Audra Wallace, director of development for the Scottdale Child Development and Family Resource Center, said only 70 percent of residents in the center’s service area have a high school diploma.
Scottdale is an unicorporated area located between the cities of Avondale Estates and Clarkston, one of the largest refugee resettlement areas in the country. Although the center has struggled since it opened 35 years ago, Wallace said it has provided a much-needed service to the community.
“Scottdale Child Development Center started in the Toby Grant Housing Development,” Wallace said. “The county came together and asked the community what their needs were and one of the things they said was that they needed quality, affordable child care.”
The center opened in what were two units within the housing development that were donated to be used as classrooms. In 1996 the Scottdale Center held a capital campaign and raised enough money to erect the building where it’s housed now, off Warren Avenue.
Upon moving to its new location, the center began offering home-based programs in addition to those offered at the school. There are currently 90 students ages 6 months to 4 years enrolled at the center. Wallace said approximately 51 percent of the students come from low-income families.
If children cannot make it to the center it provides resources to parent that allow them to teach their child at home, or teachers from the center will go to the home.
“We actually provide at no cost, to low-income families, instructions to try to help the parents become the first line of education to their children,” Wallace said. “We have 155 children that we serve in our home-based program.”
In addition to child care, the center provides services to educate the community about teen pregnancy, parenting and nutrition, and evaluation services to assess children’s needs and ensure each child is on schedule to meet his or her developmental goals. The Scottdale center is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Wallace said only 8 percent of all preschools in the country are accredited.
“Because we’re NAEYC accredited we have to keep the student-to-teacher ratio very low,” Wallace said.
The center is funded by the county and through grants and partnerships with organizations such as The Goizueta Foundation and United Way. Wallace said lately the center has struggled because the economic downturn has caused donors to reduce funding.
At a recent event celebrating the center’s 35th anniversary, DeKalb County Solicitor General Sherry Boston read to some of the pupils. She said the center serves an important role in the community because it helps get children on the right educational track at an early age.
“We believe that education starts as early as Scottdale, which is the young preschool. For them to be ready and prepared to go into pre-K and kindergarten means that we can have students that ultimately will not become truants,” Boston said.
Boston said the correlation between the high school dropout rate and people ending up in jail is “tremendous” and getting children interested in learning as soon as possible helps prevent crime.
“Supporting a program that promotes the earliest of education [helps] us keep our community much safer because we’re producing a great crop of children that will be able to go out into the workforce and do wonderfully,” Boston said.