ECA News

Grant Supports Family Engagement

Noble County Donation
Noble County Donation

Pictured Left to Right: ECA Family Support Coordinator Lanissa Maggert; Community Foundation Program Director Margarita White; ECA’s CEO Madeleine Baker.

Early Childhood Alliance (ECA), the Child Care Resource and Referral agency serving Noble County, recently received a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Noble County. The funds will help support ECA’s Parents as Teachers program (PAT) in Noble County. Supporting parents in their roles as a child’s first teachers, PAT educators, Susan Cook, Annie Kolb, and Kathy Monesmith, make home visits to demonstrate activities and share ideas that enhance child development and school readiness skills.  Margarita White, Community Foundation Program Director, presented the $5,000 check to CEO Madeleine Baker, and Family Support Coordinator Lanissa Maggert.

New Staff at ECA

Ethel Billingsley

Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) recently hired four new classroom teachers at the Downtown Learning Center.

  • Ethel Billingsley is teaching in the young preschool classroom. She has both an associate degree in business from Concordia College and an associate degree in early childhood education from Ivy Tech Community College.
  • Alana LeShore is a preschool teacher. She has previous experience working in a childcare setting.
  • Trisha Nichols is working as a toddler teacher. She has a Child Development Associate credential from Ivy Tech and is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in office management.
  • Tammy Spillers is an infant/toddler teacher. She has a certificate in childhood development from Ivy Tech.

CEO participates in national research

Madeleine Baker
Madeleine Baker

Madeleine Baker, CEO of Early Childhood Alliance (ECA), has been invited to serve on the Indiana core team of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) representing ECA. The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, a department of NAM, released a report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, that is both ambitious and visionary in its 13 recommendations for how to transform the workforce and set of systems that serve children birth through age 8.

Baker was also invited to serve on the Indiana Team for the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) – a part of University of California/Berkley, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, which is working with the economists on building the cost model to frame the infrastructure of early care programs. Their work has some relevance to NAM’s research findings, but the work of CSCCE is focusing on the infrastructure and associated expenses, whereas NAM’s focus is on the early childhood workforce.

Adopt-a-Classroom Dedication

Packnetts Adopt-a-Classroom

Armed with books and stuffed animals, the Packnett Family visited a toddler classroom at the Beacon Learning Center recently as ECA’s latest Adopt-a-Classroom partners. The visit included unveiling of a special plaque to thank the Packnett Family for their participation and to honor the teachers who dedicate their lives to caring for children.

Adopt-a-Classroom support is an investment in the community’s children by providing needed classroom equipment, supplies and materials.

Packnetts Adopt-a-Classroom

Adopt-a-Classroom Dedication

Adopt-a-Classroom Dedication
Adopt-a-Classroom Dedication
  • Monday, November 13
  • 3:30 pm
  • Downtown Learning Center (516 E Wayne St)
  • Special Guest –Schlagenhauf Family, adopting a classroom of young pre-school children (2 ½ -3 ½ ) with a $2,500 grant for classroom equipment and materials
  • Unveiling of a special plaque to thank the Schlagenhauf Family for their participation in ECA’s Adopt-a-Classroom project and to honor the teachers who dedicate their lives to caring for children.

An alliance on children’s behalf

Preparation for kids’ eventual success must begin on Day One

Madeleine Baker

When does learning begin for a child, and what does that have to do with a community’s economic success? The answers – Day One, and everything!

At the Early Childhood Alliance we do all we can to help ensure that children across northern Indiana have access to high-quality early learning experiences – lessons that translate into future success for them and their communities.

The alliance works with families, early learning professionals, community organizations and the business community to advocate for accessible, affordable, quality early education for all children. In the past, many considered K-12 as the cornerstone of education, where children initially learned the skills needed for further education and the workplace.

However, research clearly shows that nearly 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs during the first five years of life, preparing them for future success in school and beyond.

While we may have missed the initial opportunity to create a continuum of education, birth through high school, we must now recognize that education begins early. Now is the time to advocate for high-quality early learning from Day One.

How does that affect the workforce? First, availability of quality early learning programs helps businesses attract and retain a quality workforce. Studies also show that when children are in quality early education programs, businesses experience less absenteeism and higher productivity.

Only with reliable child care can parents work and/or study efficiently to establish financial stability long term, thus, a stronger economy.

Second, there is a direct correlation between quality early education and a child’s success in school and beyond, leading to a better-prepared workforce. Cradle to career is not a new concept, but it is a lesson we need to embrace to help ensure not only intellectual ability, but social/emotional skills. While early learning is not the only factor affecting future success, it does provide the foundation in preparing children to learn over their lifetimes.

Today with the majority of parents in the workforce and/or school, most children are in a child care setting for much of their early years.

As one of nine Child Care Resource and Referral agencies across the state, the alliance works with families looking for child care. Free child care search assistance helps families locate a program that fits their needs from a database of licensed, licensed-exempt and certified programs. This includes programs enrolled in Paths to QUALITY, a quality rating and improvement system that was created and launched in Allen County by the alliance and later adopted statewide.

Among those are the alliance’s two Learning Centers in Fort Wayne, both licensed, on the highest level 4 of Paths to QUALITY, and accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The alliance also provides family engagement programs, which focus on how and how much parents interact with their children. Through information for new parents at the hospital, home visits with families, and group sessions with parents and children learning together, the alliance helps parents understand the importance of quality learning experiences with them at home.

While parents continue to be a child’s first, most influential teachers, quality learning experiences in early childhood programs have a significant effect on children during the most critical phases of development.

Teachers are the key determinant of quality across the spectrum of early education programs, from family child care homes to child care centers, registered ministries and pre-schools.

The alliance provides coaching, professional development opportunities and technical assistance for all types of programs across 10 counties: Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Marshall, Noble, St. Joseph, Steuben and Whitley.

Communities have largely underestimated the effect of early learning experiences in the past, but they can learn from current research and longitudinal studies about the effect of early learning in building a skilled workforce.

To that end, the Northeast Regional Partnership restructured its Vision 2030 pathway to focus on business attraction, talent attraction and talent development with early learning as a key task force to address the workforce of today and tomorrow.

Promoting and providing high quality early childhood care and education is the key to building better futures for children. It is both wise and critical to invest now, everyday, in the future of our youngest citizens and our communities.

Madeleine Baker is CEO of the Early Childhood Alliance.

ECA Adds Staff and Service Area

Anna Carter

Anna Carter has joined the staff of Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) as Pre-K  Project Manager. She is working with early childhood programs, families and the community for the statewide On My Way Pre K program in Elkhart, Kosciusko, Marshall and St. Joseph Counties. These are four of the 15 counties the State named as part of the expansion of On My Way Pre K in 2017, which provides state-funded early childhood education for eligible 4-year-olds.

Kim Fullove, who has worked as Pre-K Project Manager in Allen County since the On My Way Pre K program pilot began in 2016, has added DeKalb County to her service area, also named one of the 15 expansion counties in 2017.

ECA Celebrates Anniversary

Wednesday, October 16, is Founder’s Day for Early Childhood Alliance Day. ECA was incorporated on that date in 1953. It began as the West Central Neighborhood Center, then expanded operations to manage several child care centers in Fort Wayne. During its 64 years, the agency changed its name, added programs and services, and expanded its service area to 10 counties across northern Indiana.  Services now child care resource and referral, professional training and development, coaching, family engagement programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, corporate consultation and advocacy.

Teachers Nominated for Special Recognition

Miriam Godinez

Congratulations to Vicki Aniton, Brenda Hughes and Miriam Godinez, ECA’s nominees for the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly’s annual Education Awards program. This awards program recognizes outstanding teachers in several categories across northeast Indiana. Nominations were submitted by staff and reviewed by several managers for one nominee for each Center. Award winners will be announced in the next few weeks, and winners will be guests of honor at an awards dinner in October.

For Beacon Learning Center - Vicki Aniton—Lifetime Achievement

Vicki Aniton

Vicki’s career in early childhood spans 44 years with young children, primarily 3- to 5-year-olds, 19 of them with Early Childhood Alliance in Fort Wayne. Vicki has a passion for working with young children. Once focusing primarily on preparing children for kindergarten, she has expanded her focus to preparing children for life.

Her legacy is the one-on-one relationships she has had and continues to have with children in their most vulnerable and critical stage of life. Even though she didn’t set out to be in the classroom this long, she has stayed because she enjoys it. Vicki explains that “they impact my life just as much as I do theirs.”

For Downtown Learning Center - Room 1 Team: Brenda Hughes & Miriam Godinez - Innovation in Teaching

Brenda Hughes

Teaching as a team began two years ago for Brenda and Miriam. Brenda has been with ECA six years and Miriam, three years. Together they are making a difference for children and their families at a most critical time of development for toddlers. They are able to look at their surroundings and envision ways to create a learning environment in new and different ways, always with the children’s needs in mind. For example, the children’s interest in music led them to find people in the community to share their musical talents in the classroom.  Another project was finding a way for the children to watch activities outside their play yard, so a periscope was created. An important part of this team’s focus is family involvement, so they instituted parent play days each month. Some of the special activities they plan—some for parent play days— are projects that are often limited to older children, such as cooking, baking bread, making butter, creating shaped rice cereal treats and tie-dying.

Miriam Godinez
Miriam Godinez

ECA Welcomes Center Staff

Tricia Willard is now the Chief Center Administrator for Early Childhood Alliance (ECA). In her new role she will oversee operations of ECA’s two Learning Centers, working directly with the Centers’ Co-Directors.

ECA also welcomes Dora Kurpierz as Co-Director at the Downtown Learning Center. Her responsibilities include working closely with Center staff on curriculum, licensing, enrollment, and family engagement.