Houston - After more than a year, Zakia Jackson and her 2-year-old son, Mitri, are getting into a new routine.
She drops off her son at AAMA's Early Childhood Center on Gulf Freeway in southeast Houston. Then, goes home to work.
"I don't know what I would do if this daycare was not here. It has been heaven-sent for me," Jackson emphasized.
The program was closed for more than a year due to the pandemic.
As a single mom, she says, for the first 6 months she tried doing it all on her own.
"It got to a point where I couldn't take it anymore so I had to ask for help," she explained. "There are things that as moms we try to do we try to take the full load, but I did ask my mom to start assisting me a couple of days out of the week."
A recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics highlights how the pandemic made an already bad situation, worse: finding safe, reliable, and affordable childcare. Communities of color and low-income families have been disproportionately impacted.
According to the Urban Institute, more than half of all families with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level lost work or income during the early part of the pandemic.
In the Latino community, it was more than 60 percent of families. Among Latinos who remained employed, only 23 percent were able to work from home compared to 42 percent of all parents surveyed.
"A lot of our parents are single moms, a lot of our parents, even those that are married, are living below the poverty line," noted Kharaven Guevara, Program Director, AAMA Early Childhood Center.
The center opened more than 20 years ago. It was intended for teen moms at George Sanchez Charter School.
Now, it's open to anyone.
"Our parents have been able to go back to work, look for work," Guevara told FOX 26.
With the help of grants and donations, they are able to provide childcare at low or no cost.
"We've been able to actually provide free childcare for the last two months for our parents and it is based off the funding that we receive," Guevara added.
She boasts the program is also known for it quality including NAEYC accreditation, Texas Rising Star 4 certified, and it is part of United Way's Bright Beginnings program.
Jackson says she immediately noticed her son's vocabulary expand when she re-enrolled him.
"He's saying multiple words. He is pointing at his animals. He's saying his numbers and his letters," she said smiling.
Guevara says the center currently has 16 students enrolled with an immediate opening for 50 students. She adds more will open soon.
For more information or to enroll in AAMA's Early Childhood Center call 713-929-2442. Open enrollment ends August 31, 2021.
For those who wish to support the program by donating supplies such as diapers and art supplies, call 713-929-2442.