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Last month, 30 women graduated from the Home Childcare Program organized by Horn of Africa and the International Rescue Committee, two non-profit organizations in City Heights. The 27-hour program consists of 15 hours of state-mandated CPR, first aid, and preventative health training, and 12 hours of child development and behavior, nutrition, and business training. In addition, participants also completed a State of California community-care licensing orientation.

"The program was originally intended for newly arrived Somali women," says Ralph Achenbach, Horn of Africa's director of economic development. "Many of these women didn't receive formal education in their home country, which means they've come to us with limited-to-nonexisting transferable job skills. And they're often the sole breadwinners of their families. The program leverages the skills they already have of caring for children while also providing care for the children of other families in the community."

Graduates of the program have included women from nine different countries. Iraqi and Somali women have made up the largest percentages. Other nationalities have included Burma, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Uzbekhistan, and Nepal. The February 2011 graduating class included 9 Somali women and 21 Iraqi women. "One month," says Achenbach, "we had five different languages spoken in one class."

After completion of the program and the licensing orientation, graduates submit their applications to the community-care licensing division of the California Department of Social Services. Upon acceptance, they receive a facility number. Then, every adult in their household aged 18 and over must pass a background check. And, finally, their homes must pass a safety inspection.

Horn of Africa provides mobile units for fingerprinting and assists in preparing participant homes for inspection in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee. They also provide translation services when necessary. The International Rescue Committee provides additional post-licensing assistance in the form of small loans, assistance with rules and regulations, and marketing. Without a license, a person can care for the children of one family and receive pay from the State of California for subsidized childcare.

"The most noticeable effects on the program participants are an increase in income and an increase in their standard of living," says Achenbach. "I saw one woman who started off without a license caring for four children from one family. At the time, she made about $2000 a month. Now, with the license, she cares for five children and makes almost $4000 a month."

Pictured: Women in Home Childcare Program

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BobbyH3 March 28, 2011 @ 11:49 a.m.

Wow! I just left Iraq - as a soldier in the Army - in August of 2010 and now live here in City Heights. I love that this part of town has embraced so many different people from all over the world, and that these people continue to contribute to the coolness of City Heights. I truly consider myself lucky to be able to see this neighborhood in action. Great reporting.


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