Program enriches local child care centers

NOEL, Mo. – For Jennifer Harris, this day care is more than just a place to work, it’s home.

“This was a daycare that was started by my grandmother 37 years ago. And I have been here for about 25 years. Really, I started working here as a young teen and I have been here ever since,” Harris explained.

After all those years of wear and tear and play, this center is getting some much needed TLC thanks to the Alliance of SWMO’s grant-funded Infant Toddler Specialist Network (ITSN) program.

About ITSN

“We’re not a regulatory program. We’re not coming in as licensing to look at the facility. We’re just here to enhance, provide trainings…and we really work, I feel, very closely with the directors and the providers to see what needs they really want and need to enhance the programs that they are doing excellent work in already,” said Tanya Thomas, ITSN Coordinator with the Alliance of SWMO.

ITSN is only a few years old, but the idea is to recruit centers in need of resources or technical assistance and provide help over the course of a six month time frame. The program currently serves 10 counties with hopes to expand.

“We are currently in Jasper, McDonald County, Perry County and Lawrence County. We have another cohort that we’re going to be beginning, starting in July,” Thomas explained. “We are trying to increase the quality of care within these centers because of their state subsidized payments. We’re trying to level the playing field between state subsidized programs and private funded programs.”

Making a Difference

Whether it’s timely education for staff on site, or enriching toys for kids in a sensory room, ITSN is making a different in the lives of children in Southwest Missouri.

“It makes your day; like, there’s nothing better,” Thomas said.

“I don’t think they could stay with anything for more than two minutes because they were just on to the next thing and they just really enjoyed it because we needed some new stuff around here,” said Harris.

For more information about ITSN, contact the Alliance of SWMO at 417-782-9899.

*Kate Kelley is also employed by the Alliance of SWMO.