Sunset Park CBO Helps Immigrant Families Find Childcare Providers

Inside look at BumbleBeesRus Daycare. Photo Credit: Andy Olivan


Immigrant families come to this country to escape the hardships of their countries of origin, seeking employment opportunities to provide for their families. Because of their immigration status, asylum-seeking migrants are excluded from a lot of service programs available to other city residents, including daycare programs. Now a new program offers daycare for these migrants’ children.

A year ago Promise NYC launched a first-of-its-kind program that provides childcare assistance to low-income immigrant families who were previously ineligible for federally-funded childcare programs. One community-based organization providing this service is the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. CFL’s goal was to enroll 185 migrant children in daycare programs; so far they have enrolled 207. 

“CFL already has an immigrant family program where they provide other services to migrant families who have been here under eight years,” said CFL staffer Adriana Hernandez. “So collaborating with Promise is just an additional service for the community because most of the migrants are Spanish speaking and Sunset Park is one of the major big communities in Brooklyn [that is] predominantly Spanish speaking.”

The whole purpose of this program is to reduce the stress that many immigrant families go through by providing them with a safe place to drop off their kids. The program also allows these children to start developing their minds. The daycare providers teach children to develop their social and cognitive skills.

“We follow the DOE curriculum. So even if you’re under Promise NYC, you’re still doing the same curriculum,” said Michelle Wong, acting director of BumbleBeesRus. The current curriculum includes learning about balls, trees, clothes, and teaching a new topic each month such as reduce-reuse-recycle. “And our school follows the focus on play as well as social-emotional theory.”

Although these programs provide childcare learning, many of these kids don’t stay very long because migrant families are housed in short-term situations, Wong recalls that two of the children brought to them under the program stayed from May to June. Tita & Titu Daycare, another Sunset Park provider in the Promise NYC program, also reported that 3 children stayed with them for a short period as their mothers were transferred to Queens.

“We did have two children, two to three children here, but since their mothers were at a refugee center here in Brooklyn, they were then transferred to Queens and so the children had to leave,” said Cornelia Martinez, director of the daycare center.

In the meantime, Hernandez has been trying to register families for the program and partnering them with a provider. Since the winter is coming, she goes by address as she feels it’s unfair to partner a child with a provider that’s 30 minutes away where they can’t afford transportation. 

“So right now I’m trying to go based [on] address and availability, but the application process itself as a whole, it goes based off of income. It goes based on how many children are applying, it goes based off of whether the child was born here or not,” said Hernandez. “More than likely they’re eligible for the program.”

Currently, the New York City Administration of Children Services (ACS) is contracted with four Community-Based Organizations (CBO) that serve immigrant communities to help people enroll in the program. The Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation serves families in the Bronx and Manhattan, La Colmena serves families in Staten Island, the Chinese-American Planning Council serves families in Queens, and CFL serves families in Brooklyn.

The Documented webpage a source for immigration news states that the program was originally funded for $10 million for the first six months to support at least 600 children from January 2023 to June 30, 2023. During the beginning of the year, CFL being one of the four organizations contracted with the city to help people enroll in Promise NYC, faced a huge demand as their slot capacity was coming to a limit.

Julia Jean-Francois, co-executive director of Center for Family Life in Sunset Park told Documented that as of January 24, CFL had nearly 160 children in the process of enrolling out of 180 potential slots for childcare assistance.

“It was such a new program, there [weren’t] clear guidelines of how many people get enrolled, who shouldn’t. So everybody was applying, everybody was getting accepted and that kind of pushed their numbers overcapacity, which is why they put a hold on new applicants,” Hernandez said.

“That’s not an issue happening right now. We do have some spots available. Not a lot, but we have some. I’ve been processing applications for the past three weeks now,” said Hernandez. “Once all the spots are filled, then another waitlist happens and then it goes based off of an opening. Let’s say a person stops attending daycare because they move to another borough, then they get transferred to that Promise department.”

Although the program is scheduled to end in June 2024, Hernandez is hopeful that it will continue because of its value for migrant children. 

“For them to come to a new country where they have the opportunity to provide some sort of education to their child starting young, I think that’s a great opportunity,” Hernandez says.