The Childcare Learning Centers (CLC) Story
An Overview of CLC : Past, Present and Future
“Stamford is an even better place to live because Childcare Learning Centers provides outstanding opportunities for our youngest citizens and newest families. CLC’s vision of Stamford as a national model in providing universal pre-K makes it the perfect partner to implement the city’s innovative School Readiness Program.”
- Governor Dannel P. Malloy
From its earliest history through its long range vision, Childcare Learning Centers (CLC) of Fairfield County, Connecticut, a 501(c)(3) not for profit agency, has been at the forefront of identifying needs for, as well as developing and implementing high-quality programs for, childcare and early childhood education and development. CLC was one of the first programs in the nation to achieve the new standards of the NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation and the organization continues to receive the highest ratings.
CLC’s original mission of caring for the young children of women who must work outside the home is more relevant today than ever. With the area’s disadvantaged population growing – led by an influx of immigrants, primarily from South America, Mexico, Central America, Asia & the Caribbean affected by a soft economy, the achievement gap between disadvantaged and more affluent children is increasing. Yet the parents of these children are helping to support the community and deserve the peace of mind that their children will be able to take advantage of the opportunities their new country offers. In today’s environment – similar to that at the time of its founding -- CLC has the potential to increase its already-significant educational, economic, and social impact.
The government programs that CLC implements have had impact, of course. But they are not keeping up with demand, the costs of operations, and increased program mandates and requirements. Add to this the fact that CLC’s mission often takes it beyond the classroom. For example, its social work and nursing staff have helped families navigate the healthcare and health insurance systems. In one instance, they helped little Jessica Recinos and her family – new to the US -- get coverage for extensive medical care when she was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening eye cancer. For more information please read our Success Stories.
Funding issues, increasing costs, and maintaining high quality programs and services, regardless, are factors that have led to short term challenges. For a number of years, the agency operated 17 scattered sites. Today the agency has consolidated to three major sites which have helped it realize its vision of establishing Stamford as a national model for universal pre-k. This, of course, was the direct result of the commitment and support of all of CLC’s stakeholders and the community at large.
A History of Meeting Needs Through Quality Care & Education
“Recently I joined a group of CLC Head Start children studying the lifecycle of the butterfly. When I asked what they could tell me about what they’d learned, a bright-faced four-year old girl raised her hand right away and explained the lifecycle – beginning with the chrysalis – which she pronounced perfectly and explained in words that proved her comprehension. This is not an uncommon occurrence at CLC.”
- CLC CEO Barbara Garvin-Kester
CLC was established in 1902 as the Stamford Day Nursery by its founder and first president Mrs. Steward W. Smith to provide care for the children of working families within the Stamford and surrounding communities. Mrs. Smith founded the organization with the help of a group of prominent citizens, including Schuyler Merritt, a U.S. Representative for whom the Merritt Parkway is named. Its first home was a rented house on Greyrock Place. Since then, CLC has grown dramatically and is now licensed to serve 1,000 children and their families daily.
A board of managers was formed in its founding year and the organization was incorporated in 1905. The articles of incorporation identify the mission of the Stamford Day Nursery as “providing and maintaining a place for suitably caring for young children during the daytime while their mothers are earning a livelihood, or are temporarily unable, on account of sickness or other causes, to properly care for them.” The incorporation papers stated explicitly that the organization was to be non-sectarian in its management, and “conducted in such manner as to provide wholesome surroundings, moral influences, proper exercises, innocent amusements, and suitable educational advantages.” Early on, the board of managers established an endowment which is still an important contributor to the organization’s fiscal management. Fundraising and philanthropy have also played a significant role since CLC’s beginnings.
During that time, Stamford was experiencing an influx of European immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and Poland who came seeking a better life for their families. They worked in service and construction jobs that supported the growth of Stamford. CLC was instrumental in helping their children learn English so that they could integrate productively into their new homeland.
Ironically, today Stamford is experiencing a similar influx of Hispanic immigrants. As they work diligently to build their lives here, these newer neighbors seek the best care and education for their children. CLC’s roots working with children from non- English speaking homes is serving both the children and their families well – positively influencing both the current and future workforce.
CLC’s early traditions continue today in its holistic approach to childcare and education and in its governance by a committed local volunteer board of directors, along with its caring professional education and management staff – in partnership with other community organizations. Mom, Maryne Sherwood, is pleased with the quality of education at CLC, including outside teaching resources that CLC brings to the classroom. She became an involved member of the CLC Parent Council. For more information, see our Success Stories
Preschoolers are served 2 meals and snacks daily, while on-site health care providers and social and family service workers partner with teachers to ensure that children’s medical, nutritional, physical, and emotional needs are addressed. This allows for an optimal learning experience that closes the achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children.
Key points and milestones in CLC’s more recent history include:
- During World War II a second center was opened to accommodate working mothers in the defense industry.
- 1965 – Stamford Head Start Program begins.
- 1969 – Stamford Day Care Program begins with a grant from the City of Stamford.
- 1972 – Agency changes name to Childcare Center of Stamford, Inc.
- 1973 – Agency moves headquarters to 64 Palmer’s Hill Road.
- 1997 – Stamford School Readiness Program begins.
- 1998 – Early Head Start Program begins.
- 1999 – Hillandale Childhood Development Center opens with 350 spaces.
- 2001 – Hillandale CDC renamed William Pitt Child Development Center in recognition of his support of education and $500,000 gift to the program.
- 2002 – At 100th Annual Meeting, Mayor Dannel Malloy announces name change to Childcare Learning Centers (CLC), Inc.
- 2003 – CLC Leadership Council launches, bringing community leaders into the strategic development process.
- 2006 – Annual Alphabet Ball fundraiser honors Executive Director Jane Norgren on her retirement after 20 years of service.
- 2007 – William Pitt CDC is awarded highest level of accreditation under NAEYC’s rigorous new standards – one of first in the nation.
- 2008 – Barbara Garvin-Kester joins CLC as only the 4th Executive Director of the agency since 1961.
- 2008 – Stamford Board of Education votes to close Rogers Elementary School and offers 12 classrooms and additional space to CLC for its consolidation plan.
- 2009 – CLC consolidates children from 7 smaller sites in its newest facility, Maple Avenue Child Development Center, at the campus of the former Rogers Elementary School.
Making a Positive Impact on Children, Families & the Community
“In reality, the future of Stamford begins right here at CLC. Excellent quality of life begins with excellent education from early childhood on. If we can begin bridging the achievement gap for every child dealing with poverty and language barriers, we can help to leverage Stamford’s rich diversity and economic and social mix to make it an even more vibrant city.”
- CLC Board Chair Scott Conley
CLC is licensed to serve nearly 1000 children, many of whom are Stamford residents. The organization also serves children from other towns whose parents work in Stamford. Thus it serves both residents and employers. Its programs include Early Head Start, Head Start, Child Development and School Readiness. Families pay per a sliding scale based upon income. Thirteen percent of families pay nothing for programs and services received, and 62 percent pay less than $50 per week.Funded enrollments for each program are:
- Early Head Start; 60
- Head Start; 213
- Child Development (including Infants/Toddlers); 227 + 25 private
- School Readiness; 431
- Early Head Start; 80
- Head Start; 278
- Child Development; 525
- School Readiness; 636
CLC Programs and services have a significant positive impact on the children they serve. For example, little Cynthia Rojas was a shy and timid child when she entered the CLC School Readiness program for pre-K, and entered kindergarten a ‘social butterfly’ according to her mom. Read more about the Rojas family and CLC in our Success Stories. In addition to making a difference one child at a time, CLC also provides a major cultural and economic impact on Stamford and the surrounding region.
- CLC employs nearly 200 individuals and offers employment opportunities for bilingual speakers. It also provides continuing education for its teachers.
- With its $15,000,000 budget, CLC provides an economic impact of $105,000,000 on the local economy.
- CLC is a well run, efficient, and creative organization -- using low cost facilities and providing a high quality of programming. This approach provides a significant cost benefit per child.
- CLC is governed by a strong community-based board and community leadership council. Its partnerships with the City of Stamford and other nonprofits in the area offer a unique model for providing care and early childhood development services.
- The existence of CLC results in a number of critical long term benefits to the community and the region. Its early childhood education programs that bridge the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children:
- Help to create a highly employable workforce
- Keep costs of future social services down, including incarceration, remediation, at-risk behavior, early pregnancies, high school dropouts, homelessness, etc.
- Reach beyond the classroom and into the home where they also become educational resources for parents.
- Provide care and education options for parents from other towns who seek and find work in Stamford.
- Collaboration, consolidation, and cooperation: CLC works with other NGO organizations to provide a continuum of services from birth to the workplace with all appropriate educational opportunities in between.
- Of the 7,767 children in Stamford ages 0 to 4, CLC is currently serving nearly 1000, or 13% of that population. The agency estimates that there are an additional 200 to 400 families still needing help.
CLC Values: A Foundation for Yesterday & Today’s Mission & Vision
- Our children are our reason for being and our parents are our partners. They are our priority in all that we do.
- We value and respect all our children and families by celebrating their differences and showing appreciation for their unique gifts and contributions.
- We engage our children and families with candor, honesty, and compassion
- We promote learning, fun, work, and play in our organization; we celebrate our successes, admit our mistakes, and learn from both.
CLC enriches the community as the leader in early childhood development by providing
comprehensive, high-quality early childhood education and care programs for all
Our vision is to ensure to every child in the greater Stamford area access to a quality, early childhood education and a “head start” in the pursuit of a shared American dream. We achieve this by cooperating, collaborating, and coordinating with our community social service agencies. We work to be more efficient and more productive in the face of declining governmental resources and in developing community support to provide best in class early childhood programming.
Summary and Reasons for Support
CLC is an organization that has proven its value and ability to evolve with changing community needs over its 100+-year history. Its current initiative to consolidate facilities and expand services to meet current and future needs exemplifies this continuous commitment. There are many, many reasons to support CLC in this critical effort. Here are just a few.
- The agency is having an impact on the development of the region’s future workforce
- By providing the childcare that parents need so that they can go to work, CLC contributes to the economic viability of the City of Stamford.
- By helping those most in need, CLC promotes fairness in access to education.
- The opportunity for early childhood education increases the chance of less advantaged residents to achieve the American dream.
- CLC is one of the few early childhood resources in the region fully dedicated to bridging the achievement gap.
- As government funding is not keeping up with the cost of new mandates and operational expenses, the private sector must play a significant role in helping CLC to meet the expanding need for its programs in the Stamford community.