When two community organizations come together to enrich the lives of children, good things happen. This is the case with the recent merger of Paladin, Inc., and the Child Care Consortium, which took place July 1. The organizations are now able to provide a broad spectrum of early childhood experiences and children’s disability services.
To understand the positive impact this will have on the La Porte County community, it helps to know some history. Paladin, Inc., which began as a social services agency back in 1967, expanded two years ago when Michiana Resources and Parents & Friends joined forces to become a charitable organization that advocates for persons with disabilities to ensure a meaningful life. The Child Care Consortium (CCC) was founded by Dr. Janice Katz in 1992. The CCC oversaw the operations of Imagination Station – a high-quality early childhood program – since 1995, and Head Start of La Porte County from 2015-2019.
“When Paladin started talking about wanting to get more into children’s services, the Child Care Consortium really wanted to get more into inclusion programs where children with developmental disabilities could easily be integrated and included in the Imagination Station and Head Start programs,” Katz said. “It seemed like a perfect idea for us to work together with Paladin in some capacity. That was a little more than a year and a half ago, and it became more and more sensible as we thought about how much more efficient our administrative processes would be if we were to merge rather than having two separate organizations.”
“We are now a human service organization dedicated to serving the community the best that we can through providing the best support to persons with disabilities, the elderly, and children,” said Erin Mooneyhan, Development and Marketing Officer.
Three integral parts of childhood programming are driving the experiences that Paladin offers the community. Each is focused on specific needs of early childhood development, incorporating industry-wide expertise with safe, effective, evidence-based programming for children.
Imagination Station strives to improve the quality and accessibility of childcare in the community and increase public awareness for the importance of quality early childhood experiences. The center serves children as young as 6 weeks, up to 6 years, and now offers a summer camp for children up to the age of 9. Imagination Station’s curriculum is experience-based and inspired by the Reggio-Emilia approach. Imagination Station has achieved the highest level on the Paths to Quality rating system (Level 4) which means the program has met or exceeded a rigorous review by the accrediting body, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
After a long and competitive process, Paladin recently was awarded a $2.1 million Federal Head Start grant. Head Start encourages the cognitive, social and emotional development of children ages 3 to 5. In addition to education, the early childhood program focuses on the health, nutrition, and social well-being of the family. Head Start is responsive to each child’s and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.
“We wrote a really innovative program approach inspired by the Reggio-Emilia model, and we’re going to be transitioning into that approach over the course of the next three years,” said Theresa Argueta, Director of Early Childhood Programs for Imagination Station and the La Porte County Head Start. “It’s centered around relationships, community partnerships, the rights of children, and experience-based learning.”
Head start is enrolling children and seeking dedicated and qualified employees.
Paladin is a Medicaid Waiver provider, meaning those who qualify can receive support for approved childhood enrichment programs, even during the summer. One such program is Paladin Children’s Summer Camp. This camp is where children with developmental disabilities go for a time of socialization, games, sensory activities, and fun when school is out of session.
“With kids out of school for the summer, our camp provides families with support so they can send their children to a safe place during working hours that offers structure, opportunities, and engaging activities. Our team is dedicated and spends a lot of time developing plans to help address each child’s individual goals,” said Erin Mooneyhan, Paladin Development and Marketing Officer.
This summer Paladin has offered three different summer sessions; this week is the start of the second session with nine children present. Summer camps run from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Children can explore, engage and interact with one another and spend time with Paladin staff.
“We’ve been hearing that the kids really enjoy it,” said Jessica Macius, Children’s Services Program Manager.
Many of the kids talk about how much they love coming to camp. Macius even mentioned one child who runs in every morning because he is so excited to be there.
The kids have a variety of activities each day, including playing outside, learning with flash cards, investigating the sensory room, or enjoying science activities like making moon dough.
Overall, Paladin aims to help kids socialize, grow, and develop their personal interests.
“My favorite part of working with our kids is getting to know them as individuals and then building on their interests,” Macius said.
For employment opportunities with Paladin, please visit www.paladin.care/career.
For more information regarding enrollment at Imagination Station, please call 219-872-6723.
For more information regarding enrollment at Head Start, please call 219-873-2146.
For more information on how to navigate the Medicaid Waiver process or become involved in Paladin’s disability services, please contact Kathleen VanGilder at 219-324-0656.