We know that babies have the capacity to learn and experience feelings from birth. During infancy and early childhood, children develop their capacity for trust, self-esteem, conscience, empathy, problem solving, focused learning and self-control. It is a time of intense growth and development in all areas, including a child’s intellectual, social and emotional development, laying the foundation for their success in school and later life. When their needs are met by positive and consistent early experiences with loving caregivers and nurturing environments, babies and young children thrive. We have an opportunity to mend broken bonds and the trauma leading to homelessness with an inclusive, welcoming sanctuary designed to heal. An understanding of these fundamental principles of childhood development and promoting healthy social and emotional development of infants and young children is at the core of the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation Children’s Wellness Center and throughout the Village in ways that truly place children first.

Lotus House is committed to creating and fostering a nurturing care, educational and social environment throughout Lotus Village, with welcoming, child-friendly spaces in rooms, living areas and gardens that support children’s healing, growth and learning on every level. This starts with the Children’s Wellness Center, operated by The United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, a model therapeutic early childcare and education center for our littlest ones, newborn to age three, that includes six classrooms for infants and toddlers, play offices for child and family therapists, and a dedicated family room for mother and baby break time, breastfeeding and family therapy.

Our approach emphasizes trauma-informed, evidence-based and informed therapies, parenting education, and comprehensive support services in a nurturing environment that addresses the special needs of poor, disadvantaged and homeless families. Where the parent-child bond has been disrupted by trauma, mental health issues, substance abuse histories or other challenges, parents and children will have the opportunity to participate together in parent-child dyadic therapy to support the mother’s and child’s healing and allow for building healthy bonds of attachment and loving communication. All parents and caregivers are offered nurturing parenting classes that teach appropriate developmental milestones for children, signs of trauma and ways to support healing and healthy attachments, and non-physical forms of discipline, among other things. Assessments offer the opportunity for early detection and linkages to critical supports for children with special learning or developmental challenges. This level of mental health treatment, prevention and promotion is typically not available to low-income and homeless mothers and children on a timely basis or at all. The Children’s Wellness Center includes an interactive, nurturing and supportive daycare that serves up to 48 infants, toddlers and pre-school age children at a time from Lotus House and our surrounding neighborhood of Overtown.

In this groundbreaking work, we recognize that every aspect of a child’s experience in the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation Children’s Wellness Center and throughout the Village, from therapeutic care and education to the physical space and its contents, are integral to children’s wellbeing and offer opportunities for healing, growth, exploration, discovery, interaction and problem solving.