For the Dorchester County Judy Center, supporting parents and families as they raise their children is a community effort that combines practical help as well as fun. Learning Parties, playgroups, and pampering nights are a few of the ways the Eastern Shore center helps nurture families and prepare the area’s youngest residents for school and success.
“[Families] are just as important as a teacher in a classroom because they are the child’s first teacher,” said Chareka Harris, coordinator of the Dorchester County Judy Center in Cambridge. “We want to engage them in preparing the child for kindergarten.”
The Judy Center, which serves about 300 children from birth through age 5, strives to reach as many families as possible by hosting activities and classes and by having a presence at community events.
“We want the community to know about our services and let them know what we can do to help,” Harris said.
The Dorchester County Judy Center is one of 54 Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs throughout Maryland, which provide services to promote school readiness. The center supports families holistically by working with early care and education providers and partnering with other agencies and community programs to offer services ranging from adult education to health services.
The Judy Center hosts programs and activities that encourage parents and families to have the confidence to embrace their role as their child’s first teacher. Some of the offerings include the practical–adult education opportunities such as GED and ESL classes. Others combine practical and fun, such as nights out that include dinner, child care, and some much-needed adult time.
For Parents Get Pampered, a recent monthly event held at the center, families had the opportunity to learn about self-care through meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, dance, and other calming activities. They also learned how they can use these techniques at home with their children to encourage calm behavior and good bedtime routines.
By taking care of themselves, parents and families can be at their best to take care of their children, Harris said.
“Parents have learned how taking some time out to breathe deeply can help. They can use cleansing breaths to slow down and be centered and calm, especially in a stressful situation,” Harris said. “They know how to calm themselves so they can be more available to the child.”
A crucial part of the Judy Center’s mission is to also help early care and education providers strengthen the foundation they are providing for young children.
The Judy Center offers support, resources, and professional development in areas such as licensing, assessments, and health and safety. Early care and education providers have also received help to enhance their programs with everyday supplies like construction paper and paint and more substantial items like area rugs and cubbies.
“I love the support, consideration, and commitment the staff at the Judy Center have for the children, community, and providers,” said Brenda McNair, director of Dreams of Wings Childcare Enrichment Center in Cambridge.
McNair said the Judy Center helped her and her staff as they went through the accreditation process as well as providing a space for tasks like photocopying and laminating.
“Each time you need resources, advice, or training, the Judy Center is there to greet and support you with a warm welcome,” she said. “[It’s] always well organized, clean, bright, and very [consistent]in reaching out to the community as a whole and helping the children … to succeed academically, emotionally, socially, physically and economically.”
Learn more about the Dorchester County Judy Center and how it is working to help the community.