Center gives low-birth-weight babies early boost Oak Cliff: Therapy, classes help families cope with new additions
12:00 AM CST on Saturday, February 3, 2007 By JENNI BEAUCHAMP / The Dallas Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org
When Lucy Toye started as the new day care director for the Low Birth Weight Development Center in Oak Cliff, she knew her personal qualifications made her a perfect fit for the position.
JIM MAHONEY/DMN Irene Sanchez cares for 7-month-old Alex Dominguez at the Low Birth Weight Development Center, which aims to improve babies' development and parents' financial footing. Not only was her 13-year-old son born premature, but Mrs. Toye was a premature baby herself.
As the new day care director of the center, Mrs. Toye says she hopes to make it easier for children to adjust early in life.
"I feel like I can help level the playing field because I know what the expectations are," she said. "We are catching them up early so that they are all equal in the fourth grade and they can get on the basketball court or football field with everyone else.
"Our main mission is to help children meet developmental milestones," she added. "And to help parents get back on a stable financial and economic level."
Mrs. Toye remembers the pressures and stress that came with having a low-birth-weight baby and her family's financial struggles as a result.
"I have experienced having six weeks of occupational therapy and then being dropped" by her insurance company, she said. "I experienced being told that 'we cannot help him.' "
"Things like this were not available, and I wished they were," she said. "I would have liked to have had support."
The center offers an in-house computer literacy class and an English as a second language program in conjunction with El Centro College. In addition, the center also offers individual and group therapy sessions for parents while the children learn to develop basic skills.
"If we can get the mom stable and she can get her GED, then she is able to get a job and the baby is able to grow if the family is economically stable," Mrs. Toye said.
The children and the parents graduate after a three-year program that ends with the parent getting a GED.
The 5,200-square-foot center opened on Oct. 16 at 345 Calumet Ave. in west Oak Cliff, a few hundred feet from the previous center. The new facility is more than four times the size of the old one and houses four classrooms, three offices, a kitchen and a playground designed especially for fragile, low-birth-weight children.
It is open to families from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each Monday and Wednesday.
Executive Director Rick Davis says he hopes the move will help the center continue to grow.
"It was terribly important. It was critical in order for us to expand our programs and increase the number of infants and toddlers and moms and dads that we serve."
Most of the mothers who come to the center are Hispanic teenagers, speak English as a second language and have incomes below federal poverty levels, said Director of Fund Development Lin Orrin.
Ms. Orrin says that the center hopes to start a "sliding scale fee" for families that can pay for a portion of the services, but at this time, none of the families fall into that category. It costs about $1,630 a day for the services the center provides, she said.
"We have statistics that show that people who access the center make $12,000 to $14,000 a year," said Ms. Orrin.
The center receives funding from the March of Dimes, United Way research grants and individual donors. But Mr. Davis says additional resources are needed.
"We need operating funds to continue expanding our program," said Mr. Davis. "We are going to need to transition our staff from part time to full time so that we can have a full-week schedule. That will require additional dollars. That is the most significant priority at this point."