Vice President of Early Childhood Education – Stephanie Thomas
Located in the heart of Minneapolis and throughout the Twin Cities, YWCA Minneapolis Children’s Centers are immersive, high-quality child care centers that provide a superb education for children, and fully engage parents and families with an array of supportive programming. Four-Star Parent Aware-rated facilities, the Centers use every tool at their disposal to help children succeed. Committed to eliminating racism and empowering women, YWCA is a crucial member of the MinneMinds coalition.
YWCA Minneapolis is eliminating the education gap for all children enrolled in their Children’s Centers. Consistently more than 90% percent of preschoolers met rigorous early learning standards, prepared to succeed in kindergarten; and more than 90% of infants through preschoolers were developmentally on track. Children and families across our community have access to play-based programming that takes a whole child learning approach – covering social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development while promoting self-esteem.
Seventy-two families received state early learning scholarship support, and another 235 families benefited from CCAP (Child Care Assistance Program). In the YWCA community Children’s Centers, 75 percent were children of color, and 65 percent were children living in low-income households, with 59 percent of these children living in households below the federal poverty line.
With a low child to teacher ratio at YWCA Minneapolis Children’s Centers, children receive dedicated and personalized instruction and care. The curriculum follows the YWCA Minneapolis Anti- Bias Curriculum, a child-initiated, play and anti-bias based approach and Early Childhood Education Specialists assist with child assessments, behavior guidance, curriculum, and family resources. Additionally, thanks to a partnership with the Minnesota Reading Corps, preschool literacy tutors are available to help children improve their reading development.
YWCA Minneapolis has robust opportunities for families and children to enhance their physical and emotional health. Each newly enrolled family receives a free one-year Health and Wellness family membership, which is included on-site. Swimming lessons are part of the curriculum and are offered September through May, as are on-site music classes and use of fitness spaces.
Health is also a focus on the menu. All infant formula, baby food and other food (breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack) are prepared fresh each day. The nutrition program focuses on whole grains, whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and ethnically diverse foods while minimizing sodium, sugar, saturated fats, food dyes and artificial ingredients.
Parents are involved daily through communication with teachers and regular conferences, each center builds family events that are unique to their site and the families they serve. Children receive research-based, developmentally appropriate assessments completed at regular intervals. The YWCA Minneapolis Children’s Centers also feature free screenings and the ability to access assessment and therapeutic services (occupational, speech and physical therapy) on-site through a partnership program.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has also listed YWCA Minneapolis Downtown Children’s Center as one of the ten programs on its website that is exemplary in its family engagement practices. These practices are defined as:
- Programs invite families to participate in decision-making and goal-setting for their child.
- Teachers and programs engage families in two-way communication.
- Programs and teachers engage families in ways that are truly reciprocal.
- Programs provide learning activities for the home and in the community.
- Programs invite families to participate in program-level decisions and wider advocacy efforts.
- Programs implement a comprehensive program-level system of family engagement.
YWCA Minneapolis also has an Early Childhood Teacher Development program to help build a skilled and diverse early childhood education workforce. Participants receive education and support to become expert early childhood teachers and earn a Child Development Associate Credential.
Committed to eliminating racism and empowering women, YWCA Minneapolis is a crucial member of the MinneMinds coalition and delivers consistent high-quality early childhood care and education to children and families.