Center offers free after-school drop-in program
Liberty Park Child Development Center, a faith-based outreach ministry, now operates a free after-school drop-in program for school-age neighborhood children. The center closed its licensed day care because of cuts in state funding for day care that made access to the program difficult for too many needy families.
They now offer a no-cost Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) pre-kindergarten and faith-based school-aged drop-in programs for children in Spokane’s East Central and South Perry neighborhoods.
The center, located in the Liberty Park Terrace Apartments, a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidized housing project, partners with the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest.
Spencer Grainger, director, said the after-school program primarily serves families in the Liberty Park Terrace apartments, where the center is located, but it is open to all neighborhood children.
“There are many refugee families, and, because of the language barrier, many of the parents cannot help their children with homework,” he said. “About half the children we serve have English as a second language.”
Previously, many neighborhood children ran around the apartment complex after school, he said. With the drop-in program free, they are able to participate.
The ECEAP program includes family support and leadership development for parents of 40 low-income families, Spencer said.
Some families have no income. Some are homeless. Most are non-white. A third of the families at Liberty Park Apartments are refugees who do not speak much English and are sometimes illiterate in their native languages. Most of the refugees are Burmese, Sudanese, Eritrean and Iraqi.
“We work closely with parents to prepare their children for public education and to ensure they can find work, learn English, apply for public assistance, negotiate the legal system and pursue their personal goals,” he said.
ECEAP has no Christian education component, but the after-school drop-in program, called “The Champions,” does.
Participants are of the same demographics as the ECEAP program. It is not childcare but “a youth development ministry,” Spencer said. “The program fosters cross-cultural communication, conflict resolution, compassion and creativity.”
In addition to helping the children with homework, the children talk about the “fruits of the spirit,” like love, joy and peace, and engage in Bible lessons.
The children also play outside as weather permits. They also do crafts and play games inside.
The coordinator for The Champions is David Jones, who has worked in international youth ministry. He spent 12 years in Ukraine, working with orphaned children, and learning the people’s language and customs.
Parents and volunteers from local universities and churches assist with the program.
Funding is from donations by churches and individuals.
“Statistically, students participating in after-school programs have better class attendance, higher grades, better test scores and better behavior in school,” Spencer said. “Youth crime rates peak between 3 and 6 p.m., so the program is part of community safety, providing constructive, spiritually nourishing activities.”
He added that success in education, life skills and relationships gives children the ability to move out of generational poverty.
For information, call 534-0957, email email@example.com or visit libertyparkkids.org.
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