First Child is a program of Southwestern
Community Services. We are funded in part by the Child Development Bureau, NH Division for Children, Youth, and Families, by a grant from Providian Financial and by contributions from local businesses, child care providers, and community members.
Child First was a child care advocacy organization that was created by the Mayor Michael J. Blastos Task Force on Child Care in 2001. In February of that year, the Mayor brought together a group of community leaders to research the current state of child care in Keene and surrounding areas, with the charge of formulating recommendations for improvement. Their work demonstrated the great need for affordable quality child care for families. The task force divided into three Work Groups which met at varying times and convened monthly to report out on the activities of each group. In July, the Work Groups discontinued their meetings and the Task Force brought the group recommendations together into one report. The central recommendation that emerged from this work was to create a non-profit organization, Child First, dedicated to helping the community commit to a culture that puts children first by providing information to the public about the importance of high quality child care and by facilitating partnerships between businesses, child care providers, and families that promote high quality care for all children.
The Task Force rallied the support of the City of Keene, the business community, financial institutions, and child care providers and raised over $100,000 in start-up funds. In March, 2003 the Child First Executive Director was hired and the organization began its work. Eighteen months later, the former Director of the Child Care Resource & Referral Program at Southwestern Community Services, a program also dedicated to supporting quality child care, resigned from her position which initiated the exploration merging the two programs. After four months of facilitated discussion between the two organizations, it was decided that combining the programs would enhance both. It was clear that there was significant overlap in the collective goals, and sharing resources would enable us to more efficiently, and effectively, achieve our missions. Our current programs include:
- Referral services for families to local child care programs
- Information on how to recognize high quality child care
- Information for families on the state guidelines for public child care scholarships
- Trainings and licensing support for child care providers
- Employer consultations on work-life policies
- Facilitated program improvement planning in selected child care centers with the provision of mini-grants provided by Providian Financial
- A limited child care scholarship program
Our stakeholders include children, working parents, child care providers, and employers as the availability of affordable quality child care impacts all of these sectors, as well as the community at large.