More than three decades ago, members of the Northwest Arkansas community united to address an increasingly growing issue: the lack of adequate childcare services available in our area and just as our community has rallied behind other important matters, they brought long-term vision and financial support together under the leadership of Helen Walton, and opened the Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center in 1982.
Our village of parents, teachers and community leaders remain committed to high-quality early childhood experiences beginning at infancy. Today, we continue to provide nourishing essentials that support social, emotional, physical and intellectual growth.
Today Northwest Arkansas continues to rank as a premier job growth region, but our community has identified access to high-quality early childhood programs the top quality of life concern. Nearly 70% of all children under five are cared for by an adult outside the home with childcare programs ensuring an estimated 48K people in our area are able to work each day.
In 2007, we were approached by a corporation who was having recruiting problems due to the lack of available high quality early childhood programs. Our leadership determined a new location would fill over-night due to years long wait lists, and the resources would be better spent supporting the existing early childhood programs in our region. In 2009, we were entrusted with a legacy gift in honor of Mrs. Walton to establish the Early Childhood Initiatives Center (ECIC). The ECIC allows us to reach beyond our walls to support the nearly 400 early childhood programs in our region serving 27,000 young children. Our mission is to elevate early childhood programs in Northwest Arkansas toward state quality accreditation so that all children age newborn to 5 years old have access to a high-quality early childhood education.
When the ECIC opened, 19% of centers in Northwest Arkansas were quality accredited. To date, that number has grown to 69%. But we still have a long way to go. The current ECIC facility has outgrown its capacity to serve licensed centers in the region.
That’s why we are launching Bright Futures Campaign.