With funding from the Sisters of Charity Foundation of
Canton, the Early Childhood Resource Center was established in 2000 as a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.* The Center was created to serve early childhood professionals by providing training, accreditation classes, technical assistance, and mentoring. The goal was to increase the amount of high-quality early childhood education and care available in Stark County.
In 2010, the Center launched a capital campaign to purchase a new building. Made possible by an outpouring of community support, the new facility features a children’s library and production/craft lab; a large classroom; and an indoor Inspiration Station and outdoor playscape.
In 2011, the Center began serving families with young children. Parent engagement, education, and support services included parenting courses and mentoring, both at the new building and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
In 2013, the Center became the parent organization managing and operating the SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) kindergarten readiness program. SPARK is a free, family-focused program. The SPARK parent and child meet monthly with a specially trained SPARK parent partner, typically in the family home. The parent partner empowers the parent to work directly with the child. SPARK families receive the books, supplies, and resources they need to work toward school readiness. The program focuses on academics and activities that encourage social-emotional development as well as problem solving, communication, fine/gross motor, and self-help skills. The SPARK parent partner also links families to behavioral health resources and speech specialists.
In 2014, the Ohio Division of Child Support partnered with the Center to provide parenting education for non-custodial fathers who were behind on their child support. This prompted an emphasis on serving fathers and a 2016 partnership with the THRIVE infant mortality prevention project that continues to the present day.
In 2017, the State of Ohio designated the Center as the Child Care Resource and Referral agency serving Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, and Trumbull counties. The Center equips early childhood professionals with the knowledge and resources they need to provide high-quality education and care, helps families find high-quality early childhood programs that meet their needs, and raises public awareness about the importance of early childhood development. Satellite offices were opened in Mahoning and Summit counties.
In 2020, community support enabled the Center to expand its Canton presence by creating an early childhood campus that includes a new building for the training, mentoring, and coaching of early childhood professionals. As the Early Childhood Resource Center celebrates more than 20 years in operation, the expanded campus is an early childhood hub that serves as a vibrant, family-friendly community resource for a wide range of parents, early childhood professionals, and community groups.
*The Sisters of Charity Health System is a nonprofit organization that carries out the ministry of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine.