The Early Care and Education Association (formerly known as the Upper Valley Child Care Association (UVCCA) was founded in 1980. Its original purpose was to provide peer support and networking opportunities for Child Care Center directors in the Upper Valley.
It also served as a direct connection to the Child Care Project, which provided extensive training for early educators on both sides of the Connecticut River through state grant funding from Vermont and New Hampshire.
The Child Care Project dissolved in 2016. Once the connection to the Child Care Project was lost, the Association struggled to maintain membership.
In early 2017 the Couch Foundation contacted the Association in order to learn more about the needs, opportunities and challenges facing the early childhood community in the region.
Over the next eighteen months the Association worked with the Couch Foundation to determine how best to address these needs.
In May 2018, the Couch Family Foundation began to provide support to the network through the commitment of hiring an experienced ECE consultant. The consultant, Amy Brooks, was hired to support not only the work of the Foundation but also to support the core leaders of the ECEA in determining the needs of the organization.
This began with a needs assessment delivered through on-site visits as well as almost weekly Executive Committee meetings to determine next steps.
By the Fall of 2018, a Strategic Planning grant was submitted to Couch to fund a formal strategic planning project with support from a strategic planning consultant.
In January of 2019, strategic planning consultant, Lizann Peyton, began guiding a six-person Strategic Planning Committee and network members in updating and revising the organization’s vision, mission, strategic plan, work plan and governance structure.
The committee met monthly and using the information from the needs assessment as well as input gathered during the monthly network meetings created a comprehensive, usable and flexible document that will provide a base for future work.
The Core Values Retreat on November 2nd, was well represented with twelve directors attending. This dedicated group of early childhood professionals brought over 400 years of experience, dedicating a Saturday to collaborate on the creation of the network’s core values which will guide them into the future.
As 2019 comes to a close, there have been more than 30 program directors and ECE professionals engaging the ECEA through meetings, trainings and email communications.
It is evident that the network is quickly becoming a leader in the coordinated effort of support for children and families by strengthening early care and education in the region.