A New Name for a New Reality: The Ounce is Now Start Early

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Direct Service Programs

Since our founding, Start Early (formerly known as the Ounce) has worked directly with children and families, providing doula and home visiting services and quality center-based care that ensures children are ready to transition to kindergarten.

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Doula & Home Visiting Programs

Our work serving children and families on-the-ground began in 1982, with home visiting and doula services in rural Illinois that coached young parents on how to build strong relationships with their baby and create a safe and stimulating home environments that encourage learning and development.

Today, we continue to deliver home visiting and doula services for families living in under-resourced communities — both in-home and virtually — through our Healthy Parents & Babies program, which offers support and coaching to pregnant women, young parents and children from birth through age 3 throughout Chicago.

Research shows that evidence-backed home visiting models, like the ones delivered through programs like Healthy Parents & Babies, increase positive birth outcomes for children, improve the likelihood that families have a primary care physician, and increase children’s literacy and high school graduation rates.

Early Learning Network

Baby in swaddle

Home Visiting & Doula Network
In addition to providing our own home visiting and doula programs for families living in under-resourced communities in Chicago, our Home Visiting & Doula Network supports 30 home visiting programs throughout Illinois. This network allows us to scale our reach and impact by sharing our lessons learned with other community programs.

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Center-Based Programs

We began our center-based work in the 1980s, serving communities in and around Chicago’s Grand Boulevard neighborhood. At the time, the neighborhood was home to the Robert Taylor Homes, one of the largest public housing developments in the poorest census track in the country. There, we launched our first Head Start program, providing early learning services to children ages 3-5 and later expanding our services to infants and toddlers.

When the Chicago Housing Authority announced its plan to demolish the Robert Taylor Homes, many families began leaving the community. Start Early made the decision to stay, continuing to support the families who remained.

We also began an ambitious initiative to build our own early childhood education facility to serve families displaced by loss of their homes on Chicago’s South Side. Through partnerships with Chicago Public Schools, the Office of Head Start, and private philanthropy we built our first Educare school, Educare Chicago, in 2000.

Start Early operates Educare Chicago, a state-of-the-art early childhood school that provides infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families with the best quality care and education. Our comprehensive program incorporates what science says young children need to thrive and partners with parents to help them become champions for their children’s education.

Early Learning Networks

Mother and daughters smiling

Educare Learning Network
Since opening, Educare Chicago has grown from one school into a powerful network of 25 birth-through-age-5 schools serving thousands of children and improving access to high-quality early education across the country.

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Baby learning at Educare Chicago

Early Head Start & Head Start Network
In addition to developing our own direct service programs, Start Early expanded our program services throughout Chicago’s south suburbs through partnerships with community-based agencies. Start Early now acts as a Head Start grantee in Chicago to deliver quality early learning and care to children and families across Illinois.

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