Children’s laughter is audible upon entering the Kremen Education building at Fresno State. The playful chatter of boys and girls on the playground, water splashing in the discovery pond — these are the sounds of the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center, one of three early care and education centers on campus offered through Fresno State’s Programs for Children.
In fall 2019, 49% of new undergraduate students at Fresno State reported a family income of less than $48,000. Because some of these students being parents themselves, Programs for Children offers subsidized child care services for low-income students. These students are able to enroll their children, ages 3 months to 12 years, and receive a largely discounted rate for their child care.
“Because of my income I am not required to pay for child care,” said Marisa Martinez, a Fresno State criminology student. Martinez has a nearly 2-year-old son, Yonas (not pictured), who has attended the Huggins Center for over one year. “I am so grateful. The Huggins Center has been such a great asset toward the progress of my education and growth at my job. I am able to have an efficient amount of time to go to work and complete my required assignments.”
To further support low-income student parents, Programs for Children received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant supports Fresno State student-parents’ academic success by supporting on-campus and off-campus child care costs, piloting a distance learning program for preschoolers, providing coaching services and resources and creating a safer environment for staff and children.
“The child care options and parental support provided by this grant are projected to improve retention, increase degree completion and increase a sense of belonging for Fresno State students,” says Dr. Pei-Ying Wu, assistant professor in the Department of Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education and principal investigator of the project.
“Due to COVID-19, many child care facilities in Fresno County have closed, leaving student-parents in need of a safe space for their children. Programs for Children closed for a short period last year but has since reopened, and has been servicing students and their children since August,” said Brittney Randolph, Programs for Children director and project director. “However, we have made significant changes to policy, operational, procedural and instructional levels to help ensure the wellbeing of the program, staff and families.”
The grant will assist in ensuring a safer environment. Programs for Children will purchase protective equipment and supplies, such as air purifiers, coveralls, face shields, masks and disinfecting tools.
Through interdisciplinary collaboration, Programs for Children will draw from the expertise of Fresno State’s Student Health and Counseling Center to develop coaching strategies for student-parents. Students will receive support on topics such as how to work from home with children, how parents can regulate emotions during difficult times and support for students who are caring for younger siblings.
“I’d love to be able to learn how to build a routine at home with Yonas such as sleeping, eating, and behavioral corrections,” Martinez said. “I think it would be great for parents to have resources during stressful times with maintaining grades, home and work life.”
The grant will also allow Programs for Children to build a distance learning program for preschoolers whose parents aren’t comfortable with in-person learning at this time.
“The grant will allow our student-parents to choose early care and education programs for their children that meet their unique needs,” Wu said. “For example, student-parents who have health and safety concerns can use the distance-learning program. Additionally, for those student-parents that we are not able to serve due to our capacity or who prefer to send their children to other facilities because of the distance or other considerations, vouchers will be offered to cover child care costs.”