Conway Cradle Care, the nonprofit organization committed to assisting young parents and pregnant teens in completing their education, will open its daycare for the children of Faulkner County and Perry County students on Aug. 19.

The daycare is currently accepting enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year.

The United Way agency also provides a mentoring program centered around parenting and life skills. 

According to Diana Byrd, executive director, the program is designed to address issues facing the typical teenager’s high school experience, and the added responsibilities of child-rearing.

"Many of our students are 15 to 16 years old," Byrd said. "Basically they’re faced with the challenges of every day life, but those of taking care of a child as well. Part of our program is addressing the same responsibilities any parent would have, but they are 15. They have to worry about child care on top of school work, and extra activities become virtually impossible."

Byrd said the program encourages teens who are at risk of dropping out of school.

"The negative reactions about their life makes them wonder why they even try. They get behind in school and try to stay up with work while they’re out. They often fall behind a grade level."

Byrd said students are often the children of single-parent homes, where the parent works full-time. 

"Often times, there are siblings in the home and now they are dealing with grandchildren," Byrd said. "It’s a vicious cycle. It’s our role to address a lot of these emotional problems."

Byrd said a new goal of the organization is not only to ensure that students achieve high school graduation, but that they go on to pursue higher education.

"Now our goal is to get them on to higher education or training," Byrd said. "In today’s world it is difficult to get a job. We provide visits with college counselors."

Parenting classes and mentoring services are available for the parents of children enrolled in the daycare.

Spaces are available for children, ages six weeks to 2 years old.

"If we don’t have enough teen parents, we’ll take on some of the local teachers’ children, so we’ll have a limited number of spots for them," Byrd said.

The daycare runs out of the First Presbyterian Church at 2400 Prince St. and is licensed by the state of Arkansas.

"We’re just like every other daycare in town," Byrd said.

Teen parents sign a contract with Conway Cradle Care, obligating them to attend parenting classes and pay a monthly tuition for daycare services. 

"There is a cost for services on a case-by-case basis based on individual income and situations," Byrd said.

Conway Cradle Care is primarily funded through individual and community donations, grants, and state funds, and supports and average of 18 children each year.

The daycare is open Monday through Friday, from 7:40 a.m. to 4 p.m.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)