Emerson offers respite care program

3-year-olds at Emerson Family Resource Center play with equipment and books in the respite care program room. Pictured (left to right) are Georgia Stegall, Shameela Dewage and Zahraah Almohanna. (Photo by Sarah Raines, SDN)
By: 
SARAH RAINES
Staff Writer

The respite care program at Emerson Family Resource Center provides parents of young children the opportunity to get more done during a day and provides children a space to socialize and learn.

From 8 a.m. to noon on Monday through Thursday, the respite care program houses children ages 8 weeks to 5 years old.

The respite care program is just short of 21 years old, and was initially offered to parents alongside the many adult classes Emerson Family Resource Center provides. While parents went to classes to earn their GED or equivalent, Emerson offered free childcare during class periods.

“What we ultimately want is to strengthen our families and to build them stronger,” Project Manager Elmarie Carr Brooks said.

THE PURPOSE

Since its inception, the respite care program has grown.

Now, parents can request to put their children in the respite care program, are interviewed for why they would like their children in the program, and may use it on an irregular basis.

“It affords parents an opportunity to take a break from the children,” Brooks said. “It’s a temporary service that may change, where different children come on different days.”

Reasons parents may use the respite care program include:

• Parents are taking classes.
• Parents have doctor visits.
• Parents would like to socialize their children.

“One of our teen moms’ child was coming because the grandmother was babysitting the baby, but then her mom — the great-grandmother — had to have chemo three times a week,” Brooks said.

While the baby’s mother went to high school to finish her education, the baby was cared for by the respite care program at Emerson three times a week so his great-grandmother could get chemo-therapy and his grandmother could accompany her.

“We encouraged her to finish her degree, to finish her high school diploma,” Brooks said.

THE PLAYPEN

The classroom that houses the respite care program is called the playpen by those who work there. It is on the same hallway as the preschool classes, safely tucked behind secured doors, and is equipped with educational toys and activities.

“We provide them with educational playtime,” Brooks said. “We continue with that process we hope the parents are implementing at home. We’ll have a lesson where they eat green JellO to learn the color green or they use green crayons on that day.”

THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE

Brooks said the biggest challenge for the respite care program is finding people who enjoy working with children and are willing to work part-time.

Emerson is linked with the Work Study program at Mississippi State University, but during the off season, like between the end of the summer semester and the beginning of the fall semester, the students do not work. Emerson is currently searching for leaders who are looking to work with children from 8 a.m. to noon.

“We are looking for individuals that love children and would not mind working four hours a day and having the rest of the day off,” Brooks said.

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