Center will serve families in Aurora
A new $2 million early childhood education center in Aurora will help end the cycle of poverty and housing instability for families enrolled in a unique residential program and will help shore up a childcare desert in the area near Oxford and Chambers Road. The center is housed at the Generational Opportunities to Achieve Long Term Success (GOALS) program on the Oxford Vista Campus.
“We cannot underscore enough the importance of quality early childhood education,” said Commissioner Nancy Sharpe, who helped celebrate at a groundbreaking for the center on Oct. 28. “The time from birth through five is incredibly important in a child’s development and this new center will help provide quality childcare that will benefit kids, their families, and the greater community.”
To help make the center a reality, Arapahoe County Commissioners approved $1.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
“It was an easy decision to make these one-time funds available to the GOALS program,” said Commission Chair Nancy Jackson. “Not only will this center serve GOALS participants, but we’ll also have 70 slots available to kids from this area. That’s going to make a huge difference to the families in our community.”
The need for high quality childcare centers in the area is greater than ever due to the impact of COVID. Many centers lost both revenue and staff and also faced diminishing enrollment due to the pandemic. Families of all kinds need access to quality care so they can attain economic security. There are currently nine fewer childcare providers within a 2-mile radius of the Oxford Vista Campus, compared to August 2020, largely due to the pandemic.
The center is the last outstanding piece for the GOALS program, which opened in 2019. GOALS is a collaborative effort led by Family Tree and Arapahoe County Human Services, who provide the program with a group of community-based service providers. GOALS was developed and is being formally evaluated as an effective approach for families experiencing homelessness and multi-generational poverty in moving toward economic stability, family well-being and safe and stable housing.
The GOALS program is based on the Two-Generational model, which means serving kids and their caregivers simultaneously. The intent of the program is to disrupt the cycles of homelessness and poverty by directing services to parents, children and the whole family unit, while providing safe, temporary housing.
Mile High United Way also provided funds for the new early childhood education center. At the groundbreaking event, CEO Christine Benero talked of the importance of serving the whole family.
“There’s no one more important than our littlest ones and their parents and their families, because little ones come connected to families. We need to look at the whole. That’s the magic of GOALS. The whole community benefits when we work together to solve problems and support one another.”
Ability Connection Colorado (ACCO), a well-known and respected childcare service provider, will run the program and bear the expenses of hiring and training staff, enrolling children, and managing appropriate and comprehensive outcomes for the shared families.
“Ability Connection has more than 20 years’ experience providing education services to low-income families,” said Jackson. “That includes services to children with the greatest needs, such as those experiencing homelessness and English language learners.”
The GOALS center will provide year-round, full day care and Head Start slots to low-income families, which will fill a gap in this community for Head Start programming. That programming model includes mental health services, parent support services, parent education and parenting classes.