This June, the campus at Texas A&M International University will welcome some especially young faces. The University's Child Development Center will open its doors to a small group of infants and toddlers thanks to a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education's Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS) Program.
Project Director Dr. Linda Medearis, an early childhood education specialist from the University's College of Education faculty, said applications are currently being accepted for between 12 and 36 students.
"It's a small first offering, but the project will continue to grow and most importantly, will bring a much-needed service to our campus community," she explained.
Dr. Medearis is keenly aware of the need for the Center. In a recent research project for the University's Texas Center for Border Economics and Enterprise Development, she determined that there is currently a waiting list for childcare services for well over 3,000 children who meet Child Care Management Services (CCMS) standards.
"It's a serious need in Laredo. This project focuses on offering campus-based childcare services for primarily low-income students with children. These students would then have greater access to a higher education. In an on-campus survey, 60% of those surveyed indicated they would utilize such care, if it were available," Dr. Medearis explained.
Selection for the University's Child Development Center will be need-based with priority given to students enrolled at the University. Space is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis for those meeting criteria.
"A Child Development Center Board including representation from the University's Student Government, Faculty Senate and staff will review applications and elect those students to participate. Clearly, financial need will be a major factor, but applicants can also alert us in their application to other needs which they feel could help us better reach a decision," Medearis said.
"First priority for enrolled children will be those who are CCMS-qualified as the Center will be a CCMS vendor. CCMS provides financial support and will also offer assistance for program growth and expansion. Additional openings will be on a space-available basis.
The program will initially be housed in reclaimed classroom space in the University's C-Building. Services will be available in three different shifts: (1) morning, (2) afternoon and (3) evening, all timed to coincide with University class offerings.
"Our initial space will be in an adapted area, but we will move to a stand-alone facility in the future. This will enable us to better accommodate children with a developmentally appropriate play area and dining areas," Medearis said.
She stressed that the Center will not be a drop-off location and student parents will be encouraged to participate in the life of the Center.
"This will not be a drop-off facility, students will leave their children here during their class time, and will be asked to provide in-kind service to the Center on an agreed upon schedule, if needs arise. Their children will be cared for by trained staff and University Early Childhood Education majors will also volunteer as caregivers, " she noted.
The Center also targets meeting stringent national accreditation standards for its operation.
"We will also secure national accreditation by meeting stringent national guidelines. This will mean that the Center will meet the highest standards of not only custodial, but also cognitive developmental childcare, making it the only such Center of its kind in the Laredo area," she explained.
Applications for the new TAMIU Childhood Development Center are available in Killam Library 321 and will be limited to infants and toddlers from birth to two years of age only.
The coordinator for the TAMIU Child Development Center is Mayra Blanco.
Questions about the program or criteria for selection can be directed to Blanco at 326.2001 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Current office hours for the Center are Monday and Wednesday from 8 - 12: 30 p.m.; Tuesday from 11-2 pm. and Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Offices are closed on Thursday.
Interested persons calling when offices are closed or after hours will be able to hear a recorded message or leave a message.
Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at email@example.com