Early Childhood Alliance has half a century of experience in providing services to meet the needs of families and children. In 1941, the Westside Neighborhood Center was formed with a board of 24 members. In 1953, the organization incorporated and joined the Fort Wayne Community Chest (now, United Way of Allen County.) In 1957, the organization's first day care center was built in a public housing development serving low income families.
The name of the organization changed to Neighbors, Inc. in 1963 to reflect the services such as outreach and assistance to older adults, large families and young married students with pre-school children.
In 1969, the organization changed its focus to child care and was renamed Child Care of Allen County in 1971. Three years later, the organization operated four child care centers and received government funding for low-income families to attend.
In 1979, the State of Indiana approached the organization to sponsor the food program for family child care homes, a service which continues today.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the organization managed as many as six child care centers at once. In 1984, the child care resource and referral service began in 11 counties.
Kathleen Likeness became executive director in 1992 when Owen Wemhoff retired after 20+ years of service. During the 1990s, several new programs were added or expanded, including Parents as Teachers, Professional Training, Mentoring and Corporate Consultation. The training department began offering classes for the Child Development Associate certification, a new educational requirement for early childhood teachers.
The name of the organization changed again in 1997 to Early Childhood Alliance as services for children, parents, teachers and employees were offered. In 1998, the child care centers achieved accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
In 2000, a new building was erected downtown after a two million dollar campaign. The Children's Centers were then consolidated from six to three locations: north at Gethsemane, downtown on Wayne Street and southeast on Turtle Creek Drive.
In 2002, Madeleine Baker became executive director. The following year, the 50th anniversary was celebrated and the Book Buddies literacy program was launched. In 2004, Better Baby Care and Inclusion Specialists were added. In 2005, Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) service achieved national accreditation, Indiana's first. At that time, ECA's CCR&R service region included Allen, DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben and Whitley Counties.
Early Childhood Alliance consulted with Lutheran Social Services and Lutheran Retirement Homes to create the community's first intergenerational child care program on the campus of Lutheran Homes. The Turtle Creek center was closed when this new center opened in the summer of 2006.
In 2007, the Downtown Children's Center became High Scope accredited and serves as a demonstration site for the High Scope curriculum. The after-school program began at the Downtown Children's Center. Paths to QUALITY (which a local partnership, including ECA, created) was adopted by the State of Indiana as the quality rating and improvement system for all Indiana child care programs.
In 2010, Early Childhood Alliance partnered with Parkview Health, with ECA managing Parkview's child care center on Beacon Street.
In October 2012, the state reduced the number of CCR&R service regions in Indiana from 11 to 9, adding four counties to ECA's service region. ECA now serves 10 counties across northern Indiana with the addition of Elkhart, Kosciusko, Marshall, and St. Joseph Counties.
Today, Early Childhood Alliance is recognized as a leader in the early care and education field. We are proud of our heritage and positioned to continue in our leadership role in northern Indiana.
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