By Jonathan Gramling

The Meneses family knows something about entrepreneurship. Their journey is
like the journey of many immigrant families. Someone comes to the United
States out of economic necessity and the hope for opportunity. They work hard
at menial jobs and eventually get to the place where they can work for
themselves and support each other.

“My dad came here to the U.S. 18 years ago by himself,” said Andrea
Meneses, one of the proprietors of Gotitas de Amor Family Child Care Center.
“He used to have maybe four jobs. He was working 20 hours a day. He was
sleeping in his car and then go to the next job. He got really sick. We had a lot
of financial needs back in the country, so he was trying to make money, pay
his expenses here and then send money to our country. Then we had to come
here because my dad got really sick. He couldn’t move. When we came here,
we started working cleaning buildings and clinics. It was my mom, my dad, my
sister, my brother and I. My parents have been working a lot over the past 16
years.”

Her mom, Maria Suarez, decided to open up a child care center in her home
and prepared for the work through classes at Madison College and assistance
through 4-C of Dane County and Satellite Day Care. And 13 years later, the
Meneses-Suarez family is still providing quality child care.

Not only did the family child care allow Suarez to make a living, but it also
allowed her daughters and son to work and go to school.

“I was living in her house,” Andrea said. “I was going to school. I helped her a
little bit. I worked for my mom for about three years because I was going to
school doing accounting. My mom gave me a job to be able to go to school
and raise my kids at the same time. My mom says that was one of her main
goals when she opened the business. She wanted my sister and brother and I
to raise our kids and at the same time, be able to make a living. I remember
when I was working for my mom, she used to give me many days off. She
would allow me to take tests and do homework. Thanks to my mom, I was able
to finish school.”

Her other daughter, Fabiola Meneses, also benefitted from getting involved in
the family business.

“She was taking care of kids in her house,” Fabiola said. “She said, ‘Why don’t
you help me out with some English. I don’t understand some of the English
written in the paperwork and applications.’ I started reading it and I realized
that was exactly what I wanted to do. I started helping her and realized that I
was meant to be with children under five-years-old.”

Suarez and her family are now expanding the family business out of the home
and into Gotitas de Amor on Struck Street on Madison’s west side. And like
everything else, they have done a lot of the work themselves to prepare
Gotitas de Amor for its opening last August. They redid the entire interior of
their space themselves except for the electrical and the plumbing.

They are opening the child care out of love and to assist other women to get
ahead in the world.

“My mom saw how difficult it was for me and so she wants to help some other
single parents and young parents to pursue their dreams to finish their college
education,” Andrea emphasized.
The Meneses-Suarez family has put together a beautiful facility that currently
provides care to two-and-a-half-year-olds to six-year-olds. And they are
committed to providing care to mothers and families who are struggling while
they make their dreams come true.
Gotitas de Amor Family Childcare
Family Droplets of Love
“Right now, we accept parents who are going to school and are struggling with finances,” Fabiola said. “If they get help from Dane County
subsidies, then they can come to the school as we offer half or full scholarships, depending on their needs. If they only get $300 a month for the
care, we will accept that while working with the parents on the hours that they need the care. We will work with each family in terms of
determining what their needs are. If they need a scholarship for the first three months and after that, they are okay, they can pay some amount
and we’re okay with that. What we ask from the parents who get a scholarship is to come to the center and help us with cleaning, bringing
snacks for the kids or activities for the kids. It’s not necessary, but we would love it if they could do that.”

And the cost is reasonable.

“The weekly cost depends on their age,” Fabiola said. “Right now, our youngest ones who are two and a half, the cost is $260 per week. And
our three and a half to four and a half is $220 per week. And that is five days per week up to 42.5 hours. They get care during their work week,
but we also give them a 50-minute before drop-off time and 50-minutes after pick-up. They have those times. That is 30 minutes per day that they
get. We do that because we’re in Wisconsin and we don’t know what winter or traffic will be like. We also work on late pick-up. If it is
something that is occurring every day, then we will talk to the parent. We’ll do a verbal warning. If it’s something that is once in a while, then
we’ll let them know what is going on, but we will let them know before we charge them for late pick-up.”

And it’s not just care that they are providing. They are providing a dual language experience for the children.

“We’re working with children whose parents want them to be bilingual once they graduate from high school,” Fabiola said. “The Madison and
Middleton school districts have dual language immersion, which is half a day in Spanish and half a day in English. It’s an amazing program.
What we are trying to do is have children start at a young age to be exposed to Spanish and also English. They will be a little bit better prepared
once they start school, so that they will only need to learn how to read and write. But they will already have a vocabulary in both languages. It
will help them apply for that program and be in it.”

Like many immigrant families, the Meneses-Suarez family has struggled to succeed. And now that they are in a place where they can establish
a business, they want to also help those who are coming up after them. And family child care at Gotitas de Amor is what they do best.

Gotitas de Amor is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more information, email Fabiola Meneses at
gdabilingualcenter@gmail.com or
call her at 608-358-2357.