Red Caboose was founded by a group of parents as a nonprofit child care center in 1972. Parent involvement has always been an integral part of the center; parents are a majority on the Board of Directors, and are involved through committees as well as in the day-to-day program. There is a lot of staff participation in the management as well. We have a dedicated and talented group of people working at Red Caboose, two-thirds of whom have been here for twenty years or more.
Red Caboose is the oldest independent center in Madison. It is licensed by the state and accredited by the city of Madison. In 1998 the University of Wisconsin Press published a book about Red Caboose, “The Good-Bye Window”.
Red Caboose has a strong tradition of serving all children, including those with special educational, emotional, and physical needs and handicaps. We have a sliding-fee schedule for tuition, based on family size and income: families who can afford to pay more help defray the cost of care for those who earn less.
Red Caboose families are a diverse group in terms of race, ethnicity, income, and family type. Over 20% qualify for free or reduced meals through the Federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). We have several families with adoptive or foster children, as well as other “non-traditional” families. In addition, our school age programs include children who are homeless or living in transitional housing.
The main emphasis in our program is on the social and emotional development of children. The most important goal for the children in our care is that they feel safe, comfortable, nurtured and loved at Red Caboose. We strive to help children learn that people are different, and that this is good. We foster friendships and relationships among the children, and between the children and teachers.
We strongly believe in learning through play, with lots of hands-on and sensory experiences. We provide a rich environment with many opportunities for children to experience materials and activities in all areas (dramatic play, dance/art/ music, early literacy and math, science, motor coordination). We have a balance of child-initiated play and teacher-directed activities. We provide many opportunities for children to make choices.
Language development is a big part of the curriculum in our two toddler rooms; problem solving and non-violent conflict resolution are a critical part of our pre-school and pre-kindergarten classrooms. Helping children identify feelings and thoughts, and talk to and listen to other people is very important. Self-help skills and responsibility, critical thinking, and making decisions are emphasized.
Play and active learning for children, a safe and loving environment, a diverse group of families, caring and educated teachers with long-term commitment to Red Caboose, and strong parent involvement and communication- this is what quality child care means at Red Caboose.