Henry Ford College’s Expanding Children and Families Program

Children and Families students working with math manipulatives.
Photo courtesy of Marlene White

The following is an interview conducted with Mrs. Marlene White who is the director, and an instructor, of the Children and Families Program at Henry Ford College. Mrs. White has been in the early childhood profession for around 37 years and taught at Wayne County Community College as well as University of Detroit-Mercy before deciding to teach at Henry Ford College.

Malak: How did the Children and Families Program begin and how does it differ from the Child Development Program?

White: The Children and Families Program was developed at Henry Ford College in 2010. The professors and instructors who developed the program were a combination of early childhood instructors and professors from both Henry Ford Community College (at the time) and the University of Michigan Dearborn Professors. This program was developed due to a high interest for an Associate Degree focusing on children ages birth to five years old.

The Children and Families Associate Degree focus on those interested in working with children ages birth - five years old. This is a career degree, and those graduating with this degree can work as early childhood educators in Private Centers, Head Start and Early Head Start Programs, GSRP (Great School Readiness Programs), and even establish their own in-home child care.

The Child Development Program is not a career program, but the Child Development Associate Degree is a stepping stone degree for those interested in transferring over to an Elementary Certification program at a university.

M: What made you decide to take on the Children and Families Program at HFC in 2012?

W: I saw the posting for a full time Early Childhood Instructor in 2012 and knew this position was meant for me. While being interviewed for this position, I discovered that not only did they want someone who would teach full time but, they also needed someone to run the program. Being that I am always up for a challenge, I kindly accepted. When I accepted the position as the Children and Families Program Director and Instructor, I could only see before me the future and growth of this [basically new] program

M: What majors require a high number of courses from this program?

W:There are not many other programs on campus that require a high number of courses from my program; however, I often have the pleasure of having nursing students, child development students, criminal justice students, social work students, and even parents raising little ones- who just want information on how to work with their children- register for my program’s courses.

M: The Children and Families Program had only around 40 to 50 students back in 2011 to 2013, until recently. Now there around 700 students taking courses under the program. What exactly attracted attention from students to the field of Early Childhood in such a drastic measure in a short amount of time?

W: The Early Childhood profession has been around for a very long time however, it has really exploded over the past two years. Students have become more attracted to the early childhood field because of the popularity of programs such as GSRP, Head Start and Early Head Start. These are federally funded and State funded programs. These programs are designed for low income children and will continue to grow in the years to come as there is a continued need to provide early childhood education services for low income children and their families. The programs mentioned above do provide higher pay than a typical [private] early childhood program as well as benefits. Not only are educators with Associate Degrees working in the above programs but, teachers with Bachelor degrees and an elementary certification [with ZS endorsements] are also in lead teaching positions in GSRP programs. The government and state are finally listening to the research on the importance of education in the early years [particularly 0-3] and they are actually putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak.

With the ongoing requests for early childhood educators, I only expect the Children and Families Program to continue to grow in order to meet the needs of those in the surrounding communities who will need to return to school to meet requirements for their jobs.

M: What are some of the collaborations that the program is currently or will soon be a part of? How exactly do students work with the program when it is moved to a different location?

W: When I became director over the program, I initiated my first collaboration off campus with Excellent Schools Detroit. This organization’s purpose is to reach out to organizations that will help provide training [college courses] for early childhood workers in the surrounding Detroit neighborhoods. The first off campus classes for this partnership was initiated in 2013 and has since grown. My program have provided off campus classes for Dearborn Public Schools, Matrix Head Start, Detroit Public Schools, private centers and soon The Guidance Center Head Start.

Often these classes are offered on a day, location, and at a time that is most convenient for the program employees. Classes have taken place in the late evening on a week day as well as on Saturdays.

These classes also benefit the typical campus student as well. They are free to register for these off campus courses if the day, time and location fit their needs.

M: What is one thing you love about the Children and Families Program and want other HFC students to know about?

W: I am very lucky to have six well educated and experienced part time early childhood instructors teaching in the Children and Families Program. All of my instructors come from an early childhood background and all are still currently working in the field. What is truly exciting is that I recently hired my first male to teach in the program. He is a Montessori teacher and teaches preschool children.

The Children and Families Program have such wonderful students who really do love young children. I love seeing students come into the program and actually graduate out of the program with so much knowledge. I love the fact that as instructors, we learn so much from the students in this program.

I have big plans for this program and I can only envision it growing even more. My program is currently working on accreditation. I believe self evaluation is the best thing for the students in the program. Once the program is accredited, the students and universities will know that my program is providing the best experiences and the most up to date information on what is developmentally appropriate.

The Children and Families Program will be hosting an on campus “Turn Off the TV-Family Literacy Night” Event on Thursday, June 16 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Student Welcome Center. There will be more to come soon as flyers are distributed.

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