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Celebrating 40 Years of Changemaking

Start Early is now 40! Early childhood education and care has changed dramatically in America over the past four decades, and Start Early has always been at the forefront of that change.

Say Happy Birthday by Giving a Gift That Lasts a Lifetime

Birthdays are a time for reflection, hope and looking to the future—join us in giving a gift that gives back this year to celebrate our birthday and your own, or a loved one’s.

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Reflecting on Our Impact

Click on each card to read reflections from Start Early staff and board members on our impact to bring quality early learning to communities across the nation.

Where do I see Start Early 40 years from now? I can only see us being better and doing better. Continuing to cultivate relationships and partnering with our families so that we can be the best resource for our children.

Danielle Jordan, Director, Educare Chicago
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Nationwide Change

Over the last 40 years, Start Early has expanded its work to bring quality early learning and care to under-resourced communities across the country.

Thanks to your support, everyday, more children are reaching their full potential.

Animated map of Start Early's work across the county

It's been amazing to be part of an organization that invests in children and their futures.

Lula M. Ford, Start Early Board Secretary
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Our History

Start Early was founded in 1982 as the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a nonprofit public-private partnership. Since the beginning, we have delivered best-in-class doula, home visiting and Head Start and Early Head Start programs and advocated for thoughtful policies and adequate funding at the local, state, and federal levels.

Scroll through our 40-year timeline to learn about the moments that have helped shape and move our work forward as an organization.

Interview with Ounce of Prevention staff

The Ounce of Prevention Fund is founded as a nonprofit public-private partnership with matching grants from the State of Illinois and the Pittway Corporation

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Launched our first Head Start programming in Chicago, serving children and families living in the city’s Grand Boulevard neighborhood

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Center for Successful Child Development

Founded the Center for Successful Child Development (also known as the Beethoven Project), a comprehensive early childhood program for families with infants and toddlers on the South Side of Chicago living in the Robert Taylor Homes public housing development

Educare Chicago building

Opened Educare Chicago, from our roots in the Beethoven Project, an ambitious initiative to serve families displaced by the loss of public housing on Chicago’s South Side

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In partnership with Buffet Early Childhood Fund, established the Educare Learning Network, a powerful network of birth-through-age-5 schools across the country

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Launched the First Five Years Fund, a bipartisan advocacy organization that galvanizes support for greater investment and policies that increase access to high-quality learning and care


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Early childhood professional caring for baby and toddler

Doubled the number of infants and toddlers served in the Ounce Early Head Start program through partnerships with community agencies

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Launched Achieve OnDemand, an online professional development platform for home visitors and their supervisors (now known as The Essentials of Home Visiting)

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Launched Lead Learn Excel leadership development program (now known as The Essential Fellowship)

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Summit Overview

Took over as steward of the National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs, a one-of-a-kind convening to address the most critical issues facing the home visiting field. Building off the strong foundation laid by our predecessor, The Pew Charitable Trusts, we continue to enhance the Summit’s quality and broaden its impact and reach

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Launched a pilot to expand the reach and application of the Early Education Essentials measurement system (now known as The Essential 0-5 Survey). The completion of the pilot and a validation study in 2021 will demonstrate the validity and reliability of the surveys in birth-through-age-5 settings.

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The Ounce rebrands to Start Early — a new name, logo and tagline to better articulate our mission, inspire action and more strongly reflect our expertise and collaboration in the early childhood field

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Opened office in Washington state, building on the state’s national leadership in home visiting and history of promoting early childhood education

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Start Early was selected to lead the implementation of the National Center for Parent, Family and Community Engagement (NCPFCE), one of four National Centers that develop evidence-based best practices for Early Head Start and Head Start programs across the country.

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Merged with the Early Learning Lab to drive stronger, more equitable solutions, programs and policies that center community voices & accelerate innovation in the early childhood field

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Start Early turns 40 and celebrates 40 years of change-making and leadership in the field of early education.

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