“The horses don’t know that it’s Thanksgiving," stated Joanne Adams Executive Director of the Belmont Child Care Association, Inc. in New York, when describing the 365-day per year care that is provided to horses by racetrack backstretch workers. These non-traditional work schedules of those employed on the backstretch present a unique challenge for families with young children.
In effort to find a solution to the need for quality, affordable childcare on the backstretch, a group of owners, trainers and their spouses convened and, ultimately founded the Belmont Child Care Association, Inc. (BCCA). The dedicated group got to work fundraising and, through the generosity of many in the Thoroughbred industry, Anna House was constructed and opened its doors in 2003. This state-of-the-art childcare center, named for the daughter of a large donor, is located at Gate 6 directly on the grounds of Belmont Park Race Track and is for the benefit of families working at the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA’s) racetracks.
“The facility itself is beautiful and the love poured into this building is remarkable,” said Adams. With approximately 60 children enrolled in the program, aged infant through five years, Anna House focuses on early childhood education and development with the assistance of valued partner Bright Horizons. “Bright Horizons provides the curriculum and the child care staff. They do a great job of targeting the curriculum to the kids’ interests.”
The curriculum is diverse and all encompassing. In addition to an indoor classroom for traditional pre-school topics like art, music, reading and writing, Anna House also features an outdoor classroom where children learn about gardening, food production, nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. The curriculum also includes fieldtrips to some of New York City’s top landmarks and cultural centers.
“Ultimately, we are looking to level the playing field for our children and give them a head start as they enter elementary school,” mentioned Adams. Many backstretch communities are comprised of immigrants therefore the majority of the children initially enrolled in Anna House are not familiar with the English language. Many children graduate from the program fluent in English.
A new program, launched just two months ago, offers children ages 6-12 an opportunity to continue learning during their summer break from school. Adams hopes to be able to continue the school age program in the fall as a childcare solution for parents whose day typically begins at 5 a.m. – well before the start of the school day.
In addition to the invaluable child care and educational services provided by Anna House, Adams notes that she and BCCA hope to be a resource for parents as well. “I want to educate parents about the options available for their child’s education. There are so many opportunities out there but, unfortunately, many parents have limited information about their options.”
Adams is well positioned to understand the unique challenges facing families on the backside. As the former director of community relations at NYRA and a former partner in numerous racehorses she has seen all facets of the Thoroughbred industry. She hopes to utilize her vast network of community contacts to not only augment BCCA’s programming but to also introduce the larger community to the racetrack.
Like most non-profit executive directors today, Adams cites fundraising as her biggest challenge but remains optimistic. “I leave at the end of the day feeling really good about what we do and the difference we make in each child’s life. “For me, it is an honor and a privilege to be here and see what I can do to take it to the next level.” Adams is currently hard at work planning BCCA’s annual fundraiser “Racing for the Children”, to be held August 20 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
TCA is a proud to provide Belmont Child Care Association, Inc. with a 2014 grant. “TCA’s unrestricted grant will be used in a variety of ways that will ultimately benefit our program,” said Adams.