By JEN CARDINES
The Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington (ECCS) director Joanne Kelleher took a different approach to an annual meeting by inviting the public to an informational presentation on Tuesday, May 16. “The State of Early Childhood in Southington” was delivered to an audience of local educators, preschool directors, library representatives, and more to alert people about the increasing need for early childhood care.
Kelleher said that according to ECCS by-laws, she needed to hold the meeting in May.
“I thought I would attract more people to attend if I could combine it with a presentation about the children in town and the work that is being done to support them,” she said. “Since future funding is a concern, I also was looking for a way to get more people involved.”
Major funders of the collaborative in previous years are not supporting ECCS in the upcoming fiscal year, which is a concern for the collaboration once this calendar year ends.
“I am very concerned about funding starting in January 2018,” Kelleher said. “If funds are not received, the board will need to make some hard decisions about other fundraising options, returning to a completely volunteer organization, or potentially disbanding.”
With funding from various state and federal grants coming to a close, the main fiscal agent for the ECCS is the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain (CFGNB), a federally recognized 501c3 non-profit organization. But with the expiration of over $50,000 in grants, costs might be too much for CFGNB.
The ECCS is a group of committed educators, parents, grandparents, healthcare and childcare providers, business owners, civic organizations and members of the community who are deeply invested in the growth, development and academic success of young children in Southington.
According to Kelleher’s report, there are not enough childcare facilities to match the number of infants and registration for this fall is almost at full capacity. In addition, state budget issues caused cuts in the Care4Kids childcare subsidy. In June 2016, 121 Southington children were eligible for Care4Kids, but as of March 2017 the number was down to 93.
“It’s a trickle-down effect,” Kelleher said, noting that the decreased number of kids in daycare causes staff layoffs.
Since ECCS began in 2003, students entering elementary school have had improved progress, which could also be attributed to all day kindergarten which started about four years ago.
“The kids are definitely more prepared coming in,” assistant superintendent Steven Madancy said after the presentation.
Following Kelleher’s presentation, the director of the Family Resource Center (FRC) Krista Pisano and the Southington Library children’s department head Cindy Wall also spoke to the audience about what their programs do for early childhood.
The FRC offers free programs year-round to Southington residents where caregivers stay on site with the children. It is currently located inside of Hatton Elementary School but will be relocating to Strong School for the upcoming 2017-18 school year.
The children’s department promotes various reading activities and long-term programs for families to utilize and they are planning even more programs for the fall.
“We want to keep offering more because the demand is there,” Wall said.