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Kids’ Care for All

From drop-in care to before/after school care, it’s Kinderstop


It all began in 2015 at the Brunswick Forest pool, where Leland moms Liz Long and Jessica Middleswarth first became friends.

Today, the duo co-own and manage KinderStop Drop-In Child Care (since 2019) in Waterford Village near Port City Java and KinderStop On-Site Child Care (since 2020) with locations at Classical Charter School locations in Leland, Southport, Whiteville and at the Wilmington School of the Arts. The owners include silent partner Lisa Dobstaff, a former pre-kindergarten teacher and Leland mom. A combined staff of 50 oversees myriad activities at the On-Site campuses, which serve 400-450 students from kindergarten through middle school, and the Drop-In facility, which accommodates as many as 60 children ages 12 months to 12 years.

So, what is drop-in childcare? Simply put, it’s a place where parents can bring their children for a few hours while mom and dad run errands and get things done, or just enjoy some alone time. The hours are great: 8:30 am – 6 pm, Monday through Thursday; 8:30 – 10 pm on Fridays; 9 am – 10 pm on Saturdays.

The idea for KinderStop Drop-In Child Care stems from one of those a-ha moments, says Middleswarth, who brings to the table business-management experience gained from her experience as an area manager for Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

“Liz contacted me because she wanted to open her own business and felt I would be a great partner,” says Middleswarth. “We discussed many ideas but kept asking, who will watch our kids while we’re running a business. Then  a light bulb went off and we decided Leland really needed a flexible childcare company. A place for parents who don’t need full time day care but rather a play place that offered flexible affordable care.”

The welcoming space has many child-centric features that include a lending library, train depot, kitchen, a stage for dress-up and performances, a movable television and gaming system, a climbing wall and a calm room with a mat, pillows, blankets, books and sensory-friendly toys such as fidget objects.

Perhaps what distinguishes the facility most of all is the emphasis that Middleswarth and Long place on behavioral management and the use of positive-specific language delivered in measured, calm tones to lessen defiant behavior.

“Instead of saying ‘Don’t run, we say ‘Walk.’ Why? Because the former allows them to hop without really disobeying,” says Middleswarth, a mother of three, including a child diagnosed with autism. “If we’re cleaning up after an art project, we’re specific and may ask everyone to put their crayons in the box, rather than just saying everyone clean up. The more we use positive-specific language, the more children follow instructions, resulting in happier children and staff, and a high level of engagement.”

As for KinderStop On-Site and its four campuses, timing meant the world to the owners. “When Covid hit in 2020, KinderStop Drop-In shut down for six weeks to help flatten the curve,” says Long, a mother of two with the interpersonal skills she gained as an interior designer and legal secretary.  “When we reopened, we took a financial hit because we could only be at 50-percent capacity. Meanwhile, we were awarded the on-site care contract for the three Classical Charter School campuses in March 2020, followed by the Wilmington School for the Arts in the spring of 2022.”

“We were supposed to begin providing afterschool care in July 2020 to coincide with the Classical Charter Schools’ calendar,” continues Middleswarth. “However, the start of the school year was delayed because of Covid, and we were asked to run a summer camp starting in June while adapting to state rules and regulations created for childcare, schools and camps and which seemed to change on a weekly basis.”

“The past five years has taught us the importance of being willing and able to pivot and to be ready for anything,” says Long. Today, the four On-Site campuses offer homework assistance, special projects and engaging play activities and are different from the Drop-In facility. “We have the systems in place to ensure that our programs are consistently run on each of our campuses, adds Long.

Secure in their faith, Middleswarth and Long see God’s hand in all they’ve accomplished. “He brought us together and has guided us through so much,” says Middleswarth. As they look to the future, the duo hopes that He will continue to guide them as they consider expansion plans.

“We would love to add several more schools, when the time is right,” says Long. “As we grow, we will never lose site of our core values—kindness, safety, engagement and community—and our faith in God.”


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