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Jerry Davich: Faith-based day-care a rising trend in region

DianOrrell (right) plays with (from left) KaylMundell 1; Eli Nieblas 1-1/2 Leah Mundell 4 new daycare Crossroads Family Church Portage

Diana Orrell (right) plays with (from left) Kaylin Mundell, 1; Eli Nieblas, 1-1/2, and Leah Mundell, 4, at the new daycare at Crossroads Family Church in Portage, Ind. Tuesday February 26, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Children ages 6 weeks old to 5 years old are welcome at Crossroads Academy.

The center’s cost is $135 a week for preschool kids ages 3 to 5, $140 a week for kids age 2, $145 a week for kids ages 13 to 24 months, and $160 a week for infants 6 weeks to 1 year old. Part time rates (three days or less) range from $25 per half day to $110 a week.

For more information, call 762-2415 or 256-9736, email office@cfcportage.com, or visit www.cfcportage.com.

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Updated: April 5, 2013 6:05AM



Johanna Nieblas already has one child, but she’s hoping for dozens more, sort of.

After months of waiting and preparing, Nieblas finally received state certification for her latest labor of love, Crossroads Academy Child Care & Preschool, which celebrated its birth and grand opening on Tuesday.

The day-care center ministry, located inside Crossroads Family Church in Portage, is the newest church- or worship-based child care facility in Northwest Indiana, a rising trend here and across the country. Why? Several reasons, I’m told by faith leaders.

With society becoming more secularized, they feel that children need to have a “Christ-centered” learning environment and a more “godly influence.” On a broader level, churches are struggling to remain relevant and active in the lives of people under 40, and child day-care is another way to reach this fading-away demographic.

“One of the best ways to do that is to offer an opportunity for their children to be educated and cared for in a church environment,” explained Crossroads Family Church Pastor Mike Bean.

On a more practical note in these hard economic times, day-care centers also serve as a new revenue stream with job employment opportunities.

“We feel that the church needs to be active in offering to the community more than just a place to come for spiritual help. It should also be a place that has practical value,” said Bean, a respected pastor who I’ve known for several years.

Over that time, Bean had considered housing a day-care center and preschool at his church that would be open to the public. But the facility and its vision never met his expectations — until last fall when Nieblas, Bean’s daughter, entered the equation.

“There’s a huge need in our community for day-care services, and I was told that the state actually likes churches opening day-care centers because they’re more reliable, trustworthy, and a building is already in place,” Nieblas told me during a tour of the facility.

Tax-exemption issues aside, church-based day-care programs are popping up across the region. And, after having Crossroads Academy on my radar since last week, I’ve noticed several Northwest Indiana churches and places of worship that offer day-care to the public.

Living Hope Church in Merrillville, for example, started its day-care program in the late 1970s, geared toward its church members. But, like many other places of worship, the program later expanded and opened its doors to the public.

“We are very pleased with the results of our day-care, and we know it provides a great service to the community,” said Doug Sheehy, senior associate pastor. “It’s a lot more than just baby-sitting. We also offer a preschool program and an after-school program to help parents whose children are in grade school.”

Living Hope’s program is state licensed, but it also is part of the state’s Paths to Quality program, which goes above and beyond standard requirements by using a “Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement System.”

“It basically assures parents that our workers are trained well and have passed courses, as well as that our day-care follows a higher standard than your normal day-care,” Sheehy noted. “Over the years, we have worked hard to be a leading day-care in the community.”

Similar visions

The vision of those faith-based programs are similar to that of Crossroads Academy, where “children will discover a passion for learning and a joy for newly discovered independence as they work together with others in a positive, Christ centered and learning based environment,” as its literature states.

Nieblas said she is forming a coalition to better network among the church-based day-care programs in this region. The coalition would be based on camaraderie as opposed to competition, which is a free-market factor with more secularized day-care companies.

Practical value, as Bean noted earlier, is surely an economic concern for most parents when it comes to choosing a child care program. But I wonder if more secularized parents, such as me, would hesitate in placing their young, impressionable child in a Bible-based program.

Will their kid be biblically brainwashed? Or repeatedly taught spiritual philosophies that go against their own beliefs? Or will their child return home preaching the Gospel without fully understanding its dogmatic depths? As a young parent, these were my legitimate concerns, at least seemingly at the time.

Although my kids are now adults, I think back to when they were young tots and in need of child care, usually from my family or friends. My first and foremost concern was that they were cared for by reliable, nurturing and trustworthy providers, period — spiritual selectiveness and religious affiliation be damned.

Trust was key for me, and it’s often the overriding trump card for parents of any generation. Do you trust who watches your child? Do you trust their care? Do you trust your child’s safety in their hands?

Nieblas learned this first hand when she had her own baby boy, who is now 18 months old and, unofficially, the first customer at Crossroads Academy.

During my visit there, a mother entered the church with a young toddler in her arms. The girl immediately lit up when she saw all the toys, play-things and other toddlers inside.

“Welcome, welcome,” Nieblas told her fondly.

Such nurturing warmth is what matters most to young children, and it should be the same response for their parents, too.

Listen to Jerry’s “Casual Fridays” radio show each Friday at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.



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