We are hosting a job fair at Kidspace on August 14th, 2021 from 9:00am to 1:00pm. We are looking to hire some amazing Teachers and Assistant Teachers to assist us on helping wonderful children achieve their highest potential.
Founded in 1990, Kidspace Child and Family Development Center is a nationally accredited child development center for children ages six weeks through five years old. The children are from families that are homeless and living at House of Ruth or other programs in the District of Columbia.
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More Than Women: Children And Kidspace At House Of Ruth
Post by Sandra L. Jackson, President & CEO of House of Ruth
As I mentioned in my May article (you can read it here), housing is and has always been the foundation of House of Ruth’s services. But a crucial service ― a vital service ― that we also provide is childcare. And if you have children, you recognize that high-quality childcare is expensive, hard to find, and vital to a parent’s success (it is impossible to work if your kids are not in a safe place).
The first decade of House of Ruth was focused on helping as many women as possible; and building stable funding. As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, House of Ruth finally felt we were in a position ― well, we realized we had to be able ― to provide childcare. But, as with housing, from the beginning we knew we needed more than ‘just’ childcare. Trauma impacts children even in the womb, and the clients we serve have experienced multiple traumas. We opened in 1976 as a shelter for women but realized almost immediately ― if you want to help women, children very often come with them.
So, Kidspace opened in 1990, in the basement of a church. In addition to highly skilled, motivated teachers who wanted children at House of Ruth to catch up and even surpass their peers, we have always focused on offering additional services from occupational and speech therapies to individual therapies as appropriate. Most of the children at Kidspace are not delayed due to a lifelong diagnosis but are delayed because of the traumas they’ve experienced. Given care, and time to heal, most of the children we serve at Kidspace enter kindergarten ready to learn and grow.
After moving around for a few years, House of Ruth invested in and purchased two homes on Pennsylvania Ave SE that had hosted a family-run private school. While the homes were not built for childcare, they were a huge step up for both the staff and the children. Thirty years after the purchase, though, those homes were dilapidated, run-down and not adequate spaces for children to learn and thrive.
In 2016, a generous donor committed $1,000,000 to build a new Kidspace on the existing land. With that commitment, a vision of a world-class childcare center with facilities that match the quality of care always offered at Kidspace, came into being. I was serving as operations director at this time, and while I knew raising the money and building the space would be difficult ― I also believed strongly that it was the only path forward for House of Ruth. As I moved up into Interim Executive Director, Executive Director, and now President & CEO I kept that vision of serving children in an incredible space. Because of my vision, and that of our board, and most especially because of the amazing support of our donors ― that vision, THIS YEAR!, became a reality. Here is the virtual tour of Kidspace, and a picture of the children coming into the space on the first day we opened in March 2021.
I will say what touched my heart the most is the little girl who came into this amazing space, with the giraffe balloon arch and a cookie and stuffed animal to greet them, crying. When we asked her what was wrong, her mom explained, “She loves her teachers so much she doesn’t want to come to a new school. I explained that the teachers are the same, but she’s still worried.” When she saw her teachers ― more than the new playground, or fancy building ― it reassured her, and she joyously came to school. That’s the truth of House of Ruth ― no matter the building, our clients are treated like superstars by our caring, compassionate and concerned staff.
It’s what has helped keep me going this year ― that and driving by Kidspace at night ― I still can’t believe how beautiful it is when it is adorned with the lights at night. Thank you for making the vision a reality!
Cara and Heather’s Story
Cara* came to know about House of Ruth through our Kidspace developmental childcare center. She brought her daughter Heather* to Kidspace when she was just six months old. Through Kidspace, Cara attended a group offered to parents on the dynamics of domestic violence. This experience led Cara to recognize the controlling nature of her partner, and she realized she wanted to leave the relationship.
Our Kidspace staff connected Cara to our Bridges program, where she was able to move into an apartment in the community, to receive income-based rental assistance, and to benefit from supportive services. At that time Cara began attending individual counseling at our Domestic Violence Support Center. With support and encouragement, she is able to successfully co-parent with her daughter’s father. She manages their interactions without being manipulated or controlled, and always prioritizes her daughter’s best interests.
Cara is fiercely committed to her autonomy, and to her daughter. She has graduated from our Bridges program and is fully independent. She successfully maintained employment throughout the pandemic. She is now saving money with the goal of eventually purchasing her own home with the assistance of a first-time homebuyer’s program.
Today, Heather is in the pre-K class at Kidspace and doing so well. She is a very outgoing, playful little girl with wonderful language skills. Cara is a very vocal parent who actively partners with Kidspace staff to facilitate her daughter’s positive growth and development. When a teacher recommended Heather receive an evaluation for occupational therapy, Cara readily gave permission and trusted in the expertise of our staff. She seeks out advice and support on an ongoing basis, and she always advocates for Heather’s needs.
Cara says she feels like the support she has received has really helped her to be resilient, and she feels like she wouldn’t be where she is now without Kidspace and House of Ruth. She always tells people that Heather’s school is the best! We are so proud to support Cara and Heather’s success.
*Names have been changed.
Kidspace Virtual Grand Opening
We are so excited to share with you House of Ruth’s brand new building for Kidspace, our child development center in Ward 7.
When House of Ruth opened our doors 44 years ago, we began the work of supporting women and later women and their children. We expanded to include children because we quickly understood that children have also been impacted by the traumas associated with homelessness, and domestic violence, and they require their own space. On the 30th anniversary of opening Kidspace, today, we open a brand new facility that offers children who have lived through traumas a place to heal, and to thrive.
Kidspace’s staff support children 6 weeks to 5 years old on their journey to overcome challenges resulting from trauma, abuse and homelessness heal; reach their developmental milestones; and prepare for school readiness and life success. The new building more than doubles our capacity — from 44 children currently being served to 88 children.
The Kidspace staff embrace a trauma-informed practice, with occupational and speech therapy offered in a warm, inviting, and safe environment. We give parents the comfort of knowing that their children are safe, welcomed, cared for, and celebrated — so the parents can focus on their individual daily goals.
The Kidspace program is stellar, but the prior building did not allow for the adequate space and needs of the children, families, and staff. We set out to correct that and bring forth an environment that is equal to the programming, and that is bright, fun, inviting and provides adequate space for the children, families, staff, and community.
We are grateful to the Board of Directors, staff, donors, foundations, grantors, partners, local leaders, families, and the community who supported this effort.
We had planned a grand opening with celebrities, local leaders, our committed and dedicated donors, funders, foundations, our children/families, staff, community and partner agencies to celebrate the opening of this site — that has transformed into reality from a two-dimensional vision on paper — rising up from the ground and standing tall today. Due to COVID-19 we were unable to celebrate face-to-face, so please join me in a virtual grand opening, with voices from our leaders, and pictures of our children, families, and staff.
We hope you enjoy this ‘grand opening’ and are as excited as we are about the possibilities of our children entering this safe, welcoming, colorful, bright, and fun space. The new Kidspace offers every student access, opportunity, and support — the building blocks of success — that they need to accomplish the great purpose in each of their lives.
Sheila* is a strong, loving mom and a fierce advocate for her young sons. She has persevered through trauma while continuing to grow as a person and a parent. When her oldest son started at Kidspace as a very young infant, they were living in House of Ruth’s supportive housing for mothers and children who are survivors of domestic violence. At first Sheila was reluctant to put her 4 month-old son in daycare. She held a very strong bond and attachment with her baby, and she had difficulty trusting Kidspace staff. The distrust came from witnessing negative situations when she was working at a daycare in the past.
There have been moments where Kidspace staff has had the opportunity to connect with Sheila and honor her parenting in ways she had not experienced before. Other people in her life told Sheila she was holding her baby too much and that she was spoiling him. Our staff was able to affirm that she was absolutely doing the best thing possible for her baby.
Today Sheila’s first child is three years old, and she has another infant son. Over the past three years, we have seen Sheila’s children thrive as she has developed strong relationships with Kidspace teachers and staff. Sheila has regularly taken advantage of parent and child development trainings offered by our partner agencies. She has always been an excellent advocate for her children — ready to speak her mind and provide feedback to teachers. With staff support, Sheila has grown in her ability to appreciate different points-of-views and in her desire to work together with her children’s teachers to meet their needs.
Sheila has taken her advocacy skills to the next level — serving as the president of Kidspace’s parent committee and being a voice for other parents at local childcare policy council meetings. Sheila has volunteered her time in the midst of working and raising her children. The onset of the pandemic affected her 9 to 5 pm employment, and she recently made the choice to purchase an ice cream truck! The decision has proven to be wise, as she has been working socially distanced parties and finding success during these unusual times.
We are honored to support Sheila on her parenting journey, and to support the growth and development of her wonderful boys.
*Name has been changed.
Kidspace Nears Completion
As we get closer to the grand opening (sadly, postponed, but look for a video!) of our new Kidspace building, with 88 slots for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in D.C.’s Ward 7, we are so excited about how far we have come.
The architects who partnered with us submitted this video to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for a possible award, and we were so thrilled with the video we wanted to share it with you.
Last month, House of Ruth entered into an exciting new partnership with Community Foodworks (CFW), which is a DC-based, mission-driven non-profit organization working to increase access to fresh and healthy food for underserved populations while creating opportunities for local farmers.
CFW is delivering local produce to House of Ruth’s Kidspace Center at a reduced rate. In addition to helping us provide the children we serve with a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at a lower overall cost, the partnership will also allow Kidspace to participate in new initiatives with the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and benefit from higher reimbursement amounts for the healthy fresh produce we distribute to our children.
We are also thrilled that parents and staff will be able to have individual bags of produce delivered to our center weekly at a reduced cost. CFW further breaks down barriers to healthy fresh produce by accepting WIC and SNAP benefits as additional methods of payment.
Help in Raising Many Readers
Kidspace, House of Ruth’s therapeutic, developmental childcare center, is always in search of new, high-quality books with diverse children featured in them. Every day our books are put to hard use in the classroom (our infants and toddlers, like all infants and toddlers, often read them with the help of their mouths …) and many students want to bring them home.
So when Raising a Reader approached our executive director with their offer of high-quality, diverse books for Kidspace – we jumped at the chance.
Kicking off last month, the children get a bag of books to take home each week, and parents are encouraged to read with them. Raising a Reader focuses on parent-child bonding, early literacy and school success – all of which Kidspace encourages, as well.
The program’s books align with the Creative Curriculum, the top-quality curriculum in use at Kidspace, and the children are looking forward to the first delivery. Partnerships like these are how we leverage your donations into direct successes for the women and children we serve.
Kidspace Featured on NBC4
House of Ruth’s executive director Sandra Jackson spoke to NBC4 reporters about the work we do at our Kidspace Child and Family Development Center, and how House of Ruth is preparing to expand and break ground on a new daycare facility, which will double the number of infant and toddler spots offered at Kidspace.
In early February, House of Ruth’s development director Elizabeth Kiker was invited to speak at the Two Rivers Public Charter School about House of Ruth’s Kidspace program. Over 100 kindergarten and first graders filled the auditorium, who had collectively raised more than $1,600 for books for children at Kidspace by selling hot cocoa and snack mix.
The kids specifically raised money for children who can’t afford books to have more books—and thanks to their hard work and generosity, Kidspace will now have wonderful new books for the children we serve. What an inspirational morning for all of us.