The $350,000 study, commissioned by a group of 25 foundations and organizations known collectively as Liftoff
, listed the Niagara QIP as one of six exemplary programs that are doing the most to serve the region's youngest residents and their families.
More than 300 early childhood experts, providers, government officials, nonprofit executives and staff, members of the philanthropic community and parents were polled for the study by Public Sector Consultants of Lansing, Michigan.
"Mounting research indicates that early childhood care and education programs work and are much more effective than later attempts at remediation, so it's inspiring to see so many stakeholders making it a higher priority," said Patti Wrobel, executive director of Niagara University's Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement, which houses the Niagara QIP. "The Niagara County Early Child Care Quality Improvement Project is a shining example of the long-term impact that can be made in our communities if we are collaborative and strategic about our health and education programs for young children."
The Niagara QIP began as a partnership between the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
via the Niagara Area Foundation
, the United Way of Greater Niagara
and Niagara University to improve the learning environments in child care centers and increase school readiness of preschool children. Its administrators worked with 30 child care centers and 44 preschool classrooms as part of phase one, while phase two focused on infant and toddler development through developmental screening, professional development, leadership capacity and improved learning environments.
The third (and current) phase of the trailblazing program is intent on strengthening academic and social-emotional transitions for children entering kindergarten. Just this year, NU has hosted a kindergarten transition summit, four sessions of "Kindercamp," nine parent workshops and nine sessions of "Books, Balls and Blocks," a children's educational program that also presents opportunities for early childhood developmental, literacy and vision screenings.
Another NU-affiliated program that was lauded in the Liftoff report is Help Me Grow Western New York (HMGWNY)
, which provides families in Erie and Niagara counties with information, referrals to existing resources and help connecting them with those resources.
In 2017, HMGWNY was awarded a $1.8 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
for its continued regional implementation of the comprehensive child development collaborative. NU was selected to manage the three-year grant.
"Since the day Father Maher arrived as our 26th president, he has placed a pronounced emphasis on providing our youngest children with a strong educational foundation for sustainable academic achievement," Wrobel added. "It's a testament to Father Maher and the incredible people involved with the Niagara QIP and Help Me Grow WNY that Niagara University is being recognized by objective evaluators in the area of early childhood development."