Organizational Description, Background, and Qualifications
The Mission of the Children’s Campus of Kansas City (CCKC), incorporated in 2004, is to assure that children birth to five years of age who are most at risk for academic failure access the resources they need to succeed in school and life. This is accomplished by agencies working together to support the health and well being of young children and their families. Agencies representing the fields of early childhood education, parenting education, family support, health, education and research have co-located on the campus and collectively built a system of services that address the multiple needs of young children and their families. Additionally, campus programs link families to other agencies in the community that bring added value to the system of services.
The CCKC was founded to facilitate collaboration and service efficiencies between and among agencies, to build a community of best practices through community trainings, to support a Centralized Screening and Referral System for young children and their families so they access the most appropriate services at the time of need, and children receive early education / intervention so they are ready for school success. The Children’s Campus of Kansas City, Inc. owns and operates a 3-story, 72,000 square foot building on land donated by the Dickinson Financial Corporation (located between 4th and 5th Streets, Minnesota to State Avenues, in Kansas City, KS). The cost of the building was $16 million. The building was financed through a public-private partnership. Eleven million was raised through the capital campaign and an additional $5.0 million was financed through a 1st mortgage loan. The CCKC Board of Directors oversaw the design and construction of the building. The Board of Directors consists of directors from the three founding agencies with eight additional directors elected from the community. The Children’s Campus Board has hired a property management company to manage the building/grounds and the operating budget. While the Children’s Campus has no employees, it has contracted with the University of Kansas Medical Center-Research Institute to provide support in the areas of property management and finance. All other operational services are outsourced and managed by the property management company.
The CCKC offers early childhood education, parenting education, family support, and health care services (health, mental health, and dental health care) for the children in Wyandotte County that are most at risk for academic failure. Three founding agencies have long term leases for the entire 72,000 sq.ft. These agencies are committed to the collective effort and are well-established, high profile community nonprofits that have been in existence between 23 and 130 years:
1. Juniper Gardens Children’s Project: The Juniper Gardens Children’s Project is a community-based research partnership between area families and schools and the University of Kansas. Its mission since 1964 has been to improve the developmental and educational experiences of children and families and thereby improve children’s social and academic achievements. The project seeks to address problems deemed important by local families, community leaders, and agency partners through grant and proposal development, consultation, collaboration, measurement, and the use of evidence-based practice.
2. Project Eagle: A major division of the Department of Pediatrics within the University of Kansas Medical Center. Project Eagle manages the Educare of Kansas City which offers center-based early childhood education and comprehensive family support services to children most at risk of academic failure. Project Eagle began in 1989 as a national research and demonstration site and currently manages the Early Head Start program for Wyandotte County, Connections, Educare of Kansas City, and Early Steps to School Success. Project Eagle’s mission is to nurture the healthy growth and development of the community’s most vulnerable young children and families by providing a foundation for school readiness and strengthening family engagement. Project Eagle was designated a Center of Excellence by the national Office of Head Start in 2007. In 2012, Project Eagle received the Ed Zigler Award for Innovation from the National Head Start Association.
3. The Family Conservancy: The Family Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to strengthening families and fostering the healthy development of young children. The agency’s mission is investing in families and children by: delivering parenting and early education solutions; supporting families in crisis; and helping families overcome poverty. The Family Conservancy is a United Way agency, serving Kansas and Missouri families since 1880.
Project Description, Need, and Value
Children living in poverty are at greater risk for health and social problems and experience significant developmental risk factors and low levels of success. They often enter kindergarten two standard deviations below the norm and never catch up with their peers. Research has demonstrated that there is a way to change the trajectories and outcomes for the most disadvantaged children. Impressive research experiments conducted by academics in controlled settings have given us incontrovertible evidence that this can be accomplished through high quality early childhood education programming that additionally offers support services for the whole family. Research reflects that investments in the early years have very high rates of return while interventions at later ages in the life cycle have low economic returns. People who participate in enriched early childhood programs are more likely to complete school and much less likely to require welfare benefits, become teen parents or participate in criminal activities. Rather, they become productive adults. (James J. Heckman, PhD)
The problem is that there is a gap between what we know and what we do. With a sense of urgency, major foundations are combining human and financial resources to build early education programs that put the research led by James Heckman, Jack Shonkoff, and others into everyday practice. Similarly in Kansas City, the Children’s Campus of Kansas City is working to narrow the gap between what we know and what we do using available funding streams and operating in real-world settings rather than in academic labs. All the CCKC tenants are committed to working together to improve the outcomes of young children. The Educare School will specifically fully implement the evidenced-based practices that improve the educational trajectories for the most disadvantaged children in our community. The Educare of Kansas City hires highly qualified, credentialed teachers, provides intensive and continuous staff development, utilizes a curriculum with emphasis on early language, literacy, and social-emotional development, maintains high staff/child ratios, designs small class size, involves parents, infuses the arts, and creates an interdisciplinary team of professionals that provide services to meet the individualized needs of each family.
The CCKC services will be targeted at pregnant women, children ages birth to eight who are most at risk for academic failure, their families, and professionals working with this population. As mentioned above, more than a 1,000 children and their families will be served annually and over 2,800 early childhood education professionals will receive professional development course work to enhance their practice.
The CCKC serves as a beacon of hope for the community and plays an important role in re-writing the future of early education in our community. Programs work in collaboration with community partners, rather than in isolation, to do what we know works and what holds the greatest promise for changing the trajectories for the most disadvantaged children. Children embark on a journey of education continuing through adulthood and leading to success and productivity. The children receiving services will be healthier and on-track in all areas of development, including social-emotional development, cognitive development, and language and literacy development, making them more likely to enter kindergarten ready for success. We expect that parents will have the necessary knowledge, skills, and supports necessary to nurture their children’s healthy growth and development. Families will be connected to services that are responsive to their needs.
Researchers from Juniper Gardens Children’s Project of the University of Kansas will be embedded onsite to assure intentionality and fidelity to the model. Rather than just promise that our children will be healthier and better prepared for school and life, children and families’ progress is closely tracked. This part of the work is sorely needed in the field of education. There will be measurable and comparative means for assessing child and family outcomes with special emphasis on tracking social-emotional development, cognitive development, language development, and health. The CCKC contribution to the field will be enormous.