Kalamazoo child care center offers free services to low-income families

Kalamazoo child care center offers free services to low-income families. (WWMT/Franque Thompson)

Low income families in Kalamazoo are getting some assistance in child care with an organization that offers free services to parents who need a safe place for their kids to stay for a few hours.

The Kalamazoo Drop-In Child Care Center (KDCCC) opened their doors nearly 30 years ago with a mission designed to relieve the stress of parents when life-situations pop up.

“We’re here to give parents a break who wouldn’t normally have a break. They’re looking for jobs or housing, running errands, going to appointments,” KDCCC Executive Director Kathy McNinch said. “So, what do you do when you have a job interview? You don’t have any place for your kids? Well, you might leave them in your car or in an unsafe situation.”

Parents on Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, Medicaid or MI Bridges can use the service four hours a day, six days a month. Proof of income and documents of a child’s latest immunizations are needed during online and in-person registration.

McNinch said the program offers parents, from first-time to families with multiple children, more than just a babysitter.

Karissa McCallister has taken her son to KDCCC for more than a year.

“I love it because my kids get socialized. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so they don’t really play with other kids at home,” said McCallister. “Sharing was a big one because he was an only child. So, he’s really learned to play with others. It helps because I have time to go grocery shopping without little ones screaming and I’m able to go pay bills and keep my sanity, really.”

More than 15 countries are represented in the families KDCCC serves. The center sees about 140 families a year, about 200 children participate.

“For many of our parents, this is the first place, really, that they’ve ever left their kids. It’s amazing how many parents, this is their first time. So, we really work hard to make parents feel comfortable,” said McNinch. “We’re providing a service that is really unique. There’s no other service like ours in this whole area.”

KDCCC also offers a regular preschool program through the Kalamazoo County Ready 4's organization. The staff also offers information to different resources in the Kalamazoo area for parents looking for additional assistance.

“It’s a very, very good staff that really care for our mission and are here because they love the families that we serve,” said McNinch.

The center serves up to 20 children, five days a week. Parents can reserve a date for their child up to two weeks in advance, after that space is available on a first come, first served basis. Parents can also be placed on a wait list if there is a cancellation for the day.

McNinch said kids love the center for the play time. Their parents said it’s a service they couldn’t afford to be without.

“They may be low-income, they may be in crisis, they might have a lot of needs, but they love and care for their children just the same as anybody,” said McNinch.

KDCCC is currently operating in a temporary location in the Northside Association for Community Development building until December. KDCCC was originally located in First Congregational Church. Since the church is under construction, the center moved about four blocks away for the safety of the children. The doors open at 11:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.

KDCCC is a non-profit and always welcoming to volunteers and donations. The center and its programs are funded mostly by grants.

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