2020 Fennie Community Fund
Legal-name: Children Today
Address: 2951 Long Beach Blvd.
City: Long Beach
Officer-title: Board President
Mission: The mission of Children Today is to foster stability and success in children and families who are facing homelessness or who are involved in the child welfare system. We do this by providing trauma-informed child development and family support services.
ContactTitle: Interim Executive Director
Grant-purpose: We respectfully request grant funds to subsidize program supplies and educational materials for EcoHouse, Children Today’s trauma-informed child development facility serving children, 0-5 years of age, who are facing homelessness and/or maltreatment.
What-is-project: Children Today provides trauma-informed child development and support services to families experiencing homelessness, those at imminent risk for homelessness, and those who are involved in the child welfare system due to suspected abuse or neglect. Low adult-child ratios (1:3 children in our infant classroom, 1:4 for our toddler classroom, and an average of 1:6 for our preschool classroom) enable our specially trained teachers to offer individualized attention to each child.
Our program is designed with guidance from the California Department of Education’s Learning and Development Foundations and Curriculum Framework. Teachers use the Creative Curriculum – a widely used and respected evidence-based early childhood curriculum whose focus is on responsive care-giving through routines and experiences, and features exploration and discovery as a way of learning. Using the Creative Curriculum as a guide, teachers: conduct careful observations of children to understand their development, needs, and interests; create a variety of tools and teaching methods to address individual and group needs; respond appropriately and specifically to each child; and plan different interest areas to promote exploration and learning.
We understand that in order to provide a quality program that meets the developmental needs of young children, the following must be in place: 1) children must feel safe and secure and trust that their needs will be met by a nurturing and responsive caregiver; 2) teachers must be able to use careful observation and their knowledge of child development to set up learning opportunities and tailor interactions with individual children based on those children’s cues and interests; 3) teachers must develop a respectful, reciprocal relationship with families and use families’ home language, culture and traditions to inform their work with children; and 4) teachers must develop curriculum and an environment that supports the holistic manner in which young children learn.
We offer a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and snack, prepared daily by our cook. Food is available for families to take home at the end of the day, should they need it. We keep a stock of new and gently used clothes, socks, and shoes, along with hygiene products, diapers, and other staples for families so they can focus their resources on housing and financial stability.
Requested funds would be used to ensure sufficient program supplies to meet the needs of the children and families in our care. They would also be used to purchase developmentally appropriate and trauma-informed educational materials to ensure children and engaged and challenged.
How-will-you-succeed: Success for this project would be happy children engaged in rich, diverse, and developmentally appropriate activities that help them meet developmental milestones.
1) Children will demonstrate progress in meeting developmental milestones. Children are assessed using the Desired Results Developmental Profile. This a widely used assessment tool required by the California Department of Education that measures Approaches to Learning/Self-Regulation, Social & Emotional Development, Language & Literacy Development, Cognition, including Math & Science, Physical Development/Health, History/Social Science, and Visual & Performing Arts. Children are assessed within 60 days of enrollment to establish a baseline measure and then every six months thereafter to track their progress. Children who are enrolled long enough to have a second developmental assessment, will demonstrate developmental progress at an average rate of 40%.
2) Families will report they are satisfied or highly satisfied with the program overall at a rate of 75% in anonymous surveys which are distributed annually.
To sustain the program, we will continue to actively solicit funding from myriad sources, including government contracts, foundation funding, private and corporate donations, and proceeds from fundraising events.
Who-are-you: Children Today was founded in 1997 by two working mothers in Long Beach, California, after one of them saw a toddler wandering alone down a busy street, wearing only a diaper, his parents nowhere to be seen. It was this haunting image of homelessness – as well as its often overlooked impact on children – that inspired the creation of Children Today.
In 2000, co-founders Theresa Bixby and Jennifer Fitzgerald, along with a dedicated board of directors, opened the Play House West – a free, licensed, comprehensive child development facility for children between the ages of six weeks and six years, who were experiencing homelessness. In 2008, Children Today opened The Play House North, a second facility serving children experiencing homelessness in North Long Beach. In 2012, Children Today expanded our mission to include serving families involved in the child welfare system. We did this for two reasons: 1) there is a considerable overlap between children who have been homeless and those who have experienced abuse and neglect, and 2) the effects of both types of trauma – homelessness and abuse/neglect – manifest themselves in similar ways in young children.
In early 2016, Children Today combined all of its operations into one facility: EcoHouse. Centrally located in Long Beach, EcoHouse is purpose-built to enhance our trauma-informed services for children and families. Combining welcoming, cheerful indoor spaces and child-centric outdoor play areas, this new facility enables us to provide a safer and more stable environment for some of the City’s most vulnerable. EcoHouse is a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified building, having used sustainable elements and processes in design, construction and operations.
In 2019, Children Today was awarded a subcontract and designated a partner agency by Long Beach Unified School District Head Start & Early Head Start. This unique affiliation allows us to access a wealth of new services and resources for children and families (including health/mental health care, and speech/physical therapy) as well as coaching, assessment and training for staff.
The mission of Children Today is to foster stability and success in children and families who are facing homelessness or who are involved in the child welfare system. We do this by providing trauma-informed child development and family support services. Our vision is that all children under age six who have experienced homelessness or abuse and neglect will have a safe, nurturing place to spend their days playing, learning and growing, while their parents take steps towards stability.