Mention child care in Central Oregon and someone is bound to remark about the vast shortage of available spots for kids in the area. The advent of the pandemic only made that shortage more acute, with some of the region's most vulnerable families forced to put kids in less-than-ideal care, to stay home and face the economic impacts of reducing their work hours, or to make countless other tough and stressful decisions around parenting and child care.
With a mission "to prevent child abuse and neglect through community support and therapeutic services," MountainStar Family Relief Nursery aims to ease some of those burdens for families in need. Providing daycare and preschool is part of that equation, but it's not the nonprofit's only concern.
- Ella Taft
- Dyana Osegueda and Raisa Hisatake, two interventionists at MountainStar Family Relief Nursery, play with infants at the Bend center. Young children spend half-days at MountainStar facilities, up to several days a week.
"A lot of people have this misconception that we're just a child care or daycare for the kiddos, not realizing the work that we do with the parents and the kiddos who have had adverse childhood experiences," said Raisa Hisatake, who works with infants as an interventionist. She and other team members work with children ages birth to age five, providing enrichment and fun in MountainStar classrooms, while also providing support to families in the way of home visits, parent coaching and goal setting, basic needs like diapers and more. Watching parents slowly gain parenting as well as life skills has been very rewarding, Hisatake said.
"I am working with a family—initially she [the mother] started the program for a very particular reason, and she was very reluctant in forming relationships with other adults as well as the teachers in the classroom. She was very uncomfortable with her kiddo being in the classroom because the kiddo was just in the 'bubble wrap,'" Hisatake told the Source. "After a couple months working with her, we see so much difference in her demeanor. She's going out there, forming relationships with other adults, she's more comfortable having her kiddo here four times a week, and you can just see the parenting guidance that we provide for them is tremendously helping her with her relationship with her kiddo."
Dyana Osegueda, a bilingual interventionist, performs a similar role as Hisatake, serving Spanish-speaking families. For Osegueda, who was a 5th-grade teacher prior to working at MountainStar, the work has allowed her to grow personally and professionally.
"We're welcome into their homes, and that takes a lot," Osegueda said. "Just the things that they share with us... they're being very honest, very open. They're vulnerable, and they're here on a volunteer basis. They come here because they need the help. To be able to provide that assistance... honestly, it just makes me want to continue learning more so I can provide even better service to them."
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MountainStar has been providing services to Central Oregon families since 2001, starting with infants and younger children in Bend. It has since opened facilities in Prineville, Madras, Redmond and La Pine. In 2017, it added a preschool program for four and five-year-olds. And in 2020, MountainStar opened three classrooms under Preschool Promise, the publicly funded preschool system created by the Oregon Department of Education's Early Learning Division, providing classes for families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
Offering this wealth of services—funded primarily through donations from the local community—has been a special experience, Hisatake said.
"I just see the dedication, the effort the educators here, working with kids with special needs," she said. "I just love the community, the diversity, the inclusivity that we offer to the kiddos and the families."