Robin Harrington has been caring for children for much of her adult life.
Whether it was raising her own two kids, or helping look after her grandchildren, taking careful care of the youngest among us has been a constant for the East Haven native.
And so, when she saw both her sons struggle to find affordable, quality daycare it gave her an idea — one that she shared with her friend and fellow East Haven resident Katie Durand.
Durand has also been involved in caring for children for much of her life, working as a full time nanny as well as in a day care center, including working with children with special needs. She also had often assisted in looking after some of Harrington's own grandchildren.
Affordable, Quality Care
"As I watched my son experience the struggle with the cost of daycare, it really affected me," Harrington said.
So much so, she came to Durand with her idea: let's open a childcare center with the purpose of not only providing quality care but also care that local shoreline families can afford.
"We said, 'We'll create a more affordable program but one that also has a strong educational component,'" Durand said.
Cedar Street Site
Once they had their concept, the two women then began their hunt for a good location that would be easy access for area families. And eventually they found it: 172 Cedar Street in Branford, which is just off Exit 54 on Interstate 95, easily accessible to North Branford and East Haven.
The site previously housed Kids Town, which closed last July, so it was the perfect spot for the two to set up shop.
With a good idea and the right location, the two now set their focus on finding the right head teacher for the center.
Enter: Meghan O'Connell. The Guilford native recently graduated from Middlesex Community College with a degree in early childhood education. And like Harrington and Durando, she said working with children is her true calling.
"I love children, I love their uniqueness — how each one is so different from the other," O'Connell said. "And I just love to seeing how they grow."
Full Service Program
ABC Learn with Me received its license from the state on March 6. Since then, the women have been finishing their work prepping the center and accepting enrollments — the first of which came from a North Branford family.
The center offers a full service program for children from 6 weeks old up to 12 years old. That includes both before and after-school care, as well.
Working with Families
In addition to recognizing the financial burden of the cost of day care for one child, the women say they are also willing to work with families who need to provide care for multiple children.
"We will do our best to work with those families on the financial level," Harrington said.
The center will also offer a number of sick days at no cost to the family.
'Take a Vacation'
Additionally, ABC Learn with Me will also be one of the few centers or home daycare programs that will be giving families a week of vacation..
The center will be open 52 weeks a year. And so Harrington said families who have a child enrolled in the program for one year or more will earn vacation time based on daily hours.
"So, after being with us for one year, take a vacation, no need to pay for daycare while not using it, take that money and enjoy it on something special during your vacation," Harrington said.
The center's enrollment fee is $125, of which $100 goes toward the first week's tuition and $25 for processing the enrollment paperwork.
But, Harrington said the center is offering a special to Patch readers.
"If they mention the article, we'll waive the $25 processing fee," she said.
'Love Working with Children'
As the team of three childcare professionals continue their work enrolling new families, as well as putting the finishing touches on the center and their program, their focus continues to remain on the children their work will serve.
"All three of us, the more we get to know each other, the more we realize how much we really do love working with children," Durand said.