Children’s Harbor isn’t your typical daycare center. Sure, the non-profit provides basic care services to children but unlike other places, the organization embodies the child development center model of curriculum-based learning for its tiniest community members.
Children’s Harbor is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that operates child development centers in Ghent, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Portsmouth and the Eastern Shore. In addition to providing development curriculum to children 6 weeks to 10 years old through its before/after school program, it is also a leading training provider for the region and goes above and beyond with the bar it sets for the organization and its teachers.
“We go above normal licensing,” said April Hatfield, a human resource generalist at Children’s Harbor. “We have our accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC. We’re above a lot of other centers because of that, because we go to the higher standard.”
Because the standards of learning and development are high, Children’s Harbor has a strong reputation in the communities it serves. But with great success also comes great challenges.
“We have a waitlist for the waitlist,” Hatfield said, speaking to the high demand for childcare in the region.
Like many other early childhood education centers, there is a staffing shortage for lead teachers and teacher assistants. And while every center wants seasoned, experienced teachers, centers like Children’s Harbor are expanding their applicant pool by considering people with a passion for children and structured volunteer experience –including those students who are currently in school for early childhood education.
“Anyone who comes to us with experience, that’s great. But we’re doing screening calls with people who have volunteers within their church’s Sunday School because we know they have the skills to manage a classroom and engage with parents,” Hatfield said.
An ideal lead teacher at Children’s Harbor has one year of experience, and applicants who come to the organization with career studies certificates from their local community college or the associate degree in early childhood education get a higher pay rate than their peers who may have zero credentials. Children’s Harbor also compensates its employees with paid training opportunities.
Children’s Harbor has a small, family-like environment, which Hatfield says is another benefit to working with them over other centers.
“Despite the fact that we’re a larger agency, there is still that feeling of home,” she said. “That family atmosphere within each center and as a whole is there. Our directors meet weekly because we want to keep that connection – that connection between us and that connection with our staff.”
If you’re interested in a career in early childhood education, Hatfield says Children’s Harbor isn’t just looking for students once they graduate, but that her doors are open for students who want to do observations or work while they’re in school.
Children’s Harbor is a supporter of Virginia’s Community Colleges and the statewide G3 Business Ambassador program. Visit its website to learn more.