History and Heritage
In the early 1970’s, child care services as we know them today were in their infancy. When the soldiers came home from World War II in 1945, women retreated from the factories that they had kept humming during the War. They made their new homes in suburbia to give birth to and raise a record number of children. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, two parent households with stay-at-home moms were the norm. Those mothers that did work outside the home looked to family to watch their children. But, the social upheaval of the late 1960’s awakened a new cause to fight, equal opportunity for women in the workplace. And, many of those who were content to stay at home found themselves forced into the workplace during the recession of the early 1970’s.
In early 1972, a number of people in Douglas County were beginning to realize that child day care of a desirable quality was not available to everyone. A small number of the very poor received Headstart services. Children in moderately affluent homes attended private and non-profit child care centers and licensed family day care homes. But for the vast majority of the very poor and lower income working families, options were limited. Non-profit centers had been furnishing care on a sliding scale or on scholarship basis and taking children funded by very limited social security Title IV-A funds at a fixed $3.00 per child per day. Inflation and increased financial demands related to federal day care regulations requiring additional staff and services made it impossible for non-profit centers to balance budgets. This growing realization planted the seed for what was to become the Douglas County Child Development Association. Born out of collaboration and grass roots advocacy, the agency would soon grow into the hub of early childhood programming.
In December of 1972, a sort of coalition formed to address the issue. These grassroots activists included Joan Reiber and Martha Langley from Hilltop Child Development Center, Barbara Bell and Shirley Phillips from United Child Development Center, and Carolyn Thompson and Bob Suderman from Children’s Learning Center. These three non-profit centers approached the City of Lawrence Commissioners and a fourth center independently approached the Douglas County Commissioners for the first General Revenue Sharing Funds. The City gave serious consideration to the request but in the end denied funding with the suggestion that they pursue other sources, particularly local funds which could be used to match Federal day care funds. Both the Lawrence and Douglas County Commissioners requested that they bring together all eligible child day care services in the county so that they would be able to deal with only one organization.
In early 1973, although they were not yet fully established organizationally, the group approached the Lawrence United Fund (known as United Way of Douglas County today) with their request. The United Fund gave a sympathetic hearing and essentially reiterated the request of the City and County to be sure to represent all child day care centers that would request funds from United Fund. They also reminded them that only incorporated organizations are eligible to become United Fund agencies.
Every licensed care giving unit in Douglas County was contacted. Other local agencies having interest in child welfare were contacted for cooperation and support. Parents of children in the child care programs joined in the efforts. The Community Children’s Center, Inc. accepted the group as a member organization under their incorporation. At first we named ourselves the Douglas County Child Care Association but later changed the name to Douglas County Child Development Association to more closely reflect our diverse interest in children’s welfare. We did not always agree on all things but compromised and cooperated to the end of providing quality child development services to all children in our community. We acted as a general liaison among the many agencies involved in services to children, sponsoring workshops to upgrade training of child care workers, parents and administrators, providing information to the general public and to candidates for public offices, recruiting funds for child care tuition for needy families and facilitating the administration of child care services in the community.
Our initial proposal was submitted to the Lawrence United Fund on April 15, 1974. It was approved and our first $4,000 of scholarship funding became available January 1, 1975.
The City and County Commissioners were still reluctant to commit tax monies. Both wanted to see the State of Kansas assume some of the responsibility because of the unusually large proportion of eligible families who were students at the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Junior College and, therefore, were reasonably the responsibility of the State and the Nation. Not until March 1975 were we able to assure the City that the State SRS would allocate a proportion of state funds based on census figures to children in Douglas County. The amount was less than all had hoped and was not influenced by the locally generated funds but the City Commissioners agreed that we had fulfilled our part of the bargain. They granted $4,000 and the County followed quickly with $5,000. The County had agreed earlier conditioned upon participation by the City.
The money from the City and County was short lived due to the quicksand quality of the regulations, legislation and funding levels. Title IV-A was being replaced by Title XX which allowed the State SRS to write its own child services program. Many of our members actively participated in the development of the plan. In the State Legislature, one of our local representatives sponsored and obtained passage of a bill enabling certain counties to levy up to .5 mills for the support of child care. So far, we have not persuaded the county to implement this tax. Revenue sharing funds and Community Development funds were approved to be matched with Federal funds. However, since neither the 1972 request for Revenue Sharing nor a 1974 request for Community Development Funds was fruitful and since the United Fund had been generous and limited all participants in other fund raising activities, we did not pursue those two funds further.
With funding as secure as soft money can be, the founders of DCCDA turned their attention to their other organization purposes. In the mid- 1970’s notable workshops included a class in Lawrence Continuing Education on child health and safety, First Aid classes for child care workers, sexism workshops, a panel on early childhood education and kindergarten and supports for administrators. They co-sponsored the Week of the Young Child with the Lawrence Association for the Education of Young Children and sponsored meet-the-candidates and provided information to the candidates during elections.
Parents were increasingly active in our work. They selected representatives to the DCCDA Board, held offices, served on committees and provided survey information related to child care services.
In 1979, DCCDA stepped outside of the protective umbrella of Community Children’s Center to achieve independent incorporation. We were incorporated in the State of Kansas on November 27, 1979 and received Federal non-profit 501(c) (3) status on February 23, 1981.
Early in the 1980’s, DCCDA made its first venture into program administration. We signed on as Sponsor of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and hired our first employees. The CACFP is a National program akin to the school lunch program that is sponsored on the State level by Kansas Department of Education. It provides meal reimbursement and nutrition education to home providers. DCCDA contracted to serve homes in Douglas, Shawnee, Jefferson and Franklin counties. We hired two part-time people, one to manage the food program and one to manage the scholarship program. By 1985, DCCDA was ready for its first Executive Director. Jan Brummel joined the agency and worked out of her home, building the number of homes served from 15 to 150+ in the mid 1990’s. In 1989, the agency had outgrown Jan’s home and was relocated to our first office space on 6th Street.
In her role of State activist, as was fitting for a DCCDA Executive Director, Jan served on the Board of Directors of Kansas Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agency (KACCRRA - later to change their name to Child Care Aware). KACCRRA negotiated a contract with the State and subcontracted the work out to local agencies to serve designated counties. R & R services consisted of providing lists of available child care providers to parents looking for child care and resources to child care providers. DCCDA signed a contract with them to provide resource and referral services to Douglas County. These resources included a resource library, professional development and the assistance of an infant toddler specialist. This work built on the foundation of trainings and advocacy that we had developed in our infancy and gave us funds to expand our offerings. In 1992, DCCDA held its first Mini-Conference, a three hour training event whose tradition continues.
In 1999 Jan left DCCDA to pursue other opportunities. Over the next several years, DCCDA went through several directors. Each had her own distinct skills and knowledge that she brought to the agency but each struggled with the financial and administrative burden of managing a rapidly growing, multi-faceted agency. Governance of the agency continued to be in the hands of a board, elected from the membership. The networking aspect of the agency remained a strong component of its continuity as was its affiliation with NAEYC. A number of DCCDA members served on the board of KAEYC over the years, planning and hosting the annual conference as a state-wide professional development event.
In 2004, the Board found themselves looking for a director once again. They determined that the person they should hire would have strong administrative and financial skills. They chose Anna Jenny from their pool of candidates. With degrees in accounting and finance and a Masters in Social Work, Anna offered a new skill set for the leadership of the agency.
It wasn’t long after Anna took up residence in her new office that Rich Minder, Collaborative Projects Coordinator at Success by 6 came to meet the new director. DCCDA had participated in some small Smart Start projects, but Rich had something greater in mind. With the combined energies of Rich and Anna, DCCDA returned to its collaborative roots. In the summer of 2004, they wrote their first grant, a Federal ELOA (Early Learning Opportunities Act) grant to bring a quality rating system for early learning programs to Douglas County.
This first collaborative effort was unsuccessful, but the following year, they thought bigger. Rich and Anna enlisted the help of grant writers at the University of Kansas and lined up seven child care centers and five home providers to implement an emergent literacy grant. Their collaborative efforts proved fruitful this time and in September 2005, DCCDA was awarded $853,605 to implement the PROPEL (Program for Partnerships in Early Learning) Program over the next nineteen months. Each large participating center received their own literacy coach to work with their teachers around the concepts of emergent literacy. DCCDA hired two literacy coaches to work with two small centers and the five home providers. The coaches also developed themed literacy kits for our library that provided access to the materials to early educators all over the County. In February 2007, we received a 12 month no-cost extension to continue the program. Unfortunately, the interest in emergent literacy had run its course by 2008 and funds to sustain the program dried up.
The collaborative efforts for the PROPEL grant propelled DCCDA into its future of implementing programming for early learning programs. 2007 was a pivotal year in DCCDA’s history. Late in 2006, the word leaked out from KACCRRA that they wanted to reorganize the R&R network. With fifteen R&R agencies across the State, concern was growing that too much of the available funds was going to covering administrative costs and not enough was actually reaching early educators. DCCDA’s contract was in peril. Located between Kansas City and Topeka and serving only one county made their R&R efforts prime targets in a reorganization that reduced the number of R&R agencies serving the State. DCCDA believed strongly that services as intimate as child care referral were best handled at the local level and enlisted the strong network of agencies serving early childhood with whom they had long nurtured relationships to advocate for them. But, the efforts were unsuccessful and we lost our R&R contract effective July 1, 2007.
But, DCCDA was not going to wither. Other opportunities presented themselves as KACCRRA pulled away. By the spring of 2007, there was a strong movement across the State and Nation to recognize the years from 0 – 5 as vital to the education of young children. Much research had been done in brain development and the importance of quality learning experiences was well recognized. The child care industry was seeing its role as educating young children rather than just providing a safe place for children to be while their parents worked. The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund that administers Tobacco Settlement Funds earmarked for early childhood invited Douglas County to apply for a PreK grant. We pulled together our partners on the PROPEL grant and wrote a successful grant to fund a collaborative PreK program for Douglas County, made up of three school district classrooms and three community classrooms. Each classroom was held to strict standards for teacher/child ratio, teacher qualifications, curriculum and wrap around services. DCCDA wrote the grant and was asked to serve as the administrator for the program. Its long history as a hub for early childhood development made it a strong candidate for bridging the difference between school and community programs. This collaborative effort continued through June 2017, when KSDE decided to leave collaborative programs out of their PreK model and make funding available only to school districts.
The same research in early brain development uncovered the impact that stress has upon the developing brain of a child and the concept of providing mental health services to young children was taking hold. Success by 6 wrote a proposal early in 2007 for an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Grant with funding provided by SRS. The grant was funded and Success by 6 awarded a sub-contract to DCCDA to hire and supervise an early childhood mental health consultant. Marci Ramsay was hired to fill that role. An MSW, enrolled in training as a Play Therapist, Marci was the ideal candidate to lead DCCDA into a new area of service.
By the end of 2007, we had lost a contract with KACCRRA for $100,000, but had gained a PreK contract for $389,894 and an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation grant for $50,000. Not a bad trade, all in all.
Marci’s first year on the job was difficult. Young children with mental health issues are primarily identifiable by their challenging behaviors. When word got out that Marci could help with these children, the phone started ringing. Every child care director wanted Marci to come “fix the kid”. It didn’t take her long to realize that many of the challenging behaviors that the directors were experiencing in their centers were not from children experiencing mental health issues but from the classroom environment, including classroom layout and underpaid, under-qualified teachers.
In the winter of 2008, Marci attended a conference on the CSEFEL Model of Positive Behavior Supports. She came back energized . She had found the solution to her problem. Marci would bring the model to Douglas County and assist directors with implementation, training teachers and serving as a consultant. There was just one problem. SRS, who had funded the grant for the fiscal year to end on June 30, 2008 forgot to include the grants in their budget for fiscal year 2009. Funding for Marci’s position was set to end before she could even get started with her exciting new venture.
The 2008 State Legislative session brought excitement to the early childhood community. The message that they had been shouting for so long, was finally falling on listening ears: the work done in early childhood was more than playing with kids and keeping them safe; it was an investment in our future. The 2008 Legislature approved Early Childhood Block Funds for programming in early childhood. Success by 6 and DCCDA knew exactly what they wanted to do with these funds and plans were put into place to write a proposal as soon as it was released. Success by 6 would write the proposal and contract it out to DCCDA and other implementing partners.
Part of that proposal would include funding mental health consultation and the implementation of the CSEFEL Model of Positive Behavior Supports. The plan was perfect. A pregnant Marci would leave her position on June 30, when the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation grant came to an end. She would give birth to her son in July and return to DCCDA in the fall with funding from the Early Childhood Block Grant. Oh, if life were that easy. The RFP did not come out until early fall. The fall was spent writing a proposal and waiting for the Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund to read and approve the proposals received. Finally, in December we received word that our proposal had been approved and funding would start in January 2009. After a long fall of living on pins and needles, Marci was able to rejoin the agency in December 2008, with some bridge funding from Success by 6.
Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation was just a piece of the grant. The PreK Program was a good model but the grant from Kansas State Department of Education was too small to fund all the classrooms who wanted to participate and within a year, funding was set to be cut by 9%. We wrote funds to enhance and expand the PreK Program.
In spite of being turned down for the 2004 ELOA grant to bring a quality rating system to Douglas County, the dream for a standard of quality for early childhood programs did not die. KACCRRA, who changed their name to Child Care Aware at about this time, had purchased the license for a quality rating system to implement in Kansas, under the name of Kansas Quality Rating & Improvement System (KQRIS). The early childhood community in Douglas County saw the Early Childhood Block Grants as a prime funding source for the KQRIS program. The plan was to tie all of our programming to the KQRIS program to ensure a commitment to quality improvement, if not quality itself.
The final piece of programming planned for the Early Childhood Block Grant was the Fund for Infant & Toddlers (FIAT) Scholarship program. The FIAT program was designed to provide tuition scholarships for children 0 – 30 months with the goal of improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of infant/toddler care. Each childcare provider who might receive scholarship funds would be required to participate in KQRIS. The model provided for paying a rate of greater than market to early educators who provided care to an infant or toddler on scholarship. The hope was that, with additional compensation, new slots would be opened. Participation for families was limited to those qualifying for SRS in order to serve the financially at risk families we wanted to reach. These families did not have to pay anything as their portion was covered by SRS, thus assuring affordability.
The concept for the FIAT program grew from the need to engage business owners with the idea that quality, dependable child care for their employees was of great value to them. National research had substantiated the link between quality, dependable child care and a more productive workforce. Absenteeism and employee turnover were reduced when parents had quality, dependable child care. In addition, children in early learning programs today would be the employees of twenty years hence. Employers have much at stake in quality, early learning programs. The Board of Success by 6, with Rich Minder and Anna Jenny as their spokespersons had been trying to engage Human Resource Managers at local businesses in the dialogue. This attempt at a dialogue and engagement of employers has continued sporadically over the years and continues to be a need searching for a resolution.
Early in December 2008, we received notice that our proposal for the Early Childhood Block Grant had been approved for $725,515. Of the total budget, $523,773 was subcontracted to DCCDA for implementation of the PreK Program, Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, and FIAT Scholarships. In January, 2009 a Scholarship Program Coordinator was hired and interagency agreements were written. Child Care Aware began recruiting providers to participate in KQRIS to build a pool of eligible FIAT providers. Interagency agreements were written for the PreK expansion.
Marci set to work with the implementation of Positive Behavior Supports. The PreK sites were selected for the initial implementation. She soon found herself training staff for thirty eight classrooms and providing consultation to six different child care settings. It was more than one person could handle and in late summer, she made the request for the hiring of two coaches to assist her. The idea was that the coaches would work with the teachers in the classrooms, administering the assessment tools of the program, develop goals with the teachers and coach them around areas of their classroom management that needed improvement. Anna dug around in the budget and came up with a plan that made hiring the coaches feasible and in October 2009, two coaches joined our staff. Their caseloads were huge – nineteen, each, but their enthusiasm and commitment to PBS lifted a great burden from Marci’s shoulders. The DCCDA model for system wide PBS implementation was starting to take shape.
The year 2010 brought new program funding opportunities. In January, SRS issued an RFP for early childhood programming to be funded by ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). These Federal funds had been made available in response to the economic downtown of 2008. Anna Jenny wrote a proposal to expand the FIAT program. It contained a couple of unique features to make the case of the link between child care tuition scholarships and economic development. We wrote into the proposal that we would focus our recruitment efforts on pregnant employees at The World Company and Lawrence Memorial Hospital. This would create a pool of participants large enough in the two employment sites to generate data for a program evaluation by the University of Kansas. We wanted to establish the case locally that quality, dependable child care was good for business. SRS was particularly interested in that aspect of the grant proposal. In April we were awarded a grant of $143,744. Of that, $42,000 went to Child Care Aware for KQRIS and $15,000 went to KU for the evaluation. $81,000 was earmarked for scholarship, and the remainder paid administrative costs. The grant period ran from April 2010 – September 2011. Unfortunately, our program design did not anticipate the difficulty of finding eligible employees at the two target sites. A few families were found, but ultimately we had to expand our scholarships to employers who paid lower wages. Overall, we were successful in securing an evaluation report to substantiate our case, which was shared with SRS.
In the spring of 2010, word of DCCDA’s efforts around PBS in early childhood settings was making its way out into the community. Eudora Public Schools was in the midst of implementing a Safe Schools Healthy Kids grant and wanted to utilize Positive Behavior Supports in their PreK and Kindergarten classrooms. They came to DCCDA for help. Would we hire a coach and supervise her to work in the Eudora schools? Funds for the first year would come from the Safe Schools Healthy Kids grant, but in future years, we would need to incorporate the position into our Block Grant funding. We agreed and the circle of PBS sites grew larger. Over the next ten years, we worked with three different cadres of implementing early education sites, serving approximately 12 different programs for three year coaching periods. Toward the end, it became apparent that there were no centers left with the staffing and resources necessary to make system-wide implementation and sustainability possible. We finished coaching at our last PBS site in December 2017.
In the summer of 2010, Rich Minder attended a State Conference and had a conversation with Kim Moore from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund. The UMHMF was preparing an RFP for programs to reduce obesity in young children by emphasizing healthy eating and/or exercise. Rich’s mind immediately conceived a program design to fulfill these requirements, and he shared it with Anna.
We would devise a program that builds relationships between farmers and early education programs, including Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) and gardening at early learning sites. The theory was that connecting children to healthy food - fresh, local fruits and vegetables in their care center gardens and on their dinner tables with CSA’s, from a very young age, would foster life-long healthy eating habits. Anna was skeptical that the early learning sites would embrace the idea, but willing to give it a try, so when the RFP came out in the fall, a proposal was written and $100,000 in funding for two years was awarded. Originally, the program was named Families, Farmers and Educators United for Healthy Child Development, then shorted to Families, Farmers and Educators United. Eventually, the name was changed to Healthy Sprouts, for obvious reasons. A program name with nine words in it, sponsored by Douglas County Child Development Association did not exactly roll off your tongue. Emily Hampton was hired to be the program’s coordinator.
The success that Emily had in the first year on the job was a tremendous surprise. In addition to engaging farmers to make CSA subscriptions available to families at child care settings and families to participate in the CSA, Emily and her assistant wrote a curriculum focused on local foods that the early
Education sites could use in their classrooms/home. A Fall Harvest Festival was held. This was to become an annual event.
In the second year, participation doubled. Emily and her fellow staff member started writing grants to USDA and community foundations to sustain the program once the UNHMF grant came to an end. The USDA efforts were not successful, but they garnered over $70,000 to sustain the program through a third year from community foundations and an extension grant from UMHMF. Funding for a fourth year was less successful. With only a $25,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, fundraising became an urgent need. An Indiegogo campaign was launched; private donations were solicited and a Sunday Soiree fundraising event was held in January 2014. Unfortunately, our fundraising efforts were not effective to sustain the Healthy Sprouts program. It ended due to lack of funding in the fall of 2014.
As time passed, we were able to watch our Healthy Sprouts program grow under a new roof. Emily Hampton and Melissa Freiburger did not give up their vision. They formed a collaborative with farmers and entrepreneurs in the community and turned the old Sunrise Nursery site, at 15th and New York Streets here in Lawrence, into a “community-driven organization that provides space and opportunities for people to live healthy, self-determined lives through engagement with food and the environment to build a socially just community.” This new incarnation of Healthy Sprouts continues today, independent of DCCDA, as the Sunrise Project. They continue to operate the farm-to-preschool program, but have expanded programing to include all ages.
In 2000, Success by 6 launched the Family Resource Team. It was a coalition of family support workers from various agencies including Bert Nash, tiny-k and KU Counseling designed to provide families with the supports they need to be successful families and community members. FRT Services included parenting education, family counseling, play therapy for children, information and referral, plus support and advocacy. Over the years, agencies providing the services came and went. Marci joined the Team when she joined DCCDA. One of the challenges to the Family Resource Team was finding competent professionals with experience and interest in working with early childhood. Another challenge was dual authority for the professionals doing the work. They were under management of their employer, while working for the Family Resource Team. The two did not always have common goals or a shared vision. Over the years, Rich tried to bring the management of the team under one roof, but met with resistance from the Success by 6 Board. In the late summer of 2012 the issue came up once again. This time the SB6 Board agreed that Early Childhood Block Grant funds could be used to hire a Clinical Coordinator at DCCDA to oversee the Family Resource Team.
In practice, the change had little impact on how the team functioned. By that point, DCCDA had three therapists on staff who were doing therapy under the purview of Positive Behavior Support Consultation. It was not a great leap to begin calling them the Family Resource Team. The group of DCCDA therapists had established a close relationship with the therapist at tiny-k, and with the Early Childhood Special Education Consultant employed by Success by 6. By this time, Success by 6 and DCCDA were co-housing in the office on 6th Street. At the time of the transition, and part of the reason that the change was prompted, was that Bert Nash no longer had an Early Childhood Therapist on staff.
At the same time that discussion about where to house and how to manage the Family Resource Team was on-going, work was underway to get DCCDA and the therapists on staff approved for billing their services through Medicaid. Medicaid changes in the codes for billing early childhood services opened the door for billing Medicaid for services that had previously required grant funding because of the lack of a suitable diagnosis. Medicaid approved the therapists by the end of 2012, and then paperwork had to be submitted to each of the newly appointed Managed Care Organizations. The MCO’s were selected by Governor Brownback in his move to privatize Medicaid, effective January 2013. Two of the three MCO’s approved DCCDA and the therapists by late spring 2013. The third followed in August (nearly a year after the process began). We quickly jumped into learning the billing process, submitting bills and accounting for billable time for the therapists, separate from grant funding. We anticipated that Medicaid funding would be supplemental to grant funding, providing for future growth, yet allowing the therapists to handle cases that were not billable for one reason or another with grant funding. We wanted families to continue to receive services regardless of their ability to pay.
In the summer of 2013, Emily Hilding, one of our PBS coaches heard that the Lawrence Douglas County Housing Authority was looking for an early education program to locate in their facility. With an extensive background as an early childhood teacher, Emily had taught at the site under its previous tenant. She brought her excitement to Anna and Marci and we all saw the potential. This was our opportunity to create a Demonstration Site for Positive Behavior Supports. We would develop a fully inclusive, PBS based, classroom environment to give children who have social-emotional or developmental needs the opportunity to learn by watching and imitating their peers, as well as teaching children who are typically developing the important life lessons of diversity, compassion and acceptance. We would serve twelve students, 3 – 5 years old with a minimum staff/child ratio of 1:6. Three peer model slots would be available for each one individualized or special needs slot. Coaches and teachers at implementing sites could be invited in to see PBS in action and to see firsthand techniques they could use in their classrooms. An adjoining suite would be used by the mental health team to provide intensive therapy for children during the day to alleviate scheduling and transportation issues for parents.
We wrote a proposal for the Housing Authority and their Board accepted it on October 1, 2013. Emily was named the director/lead teacher. She immediately put her creative energy to work designing the space and filling it with all the supplies and equipment needed to make it a fun, learning environment for children. We went through the Fire Marshal’s inspection and submitted paperwork for licensing and DCF subsidies (When Gov Brownback took office in 2011; he changed the name of SRS to Department of Children and Families, DCF). We opened our doors to ten children on February 2, 2014.
The first few months were rough. Our peer model to specialized slots ratio was less than 3:1 and a couple of the children had significant behavior challenges. Emily spent all of her time during the first few months teaching expectations. Her hard work paid off and soon children were giving one another positive reinforcement and following the classroom rules. All of us involved were going through a learning curve those first few months, learning about recruitment and the difficulty in managing finances with such a small student base. Every parent’s financial problems became our financial problems, and the small scholarship fund we were able to put together from old United Way reserves, wouldn’t stretch nearly far enough. In spite of the difficulties, commitment to the project remained strong.
By the fall of 2017, we had worked out the kinks in our operating model and opened a second classroom in the unit next door to the original classroom. We offered services to children aged 2 ½ - 4 in Unit 160 (Preschool), and children aged 4 to 5 entering Kindergarten in Unit 159 (PreK). The PreK classroom housed 12 children while the preschool classroom housed 10 children. Our education and PBS implementation services had come full circle. Positive Bright Start serves as a model to the community of developmental appropriate practice for managing challenging behaviors, teaching social-emotions skills and creating a trauma informed environment,
By 2013, it was obvious that the way that people chose to network had changed dramatically since 1973. Social media was not going away and it was impacting our membership and services. If you can’t lick them, join them. In the summer of 2013, we launched our DCCDA Facebook page. Social media had become the way we communicated, particularly with our Healthy Sprouts fans and Association members.
In the spring of 2016, 3 board members – Brandon Sack, Vicki Condra-Williams, and Scott Allegrucci and 4 staff members – Anna Jenny, Marci Ramsay, Alicia Johnson-Turner, and Michelle Needham formed the Visioning Committee to develop “the dream” and bring it into fruition. Over the years, DCCDA had experienced significant changes and we felt it was time to look at what we were doing well and shift our focus to establish the agency as the premier provider of those services within the community. It didn’t take long for the dream to come into focus. Trauma informed early childhood therapeutic and education services were our forte and badly needed within the community.
The challenge was establishing that identity within the early childhood community that had known us for so long as an association serving their needs and within the Douglas County community as a whole. Though we had been around for forty five years, our name recognition in the community are embarrassingly low. We determined to begin with a name change. We wanted something that was more descriptive of the work we do, easier to remember, and not easily confused with other agencies. We chose Positive Bright Start to build upon the name our preschool classrooms had adopted.
Once the vision of our future was clear and a name chosen, we set about developing the image to convey our message. With the help of Scott Allegrucci, we were able to get donated time from employees at the local advertising agency, Callahan Creek, to design a logo and develop a webpage. Of course, that took longer than we anticipated, but by the spring of 2017, the logo and webpage were ready for unveiling to the public. But, the unveiling was put on hold while we looked for the perfect spot to house our dream. Our lease was expiring and we’d outgrown our current space. After much looking, we were able to secure a lease at 1900 Delaware, doubling our space, moving us into the neighborhood near our preschool and a major portion of our clientele. October 23, 2017 was selected as moving day.
Recognizing that although we had been very fortunate over the course of our history with grant funding and that it was not expedient that we rely so heavily on grants, Anna wrote for a capacity building grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. This grant was awarded in September 2017 and provided funds to hire a professional fundraiser to help us develop a Resource Development Plan and supplement the wages of a staff person to build a database of potential donors and handle the administrative tasks associated with events. Judith Keller was hired and began work in early winter. By February 2018, she delivered a plan to the board and work began to utilize her findings.
With the move, came the announcement of our new name and the unveiling of our new logo. Promotional materials were designed and printed. Staff and board members quickly fell in love with our new home and soon came to embrace our new identity. We began preparing meals for the preschool in our new kitchen. A new feeling of cohesion began to grow.
To the casual observer, our history has lacked continuity. What does a mental health therapist have in common with a CACFP claims specialist? Children. Although we look much different today than we did in 1972, our mission remains the same. Positive Bright Start supports the development and well-being of young children and their families. We continue to do that through advocacy and grassroots efforts as did our founding mothers. Positive Bright Start believes every child deserves a brighter tomorrow, yet children and their caregivers face challenges that compromise their healthy development and ability to thrive. Positive Bright Start serves the holistic needs of our community’s youngest, most vulnerable and life—affected children and their caregivers to foster lifelong success. Serving Children. Supporting Caregivers. Strengthening our Community.
Thanks to Lucile Paden, whose original history of the agency in 1977 served as the launching point for this history, and her sister, Alita Cooper, whose lifelong dedication to DCCDA and child care activism made her the perfect sleuth for filling in some blanks.
Last update: June 2018