The center is a key piece of the Horizons Program as the need for childcare is one of the larger barriers to women being able to participate in treatment.

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Childcare Director Caroline Sykes with Childcare Assistant Director Donata Smith.

The UNC Horizons Child Development Center, a licensed childcare center for the residential and outpatient children of the UNC Horizons Program, celebrated its grand opening Dec. 18, expanding the ways the program cares for the families it supports each year.

The new space, off Municipal Drive in Chapel Hill, will serve the center until Horizons’ new Shelton Station space in Carrboro is completed next year.

Dr. Daniel Clarke-Pearson, UNC OB-GYN’s department chair, started the morning by thanking Dr. Hendree Jones, UNC Horizons executive director, and the Horizons staff for their hard work in getting the center licensed, the space equipped and the classrooms staffed with expert caregivers in time to open. The center is a collaboration with Orange County Early Head Start.

Dr. John Thorp, McAllister Distinguished Professor at UNC OB-GYN and Horizons’ founder, returned the thanks to Dr. Clarke-Pearson, noting, “A day care like this doesn’t happen without a department like this.”

The current space will serve 30 children, with all of the children receiving comprehensive developmental evaluations and onsite services to address any identified challenges or delays. This includes four fully outfitted classrooms with a total of 10 educators serving the center, as well as state-of-the-art play equipment in a large outdoor play space.

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For the past two years, residential children and outpatient children were placed in other local child care centers, where they might not receive the full range of services Horizons can provide onsite, including physical, occupational and speech/language therapy.

Teachers at other programs do not always have the experience working with families in recovery that Horizons staff members have, or the time/awareness to mentor clients around parenting skills.

Childcare Director Caroline Sykes said the UNC Horizons Child Development Center is a key piece of the Horizons Program as the need for childcare is one of the larger barriers to women being able to participate in treatment. At Horizons, childcare is built into the overall program to aide in eliminating that barrier.

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“It provides a trauma-sensitive environment for the children of the women in the program, where they can learn and grow through various activities alongside caregivers who are nurturing, supportive and understand the special needs of the children,” she said. “Through their enrollment in the child development center, the children receive various therapies and services that take place on site and are a part of the program. The childcare team members also serve as encouragers and parent educators to the moms in the program as they team up with them to best meet the needs of the children and work together on their educational goals.”

For more than 22 years, the UNC Horizons Program, a part of the UNC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has supported thousands of women and their children through its drug addiction treatment and residential housing programs.

The program provides outpatient and residential treatment for women all over the state of North Carolina. To learn more, visit unchorizons.org.