VOICES: From homelessness to having a business of my own

I care for young children. I don’t have a sign for my small business, but I’m incredibly important to the families whose children I nurture and teach.

I have a 2-Star “Quality Rating” under Ohio’s voluntary Star Rating system, and I’m working on getting a third Star. During the pandemic, I stayed open and took care of essential workers’ children.

Families come to me because they prefer having their children in a home-like setting while they’re at work or at school.

I love taking care of children, especially little ones. To stay in business and make ends meet for my family — it’s just my son and I — I, ideally, need to have six children in my care. It’s not easy, taking care of six children under 5, but I feed off their energy. This work is my calling.

I’ve always wanted to have my own child care program. I formerly worked at a child care center, but had to quit when our rental home was deemed uninhabitable. For a time, my son and I were homeless, moving among churches participating in Family Promise of Butler County.

Ultimately, my sister took us in and loaned me money to start an in-home child care program. I linked up with the Butler County Educational Service Center and Miami Valley Child Development Centers (MVCDC). I don’t know where I’d be without them.

I’ve gone from experiencing homelessness to having a business of my own, thanks to their support and referrals.

MVCDC is Southwest Ohio’s largest Head Start agency, serving families in Butler County where I live, and in Montgomery, Clark, Greene and Madison counties. It works closely with the Educational Service Center.

MVCDC and the Educational Service Center have made sure I succeeded. They have given me free training and provided me a coach who is always there to help me improve the care I give.

From the beginning four years ago, all my children have been atypical. I had an adopted child who was taken from drug-addicted parents. One child’s mother does not speak English. Several children have been autistic or had special needs. One little boy I cared for had been habitually kept in a high chair by a previous child care program as a way of controlling his behavior.

My coach helps me connect my families to resources so we can lift them up – whether that means getting Medicaid health care coverage, connecting with Help Me Grow if their child has a developmental delay, or maybe they need better housing or don’t have enough food.

Family Child Care Providers especially, but all early learning professionals, are too often unseen and underappreciated. But without us — and, in my case, without MVCDC — we couldn’t do the essential work of supporting families and children.

Late last year, MVCDC awarded me a one-time special grant to improve my child care program. I was one of 24 Family Child Care Providers and six center-based programs who altogether serve over 225 Head Start children from 6 weeks through age 3 and who benefited from this special Early Head Start funding.

I’m using the money to buy additional curriculum and learning activities, and I’d like to improve the children’s outdoor play spaces. I know from talking to other Family Childcare Providers who were so lucky to get this funding that they have big plans for this investment — purchasing books, educational toys, air purifiers, playground equipment and more.

To be eligible for Head Start services, families generally must earn 100% of the Federal Poverty Level or less — just over $24,860 annually for a mother of two. I see these families every day, and like me, they are working hard to pay their own way and to give their children a strong future.

I couldn’t do what I do without MVCDC and Head Start. They have changed my life for the better, and I’m committed to doing that for the families who entrust me with their children.

Latasha Jones, 42, lives in Hamilton. One day she hopes to buy a home and continue operating her program.

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