9.25 2021

“Let’s Talk” series welcomes Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro as inaugural speaker

On September 15, Friends Center welcomed Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro as the inaugural speaker of our 2021-2022 Let’s Talk! virtual series of discussions about the federal, state and city advocacy and planning around early childhood education infrastructure and sustainability and the implications on children, families and society.

116 people joined the live conversation!

Please click on the link below to view this important discussion, where Rosa reminds us all the time is NOW to and make our voices heard to ensure the Child Tax Act and universal pre-K become permanent social security measures for our families and children.

 

 

Watch the Conversation
1.21 2021

Friends Center for Children Launches Free Teacher Housing Initiative

By Maggie Prendergast

Long before the pandemic struck, Friends Center for Children had been wrestling with the issue of inadequate compensation for infant and preschool teachers. One potential solution, a Friends Center Teacher Housing Initiative, captured the attention of two long-time FCfC supporters, Greg Melville, a member of New Haven Friends Meeting, and his wife, Susan Fox, who pledged $750,000 to purchase two homes in New Haven to provide free housing to an initial group of Friends Center teachers.

“We consider early childhood educators to be ‘essential workers’ and key to the healthy development of the next generation, and we know that most do not earn enough from their teaching job to afford to live in New Haven,” said Fox and Melville. “By helping to provide FCfC teachers with safe, affordable housing, we hope to further a model of innovative housing solutions equal to the Center’s bold, educational vision,” they noted.

Both of the houses are within walking distance of Friends Center’s East Grand site, with one offering single family living and the other multi-family capacity. One teacher and her young son joyfully moved into her new multi-family home at the end of December 2020. The other teacher happily followed shortly thereafter. The third unit will house another teacher and her young son in May. The second home, a single family dwelling, provides housing for a teacher and her two children who moved in mid-January. Both properties have been updated and made comfortable and safe for their new and extraordinarily grateful occupants. A second phase of this program hopes to create 12-19 additional teacher housing units when funding becomes available.

The Friends Center Teacher Housing Initiative offers rent-free housing to Friends Center teachers whose situations warrant this help. These teachers use rent savings to pay off school or personal loans and work toward financial independence. Friends Center provides fiscal coaching and goal setting for its teacher tenants, who can live rent free from one to five years depending on need.

Allyx Schiavone, executive director of Friends Center, explains, “Providing free housing to our teachers is not a bonus or a privilege. It is our attempt to counterbalance a system designed to marginalize an under-resourced and overburdened industry. We believe that bold measures are needed to change the status quo. We are exceptionally grateful that the Melvilles see the true value of early care and education teachers and are willing to work with us creatively to improve the model of compensation.”

Friends Center for Children is an independent early childhood education center in New Haven serving children from three months to five years old. Founded in 2007 by members of the New Haven Friends Meeting to address the critical shortage in high-quality early childhood education opportunities. FCfC currently serves 122 infant and preschool children in two New Haven locations, with multiple additional sites in the planning stage. FCfC families and teachers are representative of New Haven’s communities and cross all racial, ethnic and income spectrums.

For more information, contact: Tanya Shively (tshively@friendscenterforchildren.org; (203.468.1966) to schedule a meeting with Allyx Schiavone, Executive Director of Friends Center for Children.

Friends Center teacher Kristen Calderon and her son enjoy new proximity to work and river views in their Front Street apartment, one of three units that will offer teachers rent-free housing as a part of Friend Center’s teacher Housing Plan. Photo by Ian Christmann

 

One of Friends Center’s first teacher houses — a picture-perfect single family on Howard Street — will soon be a rent-free home to a preschool teacher and her family as part of Friend Center’s teacher Housing Plan— an innovative solution to provide much-needed increases in teacher compensation without increasing tuition costs for high-quality early childhood care. Photos by Ian Christmann

BACKGROUND INFORMATION Friends Center for Children

Friends Center for Children’s core mission is: Educate Children, Empower Families, Inspire Teachers, Engage Community, Embrace Diversity. The program provides high-quality early childhood education to children who represent New Haven’s diverse communities; families are drawn from all racial, ethnic and income spectrums. Friends Center utilizes a sliding scale tuition system. Parents pay 12% of their gross income, capped at the true cost of care. Annual expenses exceed annual income by an average of $220,000 a year, which limits the program’s ability to raise teacher salaries to pay parity with elementary public-school teachers, a long- standing goal of the program.

Early Childhood Educators

Early childhood educators, 98 percent of whom are female, are among the front-line workers who are egregiously under compensated. The average yearly salary of early childhood teachers is $28,000 for infant/toddler caregivers and $39,000 for preschool teachers, well below the cost of living. These essential workers’ salaries belie the importance of early childhood education and further marginalize an already oft-marginalized population. Subsidized housing is a first step in helping to acknowledge the importance and value of these teachers.

The true cost of high-quality care in New Haven is $23,000 for infants/toddlers and $16,000 for preschool. Through a variety of programs, the state of Connecticut subsidizes these programs at 50% of the true cost of care, and this gap shifts the balance of program cost onto families. Since most New Haven families are unable to pay actual costs, these early childhood programs operate at 50% of true cost. As a result, early childhood education teacher salaries are significantly underfunded. If fiscal value determined industry norms, state funding would match the true cost of care, and these teachers would not be grossly undervalued – and underpaid.

“The Early Care and Education Funding System is sexist, racist and broken. We ask women, predominantly black and brown women, to care for and educate the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society, and we compensate them at levels that perpetuate poverty.”

Allyx Schiavone

10.24 2019

Friends Center opens new site in West Rock neighborhood

Friends Center for Children is expanding!

Spurred by New Haven’s overwhelming need for more access to high-quality early childhood education, and knowing the difference that this type of care can make in the life of a child, Friends Center remains committed to reaching new neighborhoods. In fact, our current and planned expansions span the map of New Haven.

On the east side, we’ve grown our main center to full capacity. In fall 2019, launched a satellite program that brings high-quality early childhood education to 34 children and their families in New Haven’s West Rock neighborhood, near Beaver Hills.  Friends Center Blake Street offers two infant/toddler classrooms, one preschool classroom, nine teachers, and Friends Center’s proven emotional wellbeing program and child-centered curriculum.

In the northwest, plans progress for a new center on Dixwell Avenue, one that will nearly double Friends Center’s overall reach and capacity. We also remain committed to another expansion opportunity with the Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church.

For all of our existing and upcoming expansions, we know that successful growth depends on strong and strategic connections. Fueled by generous donors and great partners — such as Elm City Montessori, Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church and ConnCorp — we look forward to bringing high-quality early childhood care and education experiences to children in the West Rock and  Dixwell areas of New Haven.

9.15 2019

Joining forces to make New Haven a model for quality and access in ECE

New Haven Children’s Ideal Learning District (NH ChILD) is a vision, a movement, an imperative that relies deeply on connections — one where educators, organizations, municipalities, families and community members all work together to give all 15,000 children in New Haven, ages 0 – 8, access to high-quality early learning experiences called “Ideal Learning.”

As a champion of ideal learning and equity in access to it, Friends Center has helped lead the charge towards making NH ChILD a reality. Empowered by the expertise and contributions of early childhood leaders, advisors, and donors — including a million dollar gift from a Stones Throw Foundation — the work is well under way.

In the spring of 2019, NH ChILD hired Dr. Wendy Waithe Simmons as its first Executive Director. Dr. Simmons is a psychologist and educator with more than 25 years of experience in service to children and families. “I believe that all children deserve to have multiple pathways toward success. I am proud to be a part of an organization that values equity, community, collaboration, and children and their families. I will work diligently to ensure that every child in New Haven has access to high-quality early learning experiences. I understand that when children have a strong start in life, they can dream big dreams. They can follow their passions and interests — no matter where they may lead. I am thrilled to have a role in making that a reality.”

NH ChILD invites collaboration among all stakeholders within the New Haven community to develop shared solutions bringing high-quality early care and education to all children in New Haven.

Working with the Office of the Mayor, New Haven Public Schools, Yale School of Medicine, Bank Street College of Education, New Haven Housing Authority, United Way and many other partners, NH ChILD has set a bold agenda:

  • Access to sufficient high quality infant/toddler and preschool spaces to meet family demand;
  • Simplify the ECE application process to a single point of entry;
  • Design a sustainable public funding source so that families pay what they can afford;
  • Promote family engagement; and
  • Develop continuous professional learning experiences and ECE career pathways for educators.
5.6 2019

Pinwheels Along The Path

By Ross Doutha
photos by Ian Christmann

A forest of pinwheels, spinning in the spring air, sprang up along the Quinnipiac River on Saturday morning to guide hundreds of children, families, and friends on a 1.5-mile stroll around the Quinnipiac’s bridges.

With Mayor Toni Harp in the vanguard, the marchers were lending their support to high-quality early childhood education, as part of the ninth annual Fair Haven Family Stroll and Festival.

Created by a partnership between the Friends Center for Children, led by Executive Director Allyx Schiavone, and the Elm City Montessori School, led by Principal Julia Webb and Executive Director Eliza Halsey, the festival has grown every year since its inception.

This year, 1,366 people filled Quinnipiac River Park to play, dance, hang out, and learn. For the kids, there were activities like face painting, bubbles, parachute play, arts and crafts, and more.

For their parents and other adults from the community, there were resources offered by over three dozen community organizations in attendance, including Fair Haven Community Health Center, New Haven Public Library, Neighborhood Music School, Read to Grow, the Peabody Museum, and ConnCAT.

This mix of pleasure and purpose was the idea behind the festival from the start. It’s grown into a big three-hour neighborhood party, where kids and their families can patronize food trucks and enjoy loads of live entertainment. This year’s acts included Magic with Amazing Andy, Zumba Kids with Rosemary, VIVACE- a teen string musical group, Drumming with Gammy, a children’s dance troupe called S.W.A.G., and the Blue Steel Drumline from Southern Connecticut State University.

Read full article on New Haven Independent
5.10 2018

From Piling Scrap to Bridging the Achievement Gap

By Carolyn Christmann
New Haven Independent

In the 1960s, as the site of the Schiavone scrap yard, iron, steel and cranes filled the acres between Front Street and the Quinnipiac River. Decades later, the once-derelict land has become a riverside park, and every spring a new generation of Schiavone helps fill it with fun, community and a great cause. Each May, the Friends Center for Children, led by director Allyx Schiavone, partners with Elm City Montessori School to throw a massive party in the park with a mission to promote high-quality early childhood education.

In its 8th year, the annual Fair Haven Family Stroll & Festival continues to grow in size and impact. This year, more than a thousand people joined the festivities, which raised more than $15,000 to increase awareness and access to developmentally-appropriate early care and education.

“This festival is about honoring the need for high-quality early care and education for all children in our community,” said Schiavone. “Providing access to high-quality early childhood programs for families of all economic levels is critical for addressing New Haven’s drastic achievement gap. And it’s critical to start early. Ninety percent of all brain development occurs before the age of five! Ninety percent! The impact of high-quality early care and education on the individual and the community is huge. For every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we see a $7-$13 return. We also see decreased drop out rates, decreased juvenile detention rates, decreased teen pregnancy rates, increased college graduation rates and earning potential — all from attending high-quality early care and education programs. Those of us who work to make the Fair Haven Family Stroll and Festival happen see the importance of this investment.”

READ MORE
3.18 2018

Friends Center hosts meet and greet for Connecticut’s new Commissioner of Early Childhood Beth Bye

On March 15, Friends Center for Children hosted a welcome breakfast for Commissioner Beth Bye and announced the official launch of NH ChILD, a 10-year effort to transform the landscape of early childhood education in New Haven by providing access to high-quality early learning for all of the city’s kids from birth to 8 years old.

Hear inspiring words from Commissioner Bye, US Representative Rosa DeLauro, and Friends Center’s Executive Director, Allyx Schiavone, about the importance of access to quality early childhood education.

Watch Video

Read the New Haven Independent article, "Effort Launched to Revolutionize Early Childhood Ed in New Haven" by Allen Appel.