Jeannifer is a parent of a child, Sophia, at HACC’s Birth to Five Early Childhood Education Program at the Sheila Reynolds Berner Family Center in Rogers Park. The Family Center provides a high-quality, affordable early childhood education for 116 children ages 0-5 years old in a full-day program. Hear from Jeannifer herself about how important this Head Start program has been for her family!

I’m a Guatemalan immigrant, and moved to Chicago in 1993. I have been living in Chicago for 24 years. I came when I was 16 years old and cared for my three younger brothers while my parents worked in chocolate factory from morning until night. When they came home, I then went to work at the factory in the evening.

I’ve worked as a babysitter for children with different needs, including children with disabilities. Currently I work helping seniors over 80 years old, which I love so much. I love the companionship and also physically being able to reach things for them and keeping them safe from falling and hurting themselves when it’s difficult for them to do their daily routines.

I take care of everyone and the Family Center takes care of my daughter and me. As a single mom, it has been the best place we have found.

I earn about $12,000 per year doing caretaking work–which is hard for my family. Childcare cost at least $500 a month at a private daycare. That’s $6,000 per year, which half of my salary. I wouldn’t be able to take care of my daughter and keep her safe, or I would have to work two jobs to make ends meet. I would not be able to spend time with her.

Did you know?

Childcare with private or for-profit providers who don’t accept Action for Children subsidized care vouchers can cost parents anywhere from $500 to $1,300 (or higher) per month depending on multiple factors. For instance, costs can differ depending on the size and location of the program and whether a child is receiving part-time or full-time care.

Almost all of the families at HACC’s Family Center qualify for Action for Children. The childcare monthly copayment for each family is calculated by the state of Illinois based on family size and income–and this differs state by state. The lowest copayment at the Family Center is $2 and and the highest is $300 (still significantly less expensive than childcare with private or for-profit providers).

At the Family Center I pay no more than $100 per month. Sophia is three years old, and has been in the Family Center since she was nine months old.

A friend of mine told me about HACC and she knew other children who came to the center. Some of the seniors I work for were former librarians and teachers, in the arts, and in the medical field. They said Head Start was a great program for Sophia. There were many great recommendations to come to the Family Center!

I live three blocks away from the center, so it was also convenient for a working mother, and I didn’t have to pay for the bus or train.

Sophia can stay until she can go to kindergarten in a quality program with teachers she trusts and children she’s been with since she was a baby. At three years old, she has already learned how to count and to say and read the alphabet in Spanish and in English. I am impressed by the teachers and how they are really dedicated to preparing her for the future.

She’s so excited to tell me what she learns everyday. When we go to the park and she sees a classmate she’s so happy to play with them. These friends have become like little cousins– part of our family.


My life in photos


Do you or someone you know need affordable childcare?

The Family Center is always accepting applications for all ages, and currently has spaces for four-year-olds. Contact Stephania Koliarakis for more information

Edited by and first photograph by Rachel Hoffman