Sharon Holloway-Gentemann, Director of World of Care, a medical care facility that also serves typically developing children.
Sharon Holloway-Gentemann understands the parents of kids with disabilities. As the program director of World Of Care, the well-loved medical care center for children with complex health issues, she witnesses what parents go through on a daily basis. Everyday life is stressful enough, but caring for a child with a complex health condition is a unique and unrelenting challenge. Often a family’s entire focus is on the daily routine of treatment for the children, and little attention is paid to the health and well being of the family members.
While most care centers offer no respite for the parents themselves, World of Care takes a slightly different approach. Not only does World Of Care provide nurturing care and medical attention to children with a variety of complex health conditions, but also it tries to make things easier on the families as a unit.
The different approach is evident the moment you enter through the doors of World Of Care. Immediately you are met with bright classrooms filled with developmentally appropriate toys, books, and arts and crafts supplies. This could be any well run child center except for the fact that children who have medical conditions requiring daily nursing care and children with developmental disabilities who require multiple therapies are playing side-by-side with typical toddlers and preschoolers. Creating a nurturing environment for such a diverse group of learners is part of the reason for the wide mix of kids.
Holloway-Gentemann explains that the diversity within the center was really born out of the spirit of supporting the child by supporting the family. She saw that for many parents who were coming from far away, commuting to World Of Care became a job in itself. In many cases, World Of Care would be the first stop for parents, who then had to take a second child to a preschool that served typical children. In order to relieve the stress on parents, World Of Care began to offer childcare services to typical siblings of disabled kids. The change has been a wild success. Not only has it been a huge relief for parents, the diverse atmosphere helps all the children learn and grow.
Another family friendly stress reliever is a popular monthly program called “weekend respite.” Like the name implies, this is a chance for parents to have a break beyond the typical workday hours. These few hours on the weekend gives parents a chance to catch up, re-connect and replenish. Group meetings for parents, run by a social worker, give parents an opportunity to swap stories, lend support and blow off steam.
As Holloway-Gentemann sees it, the important work doesn’t only happen inside the walls of the center. A big part of World Of Care’s mission is help teach the community about living with medical and developmental disabilities. World Of Care runs workshops for nurses and residents to give them a sense of what life is like for families with a disabled child. The center also partners with the Towson University Service Learning Club.. “It’s incredible to see a college students out the playground with the kids having a good time,” Holloway-Gentemann says.
The wide range of diversity in the center requires a very well trained staff that includes aides, nurses, social workers as well as teachers. Aside from all the necessary training, credentials and state requirements, Holloway-Gentemann looks for caregivers who are willing to do self-evaluation. “Are they willing to change their views and their practice?” She asks. It is same question the center asks others in the community when dealing with kids who struggle with health or developmental disabilities, they ask themselves.
When asked how she measures success, Holloway-Gentemann answers, “ Of course one of the easiest ways is to see if a child has met developmental milestones, but for World Of Care, an equally important measurement is if [we] offer relief or stability for a family. If they don’t have help. Didn’t get any sleep. And we’re there for them. Well, then we’re doing a good job.”
As many relived parents would attest, they are doing a very good job indeed.
World of Care is a participant in the Maryland EXCELS Program, where it has earned a 4-check rating for its services and commitment to professional development for staff.
What is Maryland EXCELS?
Maryland EXCELS is a voluntary Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). A QRIS is a program that awards ratings to family providers, center-based and public school child care programs, and school age before and after school programs that meet increasingly higher standards of quality. Maryland EXCELS has three goals:
- To recognize early care and school age education programs that provide quality care;
- To encourage providers to increase the level of quality provided in their programs; and
- To provide parents with information and choices about quality child care.
Maryland EXCELS has standards in five broad program areas of early care and education, including licensing, learning environments, staffing and professional development, developmentally appropriate learning and program practices, child assessment, program administration and policies, and accreditation.
- a medical child care center that cares for young children with complex medical needs
- an Early Head Start program in Baltimore City for homeless infants and toddlers
- a parent training program for parents who have intellectual disabilities and have a child under age three.
7000 Tudsbury Rd.
Baltimore , Maryland 21244
410-298-7000 ext 41928