Photo by Ann McCreary
Elise Knight, a teacher at the Little Star South Collaborative, helps toddlers learn to grasp a strap so they can walk together to the outdoor play area.

New facility offers much-needed child care options

By Ann McCreary

The Little Star South Collaborative (LSSC) was a busy place Monday (Oct. 2), with toddlers exploring their new surroundings on the new child care center’s first day.

The LSSC is Little Star Montessori School’s southern campus, providing toddler and infant care in newly renovated space at TwispWorks. It opened this week after delays in state licensing postponed an anticipated September opening.

The toddler classroom is furnished with pint-sized furniture, pretend kitchens and comfy spots to sit and look at books. A covered front deck provides a protected play area, and a large backyard offers ample outdoor space.

An infant room adjoining the toddler room accommodates up to four infants, and a quiet place to nap. The LSSC can enroll about 12 toddlers per day.

The new child care center is a collaboration of Little Star School, TwispWorks and Room One, the valley’s social services agency. Creating a campus in the lower Methow Valley was a dream of Little Star founder Rayma Hayes, and gained momentum after a recent study found that lack of child care is a serious problem that affects parents, employers and the health of the valley economy.

As part of the collaboration, Room One recently hired a “family advocate,” who will work with families of children at the LSSC, and at Little Star in Winthrop, to ensure they have the support they need, said Adrianne Moore, associate director of Room One.

The new advocate is Sarah Washam, a counselor and social worker who grew up in the Methow Valley. Washam will provide what Room One calls “wrap-around” services, helping families address a wide range of needs such as housing, health insurance, volunteer legal services, mental health counseling and benefits through the state Department of Social and Health Services, Moore said.

Washam will provide a “mobile” form of advocacy, meeting with parents and children at the schools, at their homes or other locations that are most convenient for families, Moore said.

“The goal is to create individual family support systems. We really believe all families need some layer of support,” Moore said. Washam will also assist families in the valley who don’t have children at the Little Star schools, Moore said.

Washam and two Little Star teachers will attend a program in Seattle to receive training and certification in positive discipline, and will then offer classes to the community, said Dani Reynaud, Little Star executive director.

With programs from infancy through kindergarten, children attending the LSSC or Little Star in Winthrop can transition when they are ready into another program, said Laurel Carlton, LSSC director. Infants can move into the toddler class, toddlers into preschool and preschool into kindergarten. There are still a few spaces left in the toddler program at LSSC, she said.

The LSSC provides child care for infants and toddlers from 7:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. every day, and will offer child care during summer. Little Star offers scholarships to help families with tuition.