As women await childbirth, the competing demands of employment in an increasingly difficult economy and parenthood often force them to choose between working and staying at home. As the economy tightens, family reliance on one income becomes more and more strained, especially if a child is in the future. Methodist Medical Center is one of a number of employers who have taken an early lead in providing families with quality child care right at the work site. This year, the Methodist Child Care Center celebrates 20 years of service to the community and to Methodist Medical Center.
Lee Ann Isbell is child care director for Methodist. Based in what was once a Ramada Inn and is now referred to as the Methodist East Campus, she says, a Polynesian bar and lounge were transformed into a functional, contemporary facility to accommodate the hospital’s child care program. Where there was once an outdoor, canopied hotel pool, there is now a spacious, covered area offering a wide array of playground equipment. The water of the former pool has been replaced with high-tech, soft, rubbery flooring that allows the kids to play on the equipment without the danger of cement directly underfoot. At the same time, they’re protected by walls surrounding the playground and a skylight-filled roof that covers the entire playground.
Outside and across the parking lot, children also have access to “Sherwood Forest.” This fenced playground area was developed on unused Methodist property through the contributions of local merchants and the donated work of parents. Here, children can enjoy green grass and trees, and develop their own growing skills in a children’s garden area.
Operating Monday through Friday from 6am to 6pm, the building really comes alive in the morning when all the children gather in the lobby for a time of music, singing and group participation. Parents drop their children off to the secured area each day. One of the center’s ongoing challenges is accommodating the varied and changing work schedules of medical personnel.
Over 50 teachers and staff work with 160 students during the school year, a number which increases to 215 during the summer months. At any given time, there can be up to 90 children in diapers.
A regular kindergarten curriculum is offered to those children who qualify, allowing students to move right into the first grade upon completion. The center location is such that new moms can work and still make arrangements to nurse their own infants.
According to Isbell, “the program is successful due to great teachers, involved parents, supportive administration and progressive management. But the major driving support of our success is the real need for solid group care, education and comfort for families and their children.” Isbell continued, “I’ve always seen high quality required of the Methodist employees in every department, so when they bring their children to us, high-quality care and comfort is the expectation.”
The Methodist Child Care Center offers a unique co-worker status for teachers and parents. The Center is one of over 40 departments at Methodist Medical Center, allowing parents and teachers to work under the same quality improvement initiatives. iBi