First 5 Lex Partner Spotlight: Family Care Center
We are in the midst of a blog series to show appreciation for our community partners and supporters! Today, we are going to TALK with Joanna Rodes, the Director of the Family Care Center and Director of Family Services for the City of Lexington. The Family Care Center offers four core services: a 5-star early childcare program, an onsite high school for teen parents, a home-based program for families who are expecting or who have just delivered a child (called HANDS) and an intensive case management program called the family service coordination program.
Let’s learn more about the Family Care Center in our question and answer session with Joanna!
Can you talk about your role with the Family Care Center, and what a typical day may look like for you?
My job is the Director of the Family Care Center, but my official title is the Director of Family Services for the City of Lexington. All family services are based at the Family Care Center. A typical day under normal circumstances involves having the children and teen mothers in the building, and there’s a lot of action going on. Given the very operational nature of this place, there’s always something happening - whether that’s a great thing, an event, or a little bit of a crisis. We have a number of services provided offsite too, which are in the homes or the communities.
Can you tell us about the Family Care Center’s community outreach? What role do you play in the community?
We provide services, so our outreach is geared toward informing the community of our services and trying to better connect with the people who would be interested in receiving those services.
Photos taken prior to Covid-19 restrictions.
Can you tell us about your early childcare program?
Our early childcare program serves children 6 weeks up until they’re ready to start kindergarten. The program is open to anyone who is looking for quality childcare. We’re rated 5 stars by the state, which is the highest rating you can receive as a childcare center. The program has been in existence since the Family Care Center started and it’s been a big part of what we do.
Some people think that our childcare program is only open to teen parents, but that’s not true - it’s open to everyone! We do prioritize the applications toward families with lower income to ensure they have priority. Our early childcare program also partners with Head Start and with Fayette County Public Schools’ preschool program.
How do your programs align with First 5’s values? / Why was partnering with First 5 Lex a logical fit?
It just seems like a perfect fit. We directly parallel with First 5 Lex because we are both focused on those early years. We are really concerned with children’s development during that really critical period of life when our brains are developing more rapidly than any other time. First 5 Lex really appreciates and promotes the information that children need to have their needs met at that point in order to thrive later.
How long has the Family Care Center been a part of the First 5 community team?
I didn't get started from the very beginning, but it was close. It hadn’t been going for long when I joined. I was invited to be a part of the core group because of my position as the Director of Family Services for the city, but also because I represent the city’s Social Services Commissioner Chris Ford.
Why do you think the First 5 message- to read, talk and play with little ones each day- is so important?
It promotes that idea that learning, and kindergarten readiness starts way before kindergarten. It’s really good for parents to know that there are simple things they can do to get their children ready for school and for lifelong learning. I really like the simple message from First 5 Lex as well, read, talk and play. Everybody can remember that. I think that’s so important and they’re doing a great job getting that message out.
In your opinion, what positive change has First 5 Lex made in the community?
Just promoting that simple message of how parents can really help their kids’ brains develop. First 5 Lex continues to explore ways to get that messaging out and it really is working. We have First 5 Lex signage posted here, as well as a Read to Me Library in our lobby. That’s just one of the ways the messaging gets out and a way we promote First 5 Lex here in our facility and our programs.
How do you hope to continue to partner with First 5 in the future?
Probably just more of the same. The staff at First 5 Lex is always full of new ideas and always working on new ways to get the message out. I think they know we are eager to initiate whatever they ask us to in terms of messaging and educating our clients. So, we will continue that commitment for as long as First 5 Lex exists.
Just for fun:
What is your favorite children’s book to READ?
My favorite children’s book is a good bedtime story called Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger. It’s just a really beautifully illustrated, simple book that is very peaceful and quiet. Around here, my favorite books are the funny ones. Some of the ones I really love are Duck on a Bike by David Shannon and Stanley’s Party by Linda Bailey. They are both really fun animal stories, and preschoolers really get a kick out of funny books about pets and the silly things that they do.
If you have an afternoon with nothing scheduled, how would you PLAY?
I love to play games with my daughter. One of the first things she wanted to do when she came home from college for Christmas was to play cards. And I was thrilled about that! So that’s how I play as an adult. I do like to get out in nature and hike and things like that as well.
If you could TALK with one person, from the past or present, who would it be, and what would you ask them?
I feel very fortunate that most of the folks I would want to talk to are accessible to me. One person that comes to mind is Jean Sabharwal, who is the founding director of the Family Care Center. She’s known for her passion for young children and their well-being, which is the whole reason she started the Family Care Center. She has made herself available to me since I’ve been the director for the past nine and a half years. I love talking to her, not just to ask simple questions about the operations here, but also to be redirected to the whole intention of this place and its mission. Talking to her always helps me renew my commitment here and keeps me inspired to be the best person I can be for this place.
We’d like to give a big thank you to Joanna and everybody at Family Care Center who is making a positive impact in Lexington!