Bright Beginnings for children in Baker, Zachary
Stacey Betz and her husband moved from Baton Rouge to the Zachary community in 1996 for one reason and one reason only, to put their two children through the Zachary community school system.
Betz, formerly in retail, decided to go back to work when her children became a little older. Instead of returning to the retail industry, she began substitute teaching in the Zachary Community School District, where she worked for about seven years. "It was then that I began to notice the behavioral differences between kids in daycare and those who were at home with their moms," Betz said. "I began to question what was going on in the childcare industry."
The differences in the little ones at daycare facilities versus the kids she came into contact with who were being raised at home prior to entering pre-school were vast. "They were developmentally different in terms of behavior and speech...there was a lot more fighting and hitting," Betz says. "And these were from the kids in daycare, not the ones at home!"
Betz says she noticed certain daycare facilities in the area, including the one she worked at, were better than others, and she wondered what these daycare centers were doing differently.
That's when the research started.
"What I found was shocking," Betz said. "The majority of early childhood professionals at the time were just babysitters! All they really did was clean, feed and sing to the children in their care, they weren't addressing the child as a whole."
At the time, Betz says there was no social development training for professional childcare givers. "There was very little focus on speech development," says Betz. "And developmentally inappropriate teaching methods."
In addition, she found out that daycare centers were overseen not by the Louisiana Department of Education, but by the Department of Family and Child Services, which also oversees nursing homes and prisons, Betz explained.
She was also surprised to learn that the standards for running a daycare were minimal.
"That's when this all started, really. I changed my focus from elementary care to early childhood and began going to meetings at the state, becoming part of focus groups, doing tons of research and began educating our teachers on disabilities training, since none of the childcare centers focused on how to care for disabled or autistic children."
Betz says she was eventually successful in getting the curriculum and classrooms at the day school she worked at functioning under the Quality Start Child Care rating system, which at the time was voluntary and which rates childcare centers in three areas: teacher training, class observation and administrative practices. "It was hard for our teachers to begin teaching a new way or with different methods," Betz said. "But when they saw the environment change and the children begin to change and become happier, then they became happier, too. The whole focus on early childhood care changed at that time."
Even the government came around, and thanks to the Act 3 Initiative, in 2015 it will become mandatory for daycare centers to be rated under the Quality Start program, which designates centers with a star-rating system, five being the highest.
However, not everyone agreed with Betz and her philosophy on childcare, even though it was what was best for the child, so she branched out on her own and opened Bright Beginnings CDC, LLC.
Now with a loyal following of local families, Bright Beginnings in Zachary has been caring for children from infancy to toddler age since October 2011.
Located at 20000 Old Scenic Highway in Zachary, Bright Beginnings is now filled to capacity with 78 kids and 20 staff and has a waiting list until around August 2014.
Children ages 6 weeks to 6 months; 6 to 12 mos.; 12 to 24 mos.; 24 to 32 mos.; and 32 to 36 mos. are taught there. "This is where kids are cared for before entering pre-school," says Betz.
Bright Beginnings in Zachary also celebrated it's recent designation of four stars under the Quality Start program. "It's everything I've ever fought for," Betz says.
Betz's success in Zachary launched a Baker location of Bright Beginnings, which opened in September 2013 at the First United Methodist Church at the corner of La. 19 and Groom Road at 1255 Camelia St. "It's more of a ministry-focused daycare," Betz said.
After renovation work was completed, which included walls being knocked down, bright colors painted everywhere and classrooms redesigned, the new location of Bright Beginnings opened. "But it would not have been possible without the vision and help from Pastor Gene Reeves, Habitat for Humanity and a local architect who offered her services," says Betz.
Bright Beginnings in Baker has a maximum capacity of 65 kids, but currently cares for 14. However, there is a slight wait for the infant room.
Like it's sister location in Zachary, Bright Beginnings in Baker has a Christian faith-based curriculum; caregivers are all CDA certified teachers; breakfast, lunch and snacks are included in the tuition; and live web cameras are provided by PB & J.
Live web cameras? "We do what we do and we have total transparency here," says Betz.
That's right, a unique feature of Bright Beginnings are the cameras in every classroom that provide audio and visual monitoring all throughout the day for Betz, her directors and for parents!
Mothers can tune in to see and hear what's going on in their child's classroom (only) anytime they wish by logging on to the web or checking in via a live stream on a mobile phone app.
"The reason we don't advertise is that we want like-minded parents who are focused on their kids and understand what we do in regards to developmental practices," explained Betz.
She said the staff and kids are diverse at Bright Beginnings. "All of our kids, their parents and all of our staff members are like one big family," says Betz. "We need to be, since kids spend 8-10 hours of their day with us."
Classrooms are divided into smaller spaces for the children to provide more intimate teaching spaces.
Photos of family members adorn the walls of the kids' classrooms, as well as inside infants' cribs.
Art is also big at Bright Beginnings, as well as outdoor activities.
The playground in Zachary is made of recycled rubber to provide a soft cushion for little ones. In Baker, the playground is lush grass.
Photo schedules teach children what's on tap for the day.
"Bright Beginnings CDC's mission is to provide the highest quality childcare in a nurturing supportive environment by addressing each child as a unique creation of God," says Betz.
Hours of operation for both locations are Monday thru Friday, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The Baker location only offers holiday and summer care hours.
To contact Bright Beginnings in Zachary, call 225-570-8062 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Bright Beginnings in Baker, call 225-301-0814 or e-mail email@example.com.
You can also visit online at www.brightbeginningscdc.com for more information.