Community partnerships are the heart of the Judy Centers.
Judy Centers serve all children birth through kindergarten who live in designated Title I school zones. Most of the work of the Judy Centers is accomplished through partnerships. The partnerships reflect Judy Hoyer’s vision of how professionals must collaborate to deliver a wide spectrum of early childhood education programs and family support services. Judy Centers are required to include the following:
- Public kindergarten and pre-kindergarten
- Infants and Toddlers Program (intervention services for children with special needs from birth to age three)
- Preschool special education
- Private childcare providers, both family and center care
- Family Support Network (support for families of children with disabilities ages birth through 21)
Judy Centers enter into Memoranda of Understanding with community agencies and organizations that are critical to meeting the needs of families with high needs. Agencies and organizations typically include departments of social services, health departments, adult education providers and public libraries, as well as programs such as Healthy Families, Head Start, and Family Support Centers (serving children prenatal to age four and their families). Judy Centers have cast a wide net to expand the partnerships and engage others in their communities who can deliver necessary services for families whenever a gap is identified, including local businesses.
There are a variety of partners contributing in unique and creative ways to meet these needs. For example, local bookstores provide venues for story time for some of the Judy Centers. Child Care Resource Centers are vital partners that train child care providers who care for children who live in the Judy Center school zones. Locally, sheriff’s offices provide programming for children, as well as safety and security during events, while other organizations such as Lions and Rotary clubs have stepped in to take on responsibilities including vision screenings, fundraising to implement literacy programs, as well as other needs of Judy Centers in their communities.
Pediatric dentists have been recruited to provide a much-needed service that this population typically is not able to access due to cost and the limited availability of health providers. Housing authorities provide space for Judy Centers to offer parent workshops that help families maintain their housing. Mental health providers also have been recruited to serve families in need. The University of Maryland Extension distributes essential nutrition information and provides activities for children and adults. Local colleges and universities offer degree programs for child care providers and teachers, as well as classroom interns at Judy Centers. Several major banks have generously issued grants for programming and classroom volunteers. While Judy Centers originally had to seek out members for its partnerships, the number of organizations now asking to join the Judy Center Partnerships continues to grow.
The number of partners varies across Judy Centers depending on population density and the number of agencies, organizations and businesses available in the area. Partnerships typically include from ten to thirty or more agencies and organizations. With no set limit for participation per organization, it is not unusual to see large numbers of participants, representing different departments within an organization, involved in Judy Center Partnership meetings. Partnerships meet monthly and the larger partnerships have created subcommittees to ensure the work is more manageable and is accomplished as quickly and as effectively as possible. Partnerships play key roles in decision-making and goal setting.