WATERVILLE — The Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers announced on Friday it will replace its Children’s Place program at the end of the month with a new one thanks to its new partnership with a Benton-based child care company.

As of Feb. 28, the program known as the Children’s Place Early Care & Education Center will end after 18 years of operation and relaunch on March 2 as Bright Beginnings Learning Center — Waterville.

Bright Beginnings was founded by co-owners Angela Parker and Heather Owen in 2015 and cares for children from 6 weeks to 5 years old. The center, located at 20 Benton Plaza in Benton, has five classrooms where children are grouped based on developmental ability.

It was three weeks ago that the Children’s Home reached out to Parker and Owen after hearing positive things about the company through community members.

“We had done a survey of several area child care providers and they were one that several community members recommended,” said Richard Dorian, executive director for the Children’s Home. “And it was their focus, positive energy and professionalism that was really impressive to us.”

Owen said once she and Parker realized the organization had similar goals to Bright Beginnings, they knew the partnership was the right decision.

“They reached out and asked to have a chat with us,” Owen said in a phone interview Friday. “And once we got to talking we just realized that we had similar goals when it came to the care of children and so the partnership just snowballed from there.”

Bright Beginnings’ Benton location will remain open with Owen and Parker alternating time between 20 Benton Plaza and the new program on the Dorothy ‘Bibby’ Alfond campus at 93 Silver St. in Waterville.

The partnership comes after the Children’s Home, a private nonprofit organization that operates off fundraising and endowment funds, faced financial uncertainty with its Children’s Place program.

Last January, Dorian announced that the school would have to scale back on class sizes and staff by the summer if they were still unable to access funding from grant partnerships or state aid.

Restructuring began in August, when the Children’s Place program went from serving 53 children to 36 and made cuts to three 5-year-old classrooms, Dorian said.

But now with the new partnership, the Children’s Home can continue providing quality child care to families of Central Maine while working to regrow its program size back to 50 children.

“Within a couple of months we expect that we’ll have capacity to serve up to 50 kids again,” Dorian said. 

The weekly rates for Bright Beginnings Learning Center — Waterville are $170 for preschool age children, $190 for children 2 to 3 years old, and $210 for children 6 weeks to 2 years old. 

This is compared to the Children’s Place prices which were $230 for children 6 weeks to 5 years old.

The exact number of instructors is still up in the air because according to Dorian, some Children’s Place instructors may leave and some may stay.

“One of the difficulties in all of this we have such a great reputation because of our staff,” Dorian said. “And the hardest transition on all of this is with the staff, some of them will stay, some may move on, but we’re grateful for all of them and their years of work, they’ve done extraordinary work for children.” 

Owen said the new partnership is something she and Parker are very excited about.

We’re super excited and we just hope that the families are willing to give us a chance,” Owen said. “We’ll show them that we strive to provide quality education and care for these children.”

The Children’s Home has also been partnered with Kennebec Valley Community Action Program and early childhood education program Educare as a community provider in its Early Head Start grant since 2014.

Though this partnership will conclude at the end of the month, Educare will continue to provide care in a new classroom and supply resources such as teaching coaching, professional development, equipment, family support, diapers, wipes, snacks and meals, according to a news release sent out on Friday.

The Maine Children’s Home was founded in 1899 and reaches 3,000 families statewide per year with its adoption services, counseling, teen parent school, Christmas programs, summer camp scholarships and referral programs.

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