The members of a Mennonite village near Homestead, Florida founded the Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) in 1965 as a pair of childcare centers where impoverished immigrant farm laborers could drop off their young children each morning before going to work in the fields. From its earliest days, the Association hired many of those field hands to serve as its childcare workers, on the premise that “the immigrants would entrust their babies only to caregivers from their own culture.”
Deriving 85% of its $58 million annual budget from government grants, RCMA today is staffed by some 1,600 employees who operate more than 75 centers and 2 charter schools in 20 Florida counties. Its clientele consists mostly of children of poor Hispanic immigrants in rural areas. During the 2011-12 school year, the 7,500 children served by the Association were 86% Hispanic and 11% African-American.
RCMA’s mission is to “prepar[e] rural low-income children for leadership in an increasingly diverse and complex world” by providing them with quality care, supervision, educational opportunities, and support services. The Association also aims to “involve parents” in the educational process and in public policy decisions affecting their children and families; “increase public awareness of the lifestyle of migrant and seasonal farm workers and the rural poor”; and “encourage the professional development of staff hired from the communities served.”
Toward these ends, RCMA administers the following major programs:
1) Community Learning Centers (CLC): Staffed by “culturally sensitive teachers and tutors,” these Centers provide minimally educated (mostly Mexican) adults in rural low-income communities with “free or affordable” instruction in basic English literacy and computer skills. In some cases, these classes lead to the attainment of a primary, secondary, or post-secondary diploma from Mexico, or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) from the state of Florida. Moreover, the CLCs offer instruction in health and parenting skills for adult students, homework help for the children of those students, and education-related advocacy for parents and their children in the public school system.
2) Head Start: More than 2,850 of the 7,500+ students whom RCMA serves each year are enrolled in some variation of Head Start, a taxpayer-funded program established in 1965 to provide a boost—in the form of education, nutrition, and health services—to disadvantaged three-to-four-year-olds before they enter elementary school. Though RCMA praises Head Start as a vehicle for “increas[ing] the school readiness of young children in low-income families,” research indicates that the program has virtually no statistically measurable or enduring effect on the participants’ cognitive abilities, socio-emotional development, or physical health.
3) Reading Is Fundamental (RIF): Established in 1966 for the benefit of “underserved children,” this national program annually provides some 5 million youngsters in the U.S. with 17 million new books and literacy resources, free of charge. Every RCMA child between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years receives a minimum of three RIF books per year. The Association itself covers one-fourth of the cost of these books, while RIF covers the balance.
4) Teen Parent Program: This initiative aims to “educate and support” teenaged mothers-to-be by providing them with academic assistance (to help them graduate from high school), job training, childcare services, parenting-skills instruction, medical and dental care, food vouchers, and mental health services. Moreover, the program offers workshops on a wide variety of topics such as child discipline, teen pregnancy, drugs and alcohol, and the importance of fatherhood.
5) Family Development: Utilizing the Family Development Credential curriculum that Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology introduced in 1996, this program views taxpayer-funded social services as indispensable to the eradication of the “very oppressive factors” in American society that allegedly deprive nonwhite minority immigrants of the “social justice” they rightfully deserve. Moreover, the program encourages staff and students alike to “recognize and challenge” whatever “cultural biases” may taint their own hearts or society as a whole.
 About 1,100 are enrolled in regular Head Start (for children aged 3 to 5); some 500 are enrolled in Early Head Start (for newborns to 3-year-olds); and another 1,700 are enrolled in Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (specifically for the children of migrant farm workers).