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Beyond Babysitting—Why child care providers matter in communities

Since 1987, TenderCare Children’s Center has been a place of discovery and family for infants to 12 year-olds in Clarkston, Washington, in the SE corner of the state. Their programs allow for youth to explore and be part of the world around them, from trips to the aquatic center to craft time in senior living facilities. TenderCare supports its youth with a holistic and heartfelt approach.

They make educational and enriching programs a priority. Recently, they’ve grown their literacy programs in engaging ways that include book contests and games.

“We want to give kids all kinds of experiences. We always tell our families that we’re on their kid’s team. We’ll figure out strengths and weaknesses to help them grow and succeed. We want to be able to share that with as many kids as possible,” said Heather Davis, assistant administrator at TenderCare Children’s Center. 

Most of their participants come from lower-income families and TenderCare is eager to support as they can. The organization does not limit subsidies, unlike other childcare programs that usually limit it to 10 percent. TenderCare serves 60-70 percent subsidy with support from the state and offers scholarships as needed. Their accommodations also include hourly rates for families and flexibility when “life happens.”

The underlying motivation of their work is to be an extension of the family. 

“Money is only so much…This is a passion for me. Watching them grow is all worth it in the end. Especially seeing the earliest kids I’ve worked with going to college and knowing I played a role in that.”

Heather Davis, assistant administrator

Over the last year, child care programs have been given a well-deserved spotlight in Washington state and across the nation, which highlights the critical role these programs play in family stability, and the social-emotional well-being of children. Davis reflected on what she learned throughout her time working with TenderCare and the misconceptions of the profession.

“People don’t see us as professionals. They tend to see us as babysitters, but we know we are making a difference for families and the community. Kids deserve a safe place to go… I am who I am because of the work I do. It changes your life,” Davis said.

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