Cuyahoga County program changes name, expands services for children
by Niki Nohejl

(Plain Press, February 2005) After five years of being known as Early Childhood Initiative (ECI), the partnership between Cuyahoga County government and area nonprofit organizations, foundations and corporations has decided to change its name to Invest in Children. The newly renamed organization is being billed as a five-year, over  $70 million collaborative effort that will focus on creating quality early childhood programs and services for children under six years of age.

The new name change stems from the organization’s main goal, which is investing time, effort, and resources in the lives of children to make a positive difference in the future. Invest in Children believes that providing children with a loving positive environment will turn them into citizens who will want to contribute to the community as they reach adulthood.

Invest in Children is planning to expand the present facilities of ECI over the next four years. The expansion of new services will be added in order to reach every eligible family. ECI originally focused on children from birth to the age of three; now Cuyahoga County wants to extend the focus to age five. Extensive outreach efforts hope to  engage more women earlier in their pregnancies in home visiting, instead of reaching a small number of pregnant women.  Eligibility will be extended to all parents of newborns for home visits instead of just first time parents. In addition, efforts are being made to expand access to center-based childcare, which will serve more children who are between the ages of three to five-years-old.

In the past five years, ECI has reached over 115,000 children under the age of six. ECI programs include: Early Start, Healthy Start, Welcome Home, Family Childcare Home Network and Special Needs Child Care. Seventy-five percent of children born in Cuyahoga County have used one or more of these services provided by ECI, reaching 87 percent within the first three months of life. Childcare providers in the county have doubled and two thirds of the children with special needs are presently in childcare placement. 

ECI has received many acknowledgements over the years as well. For example, The National Center for Children in Poverty said ECI is one of the 25 best community-wide efforts focusing on the wellbeing of infants, toddlers, and families.  

Leslie Dunn, co-chair of ECI, would call the first five years of the county’s effort successful because they learned which strategies work along with what needs to be done in the future to continuously improve the programs.

Dunn said, “With a renewed sense of enthusiasm and determination, we have changed the name of the County’s all-encompassing initiative to Invest in Children.  We ask the entire community to join us in supporting this investment in our children and our community’s future.”

Cleveland Mayor Jane L. Campbell said, “By investing in our children from the first moment they enter this world and continuing to work with them and their families throughout their early stages of life, we can have a tremendous impact on the future of these children and the future of this region. We must start at the beginning.”

For more information call the Cuyahoga County Commissioners’ office at 443-7000.


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