Wellspring Expands Early Learning Center to Serve More Vulnerable Children in King County

Wellspring Family Services is pleased to announce the expansion of its Early Learning Center (ELC), to help vulnerable children triumph over trauma such as homelessness, domestic violence and poverty, and prepare for lifelong learning. The expansion is made possible by a $500,000 multi-year grant from the Ginger & Barry Ackerley Foundation, and will support the opening of a fifth preschool classroom to help meet the growing demand for early learning services in King County.

According to United Way of King County (2014), its estimated that 40 percent of children in Washington state enter kindergarten underprepared and not ready to succeed, beginning school as much as two years behind their peers in learning and language skills. The Ackerley Foundation grant will expand Wellspring’s capacity to address this disparity. With the opening of the fifth classroom, Wellspring will comprehensively serve more than 100 children and families each year.

We are thrilled to announce the opening of our new Early Learning Center classroom, to help more vulnerable children in our community access the opportunity that all young minds equally deserve: a quality preschool experience that prepares them for success in school and life,” commented Ruthann Howell, Wellspring President/CEO. We are deeply grateful to the Ginger & Barry Ackerley Foundation for their generous support and visionary commitment to help transform the lives of the children and families we serve, and strengthen our community.”

Each year, Wellspring’s ELC helps children cope with the negative effects of homelessness, domestic violence, and poverty in a trauma-informed preschool environment designed to foster resilience and promote cognitive growth. In the ELC, classroom teachers are trained by an early learning therapist in reflective practices, to support age-appropriate development. Reflective practice is an evidence-based classroom management method in which teachers respond to a child’s motivations instead of actions. 

This method has proven to be highly successful, with children showing marked improvement in their social skills, self-regulatory skills, and capacity to learn; all of which contribute toward school-readiness. Wellspring ELC teachers, staff, family support workers and therapists also help teach parents how to engage their children in this reflective model, to build a stronger sense of security outside of the classroom.

"We are excited to join forces with Wellspring's Early Learning Center because they do an excellent job of carrying out our shared mission: that ALL children deserve, at an early age, the chance to receive the very best education and the opportunities to succeed in life," commented Ginger Ackerley, Foundation Chairwoman.

Last year, 90 percent of the 94 children who attended the ELC gained the social, emotional, and developmental skills needed to be successful in kindergarten. 

Wellspring’s new ELC classroom will also receive support from the recent statewide expansion of the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). The ECEAP program is funded by the Washington State Legislature and operated by the Department of Early Learning.

Child Care Resources, a local nonprofit and subcontractor of the Puget Sound Educational Services District (PSESD), is responsible for the placement of 90 ECEAP Extended Day slots in child care sites in King County, and has designated ten slots to help support the expansion of Wellspring’s ELC through programming enhancements for the fifth classroom, including extending the ELC’s service hours to a full ten hours, to increase the new classroom’s family support program.

In a child’s first five years of life, their brain will reach almost full development, setting the wiring for the rest of their lives.  The experiences and support a child does or does not receive during this time plays a significant role in who they will eventually become as future adults, parents, and as community citizens,” said Howell. “It is inspiring to see what we can accomplish when private and public investments come to together to ensure that our youngest and most vulnerable children have the resources that all families need to triumph over trauma and thrive.”

Wellspring will hold a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, February 12 to celebrate the public opening of the new ELC classroom on February 17, 2015.

About the Ginger & Barry Ackerley Foundation 

The Ginger & Barry Ackerley Foundation makes grants to public and private organizations that enhance the education of young learners in the greater Puget Sound region. The founders Ginger and Barry Ackerley, after experiencing success in advertising and media, committed themselves to philanthropy. Believing that knowledge and understanding have the power to make a difference in most of the world's ills, they chose to devote their time and resources to advancing education in Washington, especially early learning. Since its founding in 1997, The Ackerley Foundation has distributed grants to nearly eighty organizations involved in skills support, literacy development, mentoring relationships and programs that connect school and home in order to produce specific and measurable results in early learning.