ECA News

ECA Welcomes New Teachers

New teachers at ECA’s Beacon Street Learning Center are: Pamela Hively, Brandi Rogers and Natasha Williams in Toddler classrooms; Jamie Conwell and Kathleen Wolf in Pre-K classrooms; and Ashlee LeMay, Katie Giant and Karlie Rice as substitute teachers.

ECA’s Downtown Learning Center also welcomed a new teacher recently, Sarai Cuevas in a toddler classroom.

Funding Opportunity for Providers

Have you considered starting or expanding a child care program in Steuben County? A new funding opportunity is now available with an application deadline of June 15, 2018.

Steuben County Community Foundation awarded a grant of $36,080, to Early Child Alliance (ECA), the Child Care Resource & Referral agency in the County, to increase child care capacity. The grant includes $10,000 to help both new and existing child care programs meet requirements to enroll or advance in Paths to QUALITYTM (Indiana’s quality rating and improvement system). Building capacity and increasing quality of programs are critical in meeting the needs of Steuben County families, based on county data.

Programs will be awarded mini grants of $100-$2,000, to be used by the end of the year. Grant requirements and application details are available at

Call Maricela Madden, 260-577-7078 for additional information.

Help Spark a Future for children

Spark a Future 2018 Logo

Vacation getaways, local artist-painted children’s furniture, and custom jewelry are just a few of the special auction items at Spark a Future, on Wednesday, May 23. Purchase your tickets now (at for Early Childhood Alliance’s annual fundraiser for a chance at these items and more. The special event will be held at Parkview Field, 6 – 9:30 pm.

Proceeds from the annual event will support projects at ECA’s two Learning Centers in Fort Wayne and family engagement programs in northern Indiana. Your support makes an impact on hundreds of children and families, building better futures for children.

Spark a Future 2018 Logo

Move is complete

Good news! Early Childhood Alliance has moved, effective April 23, 2018. Our new address is:

3800 N. Anthony Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46805
260-745-2501 / 800-423-1498

After 20 years at 3320 Fairfield Avenue, ECA outgrew the space. In recent years, the growth of programs and services plus an expanded service delivery area westward, prompted a search. Our new office provides more efficient space and easier access to highways, both for our staff serving 10 counties and for clients attending events at ECA. However, ECA continues to be a key resource for the Allen County community, close to our Learning Centers in Fort Wayne and to our Allen County clients, funders, and partners. We look forward to welcoming clients, stakeholders and friends of ECA to our new location.

*Our new office is located in Ivy Tech’s Coliseum Campus.

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.