How WC4C made a stable life possible for a single dad
The young father was scared. At only twenty-one, he had fought hard for legal custody of his six-month-old daughter because he wanted her to have a good life in which she grew up healthy and loved. There was just one problem: How could he care for a small child and work to support her and himself? He could hardly take her to work with him, but he sure couldn’t afford hundreds of dollars a month at a child care facility. And he couldn’t afford to lose his job; if anything, he needed to work more.
The fresh-faced young man looked downright desperate to find reliable childcare, says Shannon Lockstedt, director of WC4C, the Williamson County Community Coordinated Childcare Center. “He didn’t really know what to do, where to go; he seemed lost.” For over a year, he’d tried using a babysitter who proved unreliable and caused him to miss work. He turned to other babysitters for help—but one day he came home to find that his little girl had suffered bruises and an unexplained skull fracture. He had to find quality, licensed child care—fast—and find a way to pay for it.
“I was at my wit’s end,” he says. Then someone directed him to WC4C. “Shannon was the one who answered the door,” he recalls. “She was very warm and welcoming and gave me a tour of the entire facility.” She also explained that financial help was available for parents like him. In fact, WC4C offers scholarships for child care and helps parents find other financial assistance as well. “Shannon was a great help. She knew where I needed to go to get the papers to fill out to get on the waiting list for the WC4C scholarship,” he says. She also directed him to Texas Workforce Solutions, and between the WC4C scholarship and what Workforce Solutions provided, he was able to secure quality care for his daughter. “There are a lot of hoops and loops,” Shannon acknowledges, “but he did everything as I told him.”
The whole purpose behind WC4C, explains executive director Lisa Rivers, is to “give families a hand up instead of a hand out—helping them to work to improve their lives during a time when they need help the most.” The organization’s founder, Mary Rodriguez, was a divorced mom of three who relied upon assistance to raise her kids while getting a college degree and a job, and she established WC4C to give other parents the same assistance. “There is a huge gap in needed services in this area,” Lisa says. “I’ve worked in the social service field in the Travis and Williamson Counties for almost thirty years. I have never known a nonprofit organization to provide child care scholarships and quality child development services”—until she found WC4C.
“For the first time in her life,” the father says, “my daughter is happy to go to daycare. There’s been a fantastic upswing in her vocabulary.” Shannon agrees. “She has a routine now”—regular snacks, naps, playtimes, and hot, homemade lunches. She’s taken quickly to the Texas School Ready Curriculum, under which, Shannon says, “she’s trying to write her name. She loves to draw. She loves books.”
And the father has flourished, too. Taking on the care of a young child was daunting for him, to say the least. He had to get the hang of diapers and baby food, baths and naps, runny noses and crying jags. “I was a little nervous,” he admits, but “I knew I was the only parent that she had left and that I had better do as good a job at it as I possibly could.” When developmental milestones like potty training have come up for the little girl, he says, WC4C staff members “have given me tips and shown me tricks to speed the process along and make it enjoyable for my daughter as well.”
He’s been able to work fulltime since finding WC4C, and now he and his daughter have a stable home life. He makes breakfast for the two of them every morning and then drops her at WC4C before going to work all day. After work, the two of them run errands, eat dinner, and color or play with stickers before her bedtime. The young dad cringes when he thinks of what his little girl’s life was like before he found WC4C. “It pains me to have seen her go through all that [she went through],” he says. “She shouldn’t have had such shady people in her life to care for her while I was away at work.” Now, he continues, “she is a very happy child, for which I am thankful.”
The single dad is thankful, too, that he can now dream of a future. “I’m hoping to be able to pursue a degree in either some branch of civil engineering or finance,” he says. It’s a dream that is entirely possible, thanks to WC4C.
WC4C currently has a waiting list of sixty children and desperately needs to expand and offer more scholarships. To donate or to sponsor a child, call (512) 966-1500. “The need for assistance is tremendous,” says Lisa Rivers.