When children enter this world, they enter with a myriad of needs. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs lists the most basic as "Food, water, and shelter". Little do they know that some of their parents have difficulty just providing those things. For the millions of children across the developing world, living without clean water, sanitation, health care or enough food, life is difficult (Smidt, 2006). Often these parents are characterised as inadequate or uncaring, when in reality, they are merely overwhelmed by what life has dealt them (Smidt, 2006). I work as the Curriculum Coordinator for Vogel Alcove Child Care Center for Homeless Children. I encounter, daily the most vulnerable population in the world of homelessness, the children. I see parents who have fallen on hard times, not because of something they did or didn't do, but because circumstances handed out a blow. Lay-offs, closures, foreclosures, jobs moving out of the country, positions being eliminated and so on and on. This goes to show that "poverty is also an issue in the developing world, and economic policies are ensuring that the divides between rich and poor in the US and Europe are still increasing (Smidt, 2006).
In 1986 when homelessness began to soar in cities across the United States, Dallas was no exception. There were growing numbers of homeless people, including families with young children, living in cars on the streets of Dallas. In response to this dehumanizing social problem two ladies, Thelma Vogel and Doris Budner, responded. Together they organized a group of Jewish organizations called the Dallas Jewish Coalition for the Homeless. It was comprised of 21 Jewish organizations including temples, synagogues, and civic groups, with the purpose to help alleviate the plight of homelessness in Dallas. In September of 1986, the Coalition incorporated in the State of Texas as a private, non-religious, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
In order to select the program focus, the Coalition conducted extensive research to study a host of possible programs including housing, healthcare, childcare, and more. When the research was completed, childcare emerged as a major gap in the service delivery network for homeless families in Dallas, and was chosen as the project to be undertaken.
The Alcove Childcare Center for the Homeless began operations in March of 1987 serving 11 children from families residing at the Downtown Family Shelter (now Family Gateway). In the first year of operation, the Alcove served more than 1,000 of the city’s homeless children. But tragedy struck in 1988 when Thelma Vogel and her husband, Phillip, died in a plane crash. Following their death, the childcare program was renamed the Vogel Alcove. The death of the Vogels only served to deepen the resolve of the other leader and co-founder -- Doris Budner. She rose valiantly to the occasion. For the next fifteen years, Doris Budner used her deep humanity, love for children, vision and creativity, and gentle savvy to engage hundreds of others in the cause.
On June 4, 1989, the Alcove moved its services to a new home on Browder Street where it served 60 children daily. Then another move came in 1995 when the current facility was purchased and renovated. This accomplishment increased the daily capacity to 114 children. In June 2003, Doris Budner passed away, leaving an indelible mark on the Vogel Alcove and on all who knew her. In April 2003, the main facility was named the Doris and Lawrence Budner Childcare Center. Today 18 affiliated agencies including emergency shelters, domestic violence shelters, and transitional housing programs, refer families to the Vogel Alcove for free comprehensive services.
The Vogel Alcove remains the primary provider of exemplary childcare, developmental, and social services in the Greater Dallas area (retrieved from website http://vogelalcove.org/history/hmtl).
Thelma Vogel and Doris Budner wanted a safe, secure and nurturing environment for the children and the "ALCOVE" came into existence. We spend what little time we have with the children, because this is a transient population, helping the children feel love, care, and safe. We are in the accreditation process through NAEYC because that demonstrates we are providing the best. So many of our families have been pushed around, and disrespected by a system they fell in to that some of them feel they don't deserve or are not worthy of the best. I beg to differ. "But by the Grace of God" go I and because I believe that quote with all my heart, I strive to provide an experience of excellence for all of the children and their families. We offer a comprehensive program that includes Social Services, case management, parenting classes, medical services, dental services and whatever other needs they have we don't provide, we refer them to the providing resources.
I am aware that there is also a "culture of poverty"(Berger, 2009). I attended college at Eastern Kentucky University. The school is located at the foothills of Appalachia. I saw unparalled poverty at times. Children with little clothes, no shoes, living in unheated shacks. They had no dental care and their teeth were rotted from poor nutrition. Their parents could not read or write and they hid themselves from outsiders because of fear. I couldn't believe as an undergraduate student that people actually lived like that. It was true then, in the early 1970's and it is true today. Some families have been poor generation after generation. It is so much apart of their every day lives they can't see any other way of life for them or their children. Hopefully that myopic view will someday change.
I attended a conference in Boston Mass. in 2009 by Horizon's for Homeless Children and there are some positive things happening to turn, what children have to suffer due to poverty, around. More school systems and communities are taking up the mantle against poverty. More people are realizing that, if we give our children, no matter their economic status a good foundation, the cycle of poverty can change. That is my wish, that is my prayer and as I enter my workplace each morning and see those beautiful, trusting faces, I know I will work to give them the best experiences while they are in my care.
Smidt, S. The Developing Child in the 21st Century A global perspective on child development (2006) NewYork,NY: Routledge
Berger, K.S. (2009) The Developing Person Through Childhood (5th, ed.) New York, NY: Worth Publishers