TEACHING AND ADVOCATING FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES LIVING IN POVERTY
Poverty is defined as a situation where a family doesn’t have access to provide for their basic needs. The Florida minimum wage is currently $11 per hour. This leads to multiple problems, but with inflation the way it is, millions of families are struggling to provide for their children. Research over the past 40 to 50 years is that quality early childhood education, especially targeted in populations where there are high levels of poverty, can be part of the solution. There is nothing better than consistency, especially if a child has not had that kind of stability at home. This doesn’t mean that our classrooms lower our expectations for behavior or even achievement. However, at Firm Foundation Preschool, we do go out of our way to make our learning environment loving and a calm place to be.
Our classrooms bring multiple resources into the classroom that include no specific race, inclusion of children with different abilities and languages. We want every child to be represented. We want to help children take pride in what their parents do and know that everyone in society can contribute in their own way. There is joy and beauty of seeing how much we rely on the many different types of occupations our families have. There are certain jobs that we take for granted that we just could not live without. It is important to model that kind of equity in the classroom by celebrating the many different jobs that our families have to provide for their family.
Be Mindful of Stereotyping Low-Income Families
We refrain from using the word “poor” in front of “people”. We are all people first and poverty and being low-income is a situation. It is not a description of an entire group of people. One of the biggest stereotypes of low-income families is that these parents and families lack parenting skills. It is important that our teachers find special ways to connect and communicate with our families. It is important that we evaluate the families funds. These funds consist of a families’ unique strengths and hidden resources like family traditions, household talents, chores, and home language. The family tradition may be that they have game night regularly, or that they love to cook together and have a great sense of humor and can laugh together. When we hear someone complain about another parents lack of skill, think to yourself, what strengths can I focus on so that I can better connect with this family and learn more about them to better help them.
Be An Advocate for Children
Matthew’s Hope Ministries prayerfully decided to make a second location for our Firm Foundation Preschool as part of our ministry in our newest Brevard location. We want to continue to work alongside our community families and our Matthew’s Hope guests in creating a loving, Christ Centered/Montessori-based early learning environment. Our teachers understand the importance of their role in these children’s lives and we want to take it a step further and also be advocates for children and families. There is so much research on how beneficial early childhood programs are. They help reduce poverty, incarceration, and special education services. Research shows that 81% of children who attend at least 2 years of preschool will not end up homeless. We are so incredibly grateful and blessed to be able to continue the outstanding services that Matthew’s Hope Ministries provides, including our Firm Foundation Preschool. We are committed to providing early childhood educators who share in a passion and commitment to working with children in a way that helps our children achieve their God-given potential. I would like to end this with a quote by the great Fed Rogers. In 2003 he said, “When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” All of you who are out there helping children every day, you are my heroes as you make your classrooms safe, loving, and help children build those connections to their brains. I appreciate you taking the time to read this article and learn more about how we are supporting and helping families from all walks of life. May God continue to bless our entire Matthew’s Hope Ministries. Our preschool is open to our community, not just guests of Matthew’s Hope. If you are interested in learning more about our preschool program, please feel free to contact me by email at Meagan@MatthewsHopeMinistries.org