EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION Youth and Family Outreach provides a safe and nurturing atmosphere in which to grow and learn. The environment is designed to enhance the psychological, social, physical and emotional development of the children. The center is a state licensed facility and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offering the highest quality of care to ALL families of Greater Portland. Priority is given to children of teen and low income families who are working, in school, or job training. Our philosophy has a strong foundation in diversity. We want our children to be exposed to this on all levels therefore our enrollment is open to all socioeconomic, cultural, religious and familial backgrounds.
Youth and Family Outreach's childcare facility, located on Cumberland Avenue, has been in operation since 1986, starting with only 4 children and volunteer care takers in the basement of the building. The program now occupies the entire building and serves 65 children and their families. We do so in small group settings with 7 infants (6 weeks to 12 months), 4 young toddlers (12 months to 18 months), 9 toddlers (18 months to 2.5 years), 13 young preschoolers (2.5 years to 3.5 years) and 17 preschoolers (3.5years to school age eligible). With the exception of the young toddler (which has just one primary teacher) program every room has two qualified primary teaching staff.
YFO is within easy walking distance to wonderful playgrounds, the Children's Museum, and the Portland Public Library system.
Camelia Babson-Haley serves as the program director and offers 23 years of experience and education to the field.
Youth and Family Outreach has collaborated with the Portland Public School system to initiate the first community-based public pre-k classroom in the district. Beginning September 10, 2012 the children enrolled in our preschool classroom are benefiting from the additional support of being in public school at age 4. The schedule is Monday - Friday from 8:30am - 12:30pm. YFO has wrap around care for the families that need full-day care. The children will be assessed at the beginning and end of the year and our lead teacher, Michelle Belanger will visit the kindergarten programs to connect with the teachers the children will have when they go to kindergarten. The kindergarten teachers will also come here to visit YFO and give us insight about what they will expect to see when children enter kindergarten. In addition to this, children will take a portfolio with them to kindergarten to inform their new teacher about what they have accomplished in pre-k. We expect this communication and collaboration to make this big transition a much more successful one!
The infant, toddler and tykes rooms employ the
Creative Curriculum, which provides a framework that guides our planning and assessment. Our philosophy around the curriculum with these ages is to offer a child-centered environment and approach. The most important players in this curriculum are the families, children, and the teachers. Communication amongst these three is key to the success of the child's day and overall learning within this curriculum. Our curriculum focuses on several different interest areas, including dramatic play, block building, manipulatives, math, literacy, science, and art. Each area is carefully planned to target the needs of each group. We use a scaffolding approach with each individual child to be sure we are challenging their skills just enough to foster curiousity and appropriate development of skill. In these three rooms there is a great deal of pre-academic foundation being laid in addition to the primary focus of preparing them socially and emotionally.
Our preschool curriculum was part of the Early Reading First program. Our facility was only one of a very few national pilot sites that engaged in this exciting and promising program developed by the Department of Education to promote early literacy. The research-based, published curriculum is called the Opening the World of Learning (OWL) curriculum. It is highly focused on language, literacy, and preparing children for kindergarten. What has been discovered through using this curriculum is that children are less likely to fall behind in their reading and writing later in public school. The major components to the OWL day are:
- Morning Meeting, where items are introduced for the day;
- Words, Song Play, and Letters, where children learn the importance of rhyming, beginning sounds and join in large group participation;
- Small Group, where children are broken into three small groups and work at different levels of difficulty on an activity that is related to the unit;
- Center Time, where children have free time to choose areas where they can discover on their own the things they have learning in their group times. It is a time for socialization, for the teachers to gather information and to engage in conversation with the children.
- Story readings- Stories are read in four specific ways in a sequence. These methods are meant to engage the children in discovering the way in which literature functions;
- Let's Find Out About It, where the teachers engage the children in a teacher driven lesson regarding one component of the unit and focuses on detailed information.
The Curriculum is written in six different units and families are encouraged to participate with activities that are sent home with each unit. Each unit lasts for approximately five weeks and is embedded into each component of the curriculum.
There are multiple languages spoken among our families at YFO. Four of our full-time staff speak many of these languages and use them frequently both for basic communication and as an enhancement to programming. These languages that we embed into everyday curriculum are Spanish, French and Arabic.
At YFO there is a 'therapy room' where children receive services that they have been referred for either by their families or in collaboration with YFO teaching staff. These services are play therapy, occupational therapy, developmental therapy and speech therapy. All services can happen right here on sight in the child's least restrictive learning environment. The play therapy is possible through a partnership with the Opportunity Alliance.