The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Have You Ever Heard of Waco Child Care?

Nonprofit serves South Waco since ‘70s 

4 weeks ago

By Avery Ballmann

As people drive down Ross Avenue, they most likely miss the entrance to Waco Child Development Center, also known as Waco Child Care. The only indication of this building existing is a small white sign with a childlike cowboy and cowgirl equipped with lassos on either side of the text. Its address “1301 Ross Ave.” is listed below with a gravel road leading back to the facility. But South Waco parents don’t need an address because most likely they were once the child being dropped off.  

 As these children grow up and begin their careers in Waco, they often find themselves returning to Waco Child Care, but not as a student — as a parent. Debbie Miller, Executive Director of Waco Child Care, has looked after three generations of South Waco families and plans to continue their services despite the redevelopment of Cotton Palace Park by the City of Waco.  

 “When everybody talks about the Cotton Palace being the history of that park, if you come to South Waco, Waco Child Care is the history of that park,” Miller said. “Because we’ve got families of families.” 

 Cotton Palace Park was once a main distributor of cotton in the South and had an exposition at the palace to commemorate the end of growing season, but this tradition was halted by a damaging fire in 1895. The park reopened in 1910 but its events declined after the Great Depression. 

 Flashforward to the 1970s, Waco Child Care occupied the building behind the Cotton Palace Park that is owned by the City of Waco. Because the City owns the building, Mack Hardin, a board member for Waco Child Care and others fear that they will need to relocate; however, the board does not have enough funds to purchase a new building.  

 “Its our responsibility to set a foundation so this board, this daycare goes way beyond any of us,” Hardin said. “Part of what were trying to do here, what the alternative is, is to do outreach in the community, so that we can develop relationships that will help us get some endowment funds or other grants or whatnot, so that we have a financial future beyond us.” 

 Waco Child Care is the only nonprofit child care facility left not only in the neighborhood, but in the rest of town too. Despite its uncertain future, its main focus is to serve the families in their neighborhood.  

 “I’m not saying were perfect or anything, but we’ve always achieved and tried to do the most that we can do to benefit the kids,” Miller said. “We try to collect diapers, we give out food, especially right now, because the family’s food cost is really up.” 

 The center caters to infants and children up to 13. Ninety percent of their students are from subsidized families and receive two-thirds of their daily nutritional needs from the facility. Waco Child Care also has after school pick up, free books, testing for ADHD, ADD and Autism, free swim lessons at Hawaiian Falls in the summer and families are often sent home with free snacks, vegetables and fruits.  

 On the academic side of operations, Waco Child Care’s teachers do not have to be state-certified, but they must complete 30 hours of training per year. Waco Child Care is also a Texas Rising Star Facility — a quality rating and improvement system for childcare programs participating in the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and Child Care services program. They are classified under their highest level of a four-star rating and are measured by points from Director and Staff qualifications and training, teacher-child interactions, program administration and indoor and outdoor environments.  

 “I’m honored that parents trust us to keep their children because that’s your most precious possession,” Miller said. “Thats a big deal to me that Im serving, second and third generation of parents.” 

 While Waco Child Care provides hands-on activities such as building solar systems from dryer balls and an opportunity to try new fruits like cantaloupe, Miller said she wants to provide for the parents too, but it’s not something physically attainable.  

 “I feel like that it is my job to parent the parent and to let them know what we need to do,” Miller said. 

 Hardin recalls being taken care of by his stay-at-home mother, which was a job within itself, but he said he realizes that dynamic is rare nowadays. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 67% of families with children, both parents are employed. Family dynamics have also shifted to single-parent households or other family members caring for children. Miller also helps teen mothers with parenting advice and even some mothers work at the facility with their child in the next room.  

 With a diverse board of state employees, counselor, architect, therapist and other community members, President of the Board of Directors Jesse Perez said they will do whatever it takes to keep Waco Child Care operating. The facility is putting their efforts towards fundraising to buy or build a new building to continue the legacy that is Waco Child Care. You can donate by visiting their website or email  

 “The reason nobody knows where we are is because we’ve always been self-sustaining,” Miller said. “I always make this statement if somebody comes to the center, and they’ll say, ‘I didn’t know this was back here,’ I’ll say, ‘Well, where have you been? Because you haven’t been in South Waco.’”