YWCA Child Care Program marks 25th anniversary
JANESVILLE Diana Vargas swung her legs while she waited for a learning game to pop up on the computer screen.
The 5-year-old was working on letters, numbers, colors and directions.
"OK. What letter is that?" asked Lisa Peternel, YWCA Child Care Program director.
"P," Diana said.
"Good. Very good," Peternel said.
"What letter does popcorn and pen begin with?" Peternel asked as she pointed to the pictures on the colorful screen.
Engrossed in the lesson, Diana was oblivious to the 14 other children in the P4J program at learning stations for story time, math and handwriting.
Diana is one of 510 children enrolled in the YWCA Child Care Program, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in January.
"We started in response to a need in the community for kids that were going home to empty homes because both parents were working," Peternel said.
The program began with 12 students at Washington Elementary School and now serves more than 500, including 3- to 5-year-olds in the P4J program at the YWCA, 1735 S. Washington St., and those 5 to 12 in the before- and after-school program at 12 elementary school sites in Janesville and Milton.
"In any given year, we could serve up to 750," Peternel said.
"The numbers are down just because it's the start of the year. By the end of 2012, we'll be at that 700-range. Children come and leave the program. It's a constant flux and based on parents' work schedules and family situations," she said.
Diana's mother, Eva Arcos, Janesville, learned of the YWCA's child care program through the Hispanic Outreach Program.
"I was told it was a secure place for my kids," Arcos said.
Her four older children—ages 16, 15, 11 and 8—were enrolled in the program when they were younger.
When Arcos came to the YWCA for help, she said, her family had no money, but the YWCA helped pay for child care.
"It was really important because my husband had passed away, and I had no place to take the children," Arcos said through translator Irais Valenzuela.
Peternel attributes growth of the program—the largest before- and after-school program in Rock County—to both parents working and parents going to school.
"Years ago, there was just a single parent working, and one of the parents was always at home. But that's just not the case anymore." she said.
"Families also begin to trust the program, and that's why we see families that have used the program for one child years ago and now have a younger sibling using the program," Peternel said.
Such is the case with Linda McBride, Janesville, whose 7-year-old daughter Tarin attends the YWCA's before and after school program at Van Buren Elementary School, Janesville.
Her adult son and middle child also were enrolled in YWCA child care programs.
"I recommend them to everyone who could possibly use them," McBride said. "It's convenient, the teachers are awesome and polite, and it's a good, affordable program."