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 primary offerings were professional development courses for early childhood professionals, child care accreditation courses, and technical assistance and mentoring for those working in early childhood.
In 2010, The Early Childhood Resource Center launched a capital campaign to purchase a new building. Thanks to an outpouring of community support, the new facility features an expanded children’s library and production/craft lab; a large classroom; and an indoor Inspiration Station and outdoor playscape to support families as well as educators.
In 2011, the ECRC began working with families of young children, focusing on parent engagement, education, and support. This included offering parenting courses and mentoring, both at the new building and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
In 2013, the Early Childhood Resource 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. SPARK parent partners also link families to behavioral health resources and speech specialists, and in collaboration with local schools, offer an introduction to kindergarten. SPARK sites are operating in eight Ohio counties.
In 2014, the Ohio Division of Child Support partnered with the Early Childhood Resource Center to provide parenting education specifically for non-custodial fathers who were behind on their child support. This prompted an emphasis on serving fathers, as well as a partnership with the THRIVE infant mortality reduction project in 2016.
In July 2017, the state of Ohio designated the Early Childhood Resource Center as the Child Care Resource and Referral agency for Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, and Trumbull counties. The Early Childhood Resource Center equips educators with the knowledge and resources they need to provide high-quality education and care, guides families as they search for the 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 Akron and Austintown.
In January 2020, community support enabled the Early Childhood Resource Center to expand its Canton presence by adding a new building for professional development services, including training, mentoring, and coaching of early childhood professionals.
As the Early Childhood Resource Center celebrates over 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.)