Our investment in the critical period from pregnancy to age three aims to catalyze lifetime success so that all children in our community are healthy, thriving and ready to succeed in school. This includes a focus on parents and caregivers so that families of young children are supported in their parenting and have the skills and resources to raise children in healthy and nurturing environments.

These days, investing in early childhood is a no-brainer. The science is compelling and communities all over the world are working on building stronger, more comprehensive and equitable systems and programs to support families and children.

In Cayuga and Onondaga Counties, the Allyn Family Foundation is providing leadership and support for diverse community coalitions who are focused on designing community-wide approaches to improving early childhood systems and supports for vulnerable families. Two different communities, two different approaches, based on each community’s needs and priorities.


Founded in 2011, ABC Cayuga is a community wide initiative to support parents as the primary educators of their children.  In 2017, the initiative opened a 5,000 sq ft Play Space to support parents and caregivers by providing a dedicated indoor space with early learning opportunities.  The Play Space looks and feels like a children’s museum but operates as a not for profit human service organization that utilizes the national Strengthening Families framework of supporting families “where they are.” 

The Play Space enriches young children’s lives through play by providing a welcoming place where young children and their families play, learn and grow together. Based on its enormous success, the Play Space purchased a building in 2020 and has expanded to over 14,000 sq feet to accommodate more early learning activities and programs. Child Care Solutions and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children program) are now co-located in the new building.

Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga

Meanwhile, the Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga (ECA) is a multi-sector coalition whose mission is to advance a comprehensive, coordinated, well-funded system of high quality, prenatal-to-age-5 early childhood programs and supports. The ECA is well respected for its history of critically assessing the current early childhood system, identifying key gaps, and implementing new strategies and redesigning others to better support young children and their caregivers. Since its inception in 2015, the ECA has dramatically increased the investment in local early childhood programs and supports, and has advanced numerous strategic priorities, including:

  • Comprehensive Developmental Screenings

    Through the adoption of Help Me Grow, a national model for building a system of screenings, referrals and follow up to ensure young children are developing on track.

  • High Quality Child Care and Early Learning

    By piloting a local approach to improving outcomes through pay parity, professional development, and evidence-based curricula in both home- and center- based childcare settings.

  • Parent Engagement

    By creating new opportunities for parents to connect with one another and provide a critical perspective and voice within the ECA.

  • Support for Pregnant and Parenting Families

    Through the adoption of Parent Child+, an early learning home visiting program designed to bridge the gap in support for families with two- and three-year olds, before they are able to attend pre-K.

  • Reproductive Wellbeing

    Through the Layla’s Got You community education and social norms campaign to empower young women with positive messages about themselves, their bodies and their relationships.