Diocese to open first Early Learning Center – Director named, website launched for August opening
By Kenneth J. Souza
ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Fall River Diocesan School Superintendent Steve Perla has announced the appointment of Christine Barrett (below) as the director of the new Little Flower Early Learning Center, located on Palm Street in Attleboro.
The Little Flower Early Learning Center, to open on August 26, will be the first-of-its-kind in the Fall River Diocese to offer a faith-based, innovative, and affordable child care program for children from six weeks to 3.9 years of age.
“The central purpose of launching an early learning center under the direction of the diocese is to provide families with the first-of-its-kind, faith-based, safe and nurturing environment for the newest members of our community,” according to Sandra Drummey, assistant superintendent of schools for the diocese. “The name Little Flower is inspired by our patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux. We partner with parents to help each child see the unique gift they are.”
Market research indicates that there continues to be a need for high quality child care where every child is valued, respected and accepted as an individual with unique qualities, needs and patterns of growth.
Recent diocesan market research on Catholic education shows that parents with young children are most interested in a safe and nurturing environment along with the opportunity for character development.
“Character and moral development is so important to begin at a young age when children are very curious and learning lifelong behaviors,” Drummey told The Anchor. “Every day we hear examples of how the breakdown of morals has negatively affected our world. In order to help correct this trend, centers like Little Flower will help teach the fundamentals of living a Christ-centered life to the next generation.”
Given today’s family structure in which both parents often find it necessary to work at least part-time, the Little Flower Early Learning Center will provide an important and safe environment for their children.
“Parents and families are the number one teachers of children and for those families where both parents must work, Little Flower will augment the faith development these students experience at home,” Drummey said. “It is important to instill a life that follows the teachings of Jesus at an early age so that it more naturally becomes a part of the students’ lives later on.”
Unlike preschool, the center will be for children aged six weeks through 3.9 — hopefully preparing them to continue on in one of the diocesan Pre-K programs and Catholic schools.
“The academic program planned for the Little Flower students will prepare them for the high academic rigor of our Catholic schools, from Pre-K through high school,” Drummey said. “More importantly, Little Flower prepares these students for the unique and wonderful culture of our Catholic schools, such as daily prayer, weekly Mass, religion classes, community service, family environment and individual attention to each student. These are qualities that are not found in any other educational platform and — once experienced — are highly valued as an integral part of a child’s educational experience.”
There are four distinct programs offered at the Little Flower Early Learning Center.
The infant program is designed to encourage social, emotional and communication development for an infant’s first year which will revolve around the infant’s schedule. Little Flower will include a sensory-based curriculum using the Massachusetts Learning Standards and Curriculum Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers.
The toddler program introduces children to a more scheduled day in a larger group setting. The activities keep a toddler’s active curiosity in mind as well as include the teaching of prayer, art, and gross motor skills.
The pre-school children will experience a more structured day, with the introduction of some basic science, math and manipulatives. Children will also begin to learn the alphabet and numbers.
The school age drop-in program allows busy parents to have a reliable and safe place for their school age child (up to eight years of age) when school changes occur, such as weather closings and professional days. Many parents do not have the flexibility to change their work schedule when school closes, so Little Flower offers these families a solution to immediate child care issues.
New director Christine Barrett is “a lifelong and innovative early childhood educator, and she will shape an engaging, loving, and quality center,” said Perla in his announcement of her appointment.
“I truly enjoy meeting the families and children and am so proud and honored to represent this wonderful new endeavor of the diocese,” said Barrett. “Early childhood education has been my passion for my entire career, and now I am even more excited to lead a program that infuses age-appropriate faith and educational programs. Children are so inquisitive at these young ages, this is the perfect time to help them learn.”
Barrett has a Bachelor’s degree in English and an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education, and has 24 years of experience as a Center Director and preschool teacher. She is married and has been blessed with twin daughters and resides in Cumberland, R.I., where she’s an active parishioner at St. Basil the Great Church in Lincoln, R.I.
“My deep faith is a result of growing up in a Catholic household, attending Catholic schools K-12, teaching CCD for 25 years and attending church weekly,” Barrett told The Anchor. “This has led towards my devotion to family and religion. My passion and life-long dedication working with children and families leaves me to believe it is my calling from God to lead Little Flower Early Learning Center.”
“The Little Flower Early Learning Center is a wonderful extension of our Catholic school system and we are so honored to have someone of Christine’s faith and extensive early education background to lead this center,” Drummey added. “Parents will immediately feel comfortable that their child or children will have wonderful care in addition to the academic foundation that will prepare them for Pre-K and Kindergarten.”
Barrett hopes the Little Flower Early Learning Center will “provide a Spiritual foundation for children’s developmental needs, supported with a safe and nurturing environment. The outcome of this will be an excellent reputation for the daycare, leaving lifelong memories for the children to carry with them forever.”
The Diocese of Fall River is also pleased to announce the launch of Little Flower’s new colorful and whimsical website, which is www.littleflowerelc.org. This website provides families with the necessary information on the programs available for their children, the academic schedule taught to each classroom of students, as well as very specific goals the center has for each family and child.
The Little Flower Early Learning Center will accept child care vouchers. For more information, including tuition rates, please call Christine Barrett at 508-455-0145.