5 years. Children come from a wide geographical area including Schenectady, Albany, Saratoga and Montgomery counties. About 25 people work at the two facilities.
Each site can handle about 31 students, according to Sarah Brewer, site coordinator for the SCCC location. There are three classrooms: one for children age six weeks to 18 months, one from 18 months to 3 years old and another for 3 years old and up.
Teacher Sarah Palmer said that during the accreditation process the staff took a lot of what it was already doing and just put it in writing and strengthened it.
Increasing parental involvement was a key goal, she said. Staff invites the parents to come in and read to their children or participate in an activity.
Brewer said the staff takes a lot of pictures of the children to capture special events for the parents such as when the child sits up for the first time. Also, each child has an individual lesson plan, which the parents can see at any time, according to Brewer.
Brewer also said the classrooms have a dress-up area where children can play. “They learn a sense of self. They realize who they are in the mirror,” Brewer said.
All the toys at the center are labeled so it helps children’s verbal skills.
Emily Einhorn, 3, of Schenectady was working with some Play-Doh. She said her favorite activity was “playing with everything.”
The program operates with a patchwork of funding including private tuition, Department of Social Services funding and SUNY block grant money, according to Siciliano.
Palmer, who has been working at the center for a little more than seven years, said she enjoys working with young children. “You get to watch them grow and learn so much in a short period of time,” she said. “They graduate and we all cry like a baby.”