With the right care, flowers bloom and children become industrious adults.
From infants and toddlers to tweens and teens, TradeWinds has been nurturing children with programs designed to meet the needs of local families since it was first established in the 1960s. Now, based in a newly remodeled facility with plenty of room to grow in Merrillville, the nonprofit provides a wide range of services and support for people of all ages and abilities.
“Because the focus of our children’s programs is on children with disabilities, it is not widely known that everyone is always welcome,” TradeWinds Director of Programs Lisa Previs said. “While it all started because people couldn’t find a place for children with disabilities – a safe place for when mom and dad needed to be at work and/or school – it wasn’t long before TradeWinds offered the opportunity for these parents to keep all of their children together in our licensed Child Care program both during the day and after school as well as a summer day camp to fill the gap, eliminating what had become a traveling nightmare for some.”
Along with the fact that TradeWinds staffs their Child Care with degreed teachers and trained teachers’ assistants who provide developmentally appropriate activities (including toilet training) through a curriculum guided by Paths to QUALITY, the State of Indiana’s quality rating system for children’s programs, there is also always a registered nurse on site, which offers added peace of mind to parents.
“Most child care facilities do not have a full time nurse,” Previs, who has been with TradeWinds for 25 years and worked in a variety of roles including a First Steps Evaluator and Developmental Therapy provider for 18 years and Director of TradeWinds Little Treasures Childcare for 13 years, explained. “We are also extremely fortunate to have a good number of long-term degreed educators in our program.”
For example, Tolanda Somerville, a licensed speech pathologist who has been running the Summer Camp program for about 10 years now, has been a TradeWinds employee even longer.
“I just saw the Summer Camp calendar, and there are only two days where they are not out exploring the community,” Previs said. “One of the goals has always been to see every park in the area so the kids get to know their local parks, and over time we have added so much more. There’s bowling and movies, kickball and swimming with the Y, plus field trips to places like the Challenger Learning Center in Hammond. It’s an active summer program for children of all abilities who are in Kindergarten through age 16.”
With Summer Camp and Child Care plus occupational and speech therapy services available for all children ages six weeks and up at TradeWinds, everyone enrolled has the opportunity to develop self-awareness, acceptance, tolerance and compassion.
“When you promote inclusion, celebrate differences and encourage teamwork at a young age, you foster tolerance and acceptance,” Previs added. “Our Child Care just happens to include a comprehensive program that allows children who need therapy to receive these services during the day while they are with other children their own age. For each child a qualified teacher prepares an individualized written plan with specific goals and that plan is continually monitored with progress carefully tracked and measured.”
Child Care services at TradeWinds are offered Monday through Friday from 6:30am to 6pm (with the exception of holidays) for children between the ages of six weeks and 13. Summer Day Camp will be weekdays from 8am to 5:30 pm June 16th through August 16th (except July 4). The cost is $100 per week for the entire summer with discounts for multiple children and vouchers accepted.
“The Lake County Child Care & Development Fund (CCDF) helps qualifying families obtain child care so they can work, attend training or continue their education,” Previs explained. “In addition, the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services (BDDS) assists families with community support. The most important thing families need to know is that there are programs out there that can help them. Many people are not even aware that they exist, let alone how to navigate the system. That’s where we can help.”
Two more examples of programs offered at TradeWinds in support of local families include their recent partnership with Geminus Head Start and respite care.
“We began offering Head Start for children ages 3 to 5 earlier this year, and we can assist people who would like to apply for enrollment for that,” Previs added. “We also provide caregiver relief – respite services – and offer services in-home or out-of-home, including overnight in our respite apartment. Knowing a loved one with disabilities will be receiving quality care allows caregivers to rest and restore their energy. Once again, many people do not realize these services are available and can be schedule occasionally or on a regular basis.”
The best way to learn more about TradeWinds programs for families - including Child Care, Summer Camp, Head Start and Respite Care with complete details on financial assistance for qualifying families - is to call the Admissions office and schedule a tour to see the facility and meet the staff.