The Cost of Childcare: How Sister Carmen Reduces Barriers for Parents

Access to childcare is a serious barrier for many parents in our community. The cost of infant care in Colorado is more than the annual cost of in-state tuition, and married parents of two children living at the poverty line could end up paying 110% of their household income for center-based childcare. To ease this burden on parents, Sister Carmen Community Center (SCCC) offers supervised, bilingual childcare for most programs.

In many cases, parents wouldn’t be able to visit Sister Carmen if they didn’t know their kids were in a safe place—both physically and emotionally. “Sometimes when kids are there for the first time, it can be scary for them—they don’t know me,” says Christine, Sister Carmen’s Childcare Coordinator. “I try to make that easy for them. A lot of times that means getting down and sitting on the floor and saying ‘check out this toy’ or ‘your mom is going to be right in that room.’ ”

Christine is responsible for ensuring that childcare professionals are available while parents attend programs such as Nurturing Parenting classes, nutrition classes, the Family Leadership Training Institute, and Family Fun Night. (Unlike daycare, however, parents must stay on-site.) Co-located agencies also use the childcare room and either bring their own providers or collaborate with Sister Carmen. On a busy week, Christine coordinates support for 45 – 50 kids. “It’s really cool seeing the kids grow,” she says. “There are some who couldn’t walk when they first came, and now they’re running down the hall. Some were too shy to speak, and now they’re talking up a storm.”

 Sister Carmen’s on-site community garden is a special part of the childcare program, with opportunities for kids to get their hands dirty and learn where food comes from. “You should see the amazement when they pull a carrot—it’s fun to share in that,” says Christine. “Robyn [SCCC’s Garden Coordinator] is great at accommodating the space, finding herbs that smell good, and picking edible flowers for the kids to try. This spring when the irises were growing, I took a couple boys out there to cut some and put them in a vase for their mom.”

The childcare room is small, and aside from the garden, Sister Carmen doesn’t have a playground. “We have to get creative with the space,” says Christine. The warehouse often becomes a craft room, the conference room white board turns into a gallery wall, and the front reception area transforms into a theater for watching movies.

Whether exploring the garden or simply discovering a new toy in the playroom, children at Sister Carmen are supported alongside their parents so that the whole family can thrive.

To learn more about childcare at Sister Carmen, contact christine@sistercarmen.org.