Childcare Providers Get a Hand Up in Sunflower County

Johnnie Mae Rodney understands that childcare cannot be a one-size-fits-all arrangement.

“To put a group of children all in one room, infants and toddlers, just confuses everything,” said the 18-year certified childcare instructor at Indianola’s BeBe Kids Learning Center. “Each age group is learning something different, doing something different, and they need their own space.”

Thanks to support from Delta Health Alliance, BeBe Kids now has a newly redesigned facility to better serve the 24 children who call it home during the work day. In all, $2.1 million in Head Start funds administered by Delta Health Alliance have been used to upgrade six childcare facilities in Indianola, Drew and Moorhead. This Delta Health Alliance initiative will also increase the number of eligible children who are served by these facilities from 30 to 200.

In the heart of the Mississippi Delta, where childcare services have historically lagged, Delta Health Alliance has formed a partnership with these six childcare centers to fill that gap with high quality, affordable early childcare options for families in Sunflower County.

Child care centers are vital to the economic success of the community because they support employment, said Roshanda Sample, program director. But they also contribute to the long-term educational success of the children who attend the centers.

Working together, Delta Health Alliance and the childcare centers are meeting Early Head Start facility requirements; providing one-on-one support to parents enrolling children in childcare; increasing parental involvement; and coordinating health and nutritional services for childcare centers including vision, oral and mental health screenings with local providers.

Moreover, new and improved playgrounds were installed, featuring “Talk, Read, Sing” play panels. This innovation is the first of its kind in this area and will allow teachers to engage children in conversations as they play, thus increasing their vocabulary.

For certified childcare instructor Gussie Johnson, a 14-year veteran at BeBe Kids, the partnership has transformed the facility into a place where toddlers can better learn and infants are more comfortable.

“It’s just been a big help,” said Johnson. “The way it’s running now is really good. It’s helping the children and making it better for them. We’re now more efficient with the new spaces that better meet their needs. Delta Health Alliance has just done a great job.”