Infants and toddlers in Cleveland experience many obstacles that impact their ability to learn and thrive, including poverty, elevated levels of lead, and homelessness (almost half of children in homeless shelters are under the age of six).
According to Zero to Three, a national expert on early childhood development, early stress and lack of positive early experiences undermines key brain development that impacts areas of school readiness and academic success, such as self-regulation and learning, memory and language, and emotional control.
In Cuyahoga County, 42% of kids are not prepared or on-track for kindergarten. This means they are already behind from the moment they walk into a school.
School readiness has effects beyond the first few months of kindergarten; children with higher levels of school readiness at age five are generally more successful in grade school and are less likely to drop out of high school.
Family Spaces will be accessible, neighborhood-based hub of programming, information-sharing, and network-building for families with young children.
United Way of Greater Cleveland is partnering with Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children, Cuyahoga County Public Libraries, and Cleveland Public Libraries to create Family Spaces.
In 2022, four inaugural Family Spaces will open in Garfield Heights, Maple Heights, Westpark, and Woodland.
The locations will be staffed with a trained Resource Coordinator who fosters positive relationships with the children. Each Family Space will include internet access and childhood learning pods to help strengthen brain development, promoting later academic success.
Spaces will utilize the evidence-based Family Strengthening Model and will include family coaching, a safe play space, and access to basic needs resources.
In addition, parent advisory committees will be formed for each location to provide input and guidance for the Family Spaces program. Based on feedback, these committees may decide to include services such as technology lending libraries, home visits, job training, substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, services for children with special needs, and mental health or family counseling.
United Way of Greater Cleveland is funding four Community Hub grants that are tackling issues related to economic mobility and early childhood education. Learn more about the agencies and their programs: