‘Starfest’ highlights Childcare Resources’ growth, success

PHOTO BY KAILA JONES

The annual Starfest Luncheon to benefit Childcare Resources of Indian River has typically been split over two days to accommodate a sellout crowd of some 450 guests. With no end to the pandemic in sight, organizers continued part of that tradition, opting to host their 10th annual Starfest fundraiser as a two-day virtual affair.

Founded more than 25 years ago to provide low-income working families with high-quality, early childhood education, Childcare Resources now touches some 3,000 children through their own Childcare Resources School, four contracted centers, countywide teachers’ Professional Development workshops and follow-up coaches, and a credentialing program in partnership with Indian River State College.

“Since we can’t meet in person, we thought that we would have you take a look around at what’s going on at Childcare Resources this time of day,” said Shannon McGuire Bowman, executive director, before taking attendees on a virtual tour of the school, which provides care for children from age 6 weeks to 5 years.

“For those of you who don’t know, our school has its national accreditation through NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, so that on top of meeting all the state requirements, we have this additional layer of quality to our program,” said Bowman. The NAEYC accreditation affirms to parents and investors that children are getting the best care available.

Tara Beard, director of the Childcare Resources School, spoke about the curriculum used, even for the youngest children, which focuses on student/teacher interaction at all the different levels that a child’s brain needs to develop.

A video presentation began and ended with adorable 5-year-old children singing their thanks to donors and sharing their dreams of becoming a policeman, engineer, nurse, ballerina, artist, fireman and lifeguard. The video also included comments from board members, a teacher, a parent, a therapist and several former Starfest guest speakers.

“The pandemic has taught us how resilient our staff, parents and children can be. To say that 2020 was a tough year would be an understatement,” said Bowman in the video. She said that their 2019 three-year strategic plan, which prioritized mental health, program expansion and community awareness, is now more relevant than ever.

Board member Karla Spooner said that over the past 10 years, with Bowman’s leadership and the support of donors, Childcare Resources has built a state-of-the-art school, achieved NAECY certification, and helped hundreds of children receive quality early learning.

The school also has an on-site physical therapist and all the necessary equipment needed to greatly improve the developmental skills of children, especially those who may have had a rougher start in life.

Board member Susan Donavan, a retired elementary principal with 40 years of teaching experience, commented that Childcare Resources teachers and staff are trained in the brain science of early learning.

“They recognize the great value of building connections through actions, words, play, and building relationships between child to child and child to adult,” said Donovan. Additionally, she said, they “find those important teachable moments that appear in everyday curriculum activities that lets you know the child’s curious mind is ready for more input.”

Parent Emily Wilcox remarked that knowing her daughter is being well cared for and is advancing educationally has benefited her own professional and individual growth. She added that the school’s Parent Café brings parents together to share concerns and learn such life skills as budgeting and managing time.

Donavan spoke of the Professional Development programs Childcare Resources offers to teachers at preschool centers across the county, that are followed up with coaches to help teachers polish the techniques learned. And through an Impact 100 grant, a collaborative program with IRSC is helping preschool teachers and directors to obtain their respective certifications.

Additionally, a grant from the Homeless Foundation of Indian River County enabled a physical expansion of the school as well as a five-year pilot program to pay the tuition for 25 homeless children.

“I personally believe that what takes place here should be a model for preschool centers across our great country,” said Donovan.

Photos by Kaila Jones

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