The Bachman Lake Together Family Center opened this week in Dallas, the next step in a six-year evolutionary process to serve some of the city's most at-risk children and parents.
The center, a project of the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative, houses early learning services and support resources provided by partner agencies that include parent education classes, home visits, and mental health services.
The staff is planning for their May 19 grand opening event, a nearly day-long celebration of the progress their families have made and an indication of the impact they can continue to have.
Zero to Five is a collaborative of businesses and philanthropy leaders who pool their charitable donations to make a larger impact on programs working on preparing child ages birth to 5 to be kindergarten ready.
The Family Center is meant to be a sustainable model for collective impact and community action in Bachman Lake, one of the most underserved neighborhoods in Dallas. Located in the 75220, Bachman Lake is bordered by more affluent neighborhoods but the children who live here face long odds:
— There is a 90 percent free and reduced-price lunch rate.
— One in 10 residents are under age 3.
— The beautiful Bachman Lake Park, with a signature 5K walking trail, is bordered by a six-lane freeway, making it virtually inaccessible on one side to pedestrians.
— 39 percent of children live in poverty.
— 76 percent of children have limited English proficiency.
— There are seven licensed and regulated childcare centers in a neighborhood of 5,800 kids 0 to 5.
— The kindergarten readiness rate at the four elementary schools that are fed by the neighborhood hovers between 35 and 48 percent.
The Collaborative decided to commit to a five-year funding plan and coordinated the work of four respected service providers in the Bachman Lake neighborhood — AVANCE-Dallas, Catholic Charities of Dallas, The Concilio, and Lumin Education.
Research by the Southern Methodist University Center shows that children of parents in the partner programs are better prepared for school than their peers.
The center offers key programs to help parents better themselves and in turn, better their children's school readiness:
— Together We Learn, which focuses on dual-generation English instruction so that parents and children learn together.
— Baby University, which helps parents learn parenting and coping skills, especially those aimed at increasing the vocabulary words that young children need to fuel the critical early brain development that will help be prepared for school.
— Home visits for new parents, which offers resources to help parents be good first teachers of their children ages 0 to 3.
— Leadership Academy, which offers skills assessments and training to help mothers whose children are served by programs at the Family Center to develop their own leadership skills. The idea is not only to equip these parents to advocate for themselves and their children, but also to groom future group of advocates and leaders for the Family center and the neighborhood at large.
Southern Methodist University is contracted to provide long-term data on how well children who go through the Family Center's programs perform on kindergarten readiness measurements once they enter public school.
SMU data, as well as anecdotal reports from the four elementary schools that draw from the Bachman Lake neighborhood show that children from the Family Center's programs are likely to be better prepared for school.