Tots Time looking for new participants

Monday, November 14, 2011
Jonas Foster colors a handmade Tots Time sign on Tuesday. Tots Time is a free childcare program available to all Putnam County residents each Tuesday from 9 a.m.--noon.

Tots Time is currently looking for new participants to keep the program going and growing each Tuesday morning.

The free three-hour childcare program runs from 9 a.m.-noon at Gobin United Methodist Church in Greencastle.

The program is open to all residents of Putnam County with children younger than five.

Tots Time has been in existence for the past 32 years. The program is a part of supported by the United Way as well as the Putnam County Family Support Services (PCFSS). It is designed to provide parents with a morning out, a relief from their parenting duties for a few hours.

"It's a three-hour break from everyday childcare," PCFSS Director Cari Cox said.

The program allows parents to get some rest, go grocery shopping or just enjoy time to themselves for a few hours. Each week the children are able to participate in free play, a craft, story time and a snack.

"The children who come to Tots Time, it is typically their first daycare experience," Cox explained. "It's their first time socializing with others."

The program, which used to have to typically turn people away, is now hoping to attract more participants to make use of all the volunteer student help from DePauw University.

"I really think it has to do with the economy," Cox explained. "We usually take up to 25 kids, and we've been running at about eight."

It is believed that the economic downturn has something to do with the lack of participants. Normally, there is countywide participation now however, participants are only from Greencastle.

"We usually see a whole new group of kids start again and we haven't seen that," Cox said.

Although, there has been a drop in participation by the community, there is no lack of volunteers.

"During the school year when DePauw's in session, we have ample volunteers," Cox said. "We are able to provide a lot of individualized care and attention."

At any time during the three hours at least seven volunteers are on hand per hour. Each volunteer is able to take care of just two or three children and provide them with the personalized attention they need. At this point, volunteers are sometimes even able to take care of just one child at a time due to the lack of participation.

"Volunteers are never left alone," said Cox. "This is one of the ways to ensure the program is safe."

Along with volunteers from DePauw, provided by DePauw Community Service, there also are two lead staff members from Family Support Services. In an ever-changing world, security is important. The two lead staff members not only have to undergo a background check but are always present and supervising the program.

"DePauw Community Service volunteers make our program possible throughout the year," Cox said. "When school lets out for the summer is when we need the community to step up."

Tots Time asks that families who wish to participate in the program bring a change of clothing, diapers and wipes for their child. Also if their child has been sick within the prior 24 hours they are advised not to participate as a precaution to keeping both the staff and children healthy.

For more information about Tots Time, persons may call 653-4820.

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