This month YSI celebrates the fathers that participate in our programs. We know them as caring parents who provide their children with activities, opportunities, and support to encourage them dream big and reach for the stars. They love their families and are role models in their communities.   

Let’s hear it for Dads! 

Meet Rodrigue Bello, Father and Volunteer with Baring House Crisis Nursery. 

Rodrigue Bello’s family lived in West Philadelphia. He and his wife have two sons under the age of five. They searched their neighborhood for an early childhood education provider so that they could maintain employment and operate Mr. Bello’s entertainment company while raising their family. Coming from Gabon (a country in central Africa) nearly 20 years ago, Mr. Bello does not have extended family here that can assist with childcare. As parents they were very particular about any program that enrolled their sons. Their goal is to put their boys on the path to becoming lifelong learners.

In West Philadelphia there are not many high-quality early childhood programs. Offerings run the gamut from home-based childcare with four or five students to large facilities with several classrooms (separated by age) serving up to a total of 100 students at a time. Mr. Bello and his wife’s dream situation would be an early childhood education center that was curriculum based, had some flexibility around scheduling, was responsive to each student’s and family’s needs, offered education for parents, and presented a community to surround their family with love and support.

The Bellos enrolled in one early childhood education center with a rigorous curriculum, which was positive. On the other hand, the teaching methods were not responsive to the varied needs of different children. The schedule was not flexible either. Drop off and pickup times were limited, and they had a minimum number of days per week that the children were required to attend. This option felt too big.

The next childcare program was a home-based center. The space was safe and welcoming. The teacher was very loving. The children were learning, having fun, and making friends. The schedule was more flexible. They were enjoying the experience. When the owner wanted to take a vacation, she alerted all her families to make temporary arrangements while she was away. Now this program began to feel too small for the Bellos.

First, Mr. Bello and his wife considered just splitting the caretaking between them, since they worked on different shifts. That sounded very taxing to them as first-time parents. Would they really be able to provide the best situation for the boys if they were both exhausted? Then the home-based center owner recommended that they try Youth Service, Inc’s Baring House Crisis Nursery. She had worked with them as part of the West Philadelphia Action for Early Learning Alliance of Childcare Providers and had confidence in their work. They had opened in 1995 and had a great reputation as a long-standing neighborhood institution.

The crisis nursery model in place at Baring House is founded on evidence that parental stress is directly related to child abuse and the centers exist to provide the additional support to the adult caregivers so that they can comfortably take care of activities related to their own and their children’s well-being. Parents and caregivers use the Baring House Crisis Nursery while managing family and medical emergencies, appointments, court, housing issues or other activities where they are unable to take young children with them. Families, like the Bellos, also use the Baring House Crisis Nursery while working, searching for work, waiting for regular day care and for respite from the demands of parenting. 

Baring House Crisis Nursery offers 24 hour emergency care for children under the age of six (temporary, drop-in, and part-time), referrals and support for parents in distress, referrals to parenting classes and resources to meet the family’s needs outside of the nursery setting, and links to developmental assessments and services for children. Children attending the crisis nursery receive care and support from trained staff, freshly prepared meals, and developmentally appropriate opportunities for play and learning. The Crisis Nursery has a long-term impact by strengthening families through connections to community resources and supports and helping parents to problem solve.   

Mr. Bello made an initial visit to Baring House to meet the staff and tour the spaces. The director and teachers took the time to answer every question directly and thoroughly. When he observed the teachers, he saw that they were responsive to the children’s needs, knowledgeable of child development, and had a deep understanding of each child. 

“They were so loving to all of the children. Their care, it’s precious, it’s golden. I was as comfortable there as I am in my own home,” he said. 

Baring House Director Ms. Maury enrolled the family as a “walk-in emergency” situation, realizing that Dad needed childcare on the spot for the rest of that week. She examined the nursery’s schedule for the week that they needed childcare. She identified opportunities in the childcare schedule for times that aligned with the parents’ schedule, while ensuring appropriate staff to child ratios. This approach is unique to the childcare crisis nursery model. 

At first the Bellos accessed Baring House only when the home-based center was unavailable. Eventually they realized that Baring House was the just right fit that they needed in an early childhood education program and began making use of their services regularly. 

Mr. Bello especially appreciated the parenting workshops, where he learned developmentally appropriate learning techniques like Read and Refer, which helps engage children in reading by interjecting questions and statements to engage their reading comprehension skills. 

“The resources at Baring House helped us to become much more confident as parents,” he added.

 Ms. Maury added, “Mom or Dad attended every classroom special event, guest reading time, and parenting workshop we had.  They were so happy and excited to engage with everyone – children, other parents, and teachers.”

The teachers enjoyed engaging with Mr. and Mrs. Bello at drop off and pick up, especially as they practiced gentle, slow, transitions for their sons. Mr. Bello speaks three languages – Yoruba, French and English – and he and his sons would greet each other in Yoruba or French every day. He also went out of his way to get to know the teachers personally.

When Mr. Bello was looking for more business connections, Baring House staff helped him to connect to possible opportunities. He also inquired about volunteering in the classroom, and Ms. Maury suggested that he try teaching French to the children in the two to five-year-old classroom. The teachers helped him guide the eight or nine children. He taught them simple phrases, greetings, and children’s songs. The other parents were delighted that Mr. Bello was providing such an incredible learning experience for them. During the quarantine, he was able to join the classroom online, and was impressed to hear that the children still remembered the songs. He will continue to volunteer as time and availability allows. 

“I really like programs like Baring House. People all have different situations. If we had more places like it that could be more flexible to peoples living conditions to be able to go to work and come home and feed their families, it will help many parents,” he said.

Mr. Bello is so proud of his sons. They are eager to learn, creative, and well-behaved. Although the Bellos have moved out of Philadelphia, and now attend an early childhood center near their new home, they continue to be a part of the Baring House community. And he highly recommends Baring House Crisis Nursey to parents in Philadelphia looking for a just right solution to their childcare and educational needs.

Happy Father’s Day Mr. Bello! Thank you for being a great dad and member of the YSI family!

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