About Us

Who is Child First?

The mission of Child First is to develop youth and strengthen families by providing high-quality community schools, after-school and summer learning programs that promote academic achievement, social and emotional well-being, and parent leadership.

Child First was established by Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) in 1996 as a response to a city-wide listening campaign and call for safe, productive learning environments for children during out-of-school (OST) hours and in the summer. Child First is the community school non-profit partner and out-of-school-time provider at eight community schools in Baltimore city and the out-of-school-time partner at four additional schools.  Altogether, approximately 1,100 students are enrolled in out-of-school-time programs and 3,400 students are supported in the eight community schools.

What Makes Us Different

A school-owned program using school-based staff.

Child First collaborates with principals, school staff, parents, and students to meet their interests and needs. Child First hires school-based staff to manage and support the program, bringing in outside professionals, such as artists and coaches, whose strengths and interests align with the school community.

Child First employs certified teachers to help coordinate between school-day instruction and after-school supports, with a part-time program coordinator, typically a certified teacher, managing the program.  Child First also employs a certified teacher as a part-time academic coordinator to assess student data and coordinate instruction to better meet the needs of students.

Parents contributing skills and building leadership in community organizing.

Parents are a critical part of the Child First approach. Child First parents are asked to volunteer for at least two hours a month, and many exceed that amount, becoming involved in community organizing efforts to bring more resources and access to their children’s school. Parents and other caring adults invested nearly 15,000 hours in the 2020-21 school year.

Child First builds parent skills with regular workshops and an annual leadership retreat. 

 

Our Community School Partnerships

Organizing school and community resources around student success

  • Community school coordinators (CSC), who are are in each of our Community Schools, are strategic partners to principals in making the school the hub of a community, and a place that supports the whole family.
  • A combined focus on academics, services, supports, and opportunities leads to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities​
  • Our students have consistent adult support
  • Health, dental and mental health services are available and made accessible
  • Child First Community School Coordinators leverage over $3.0M in financial and in-kind resources from 200+ partner organizations for their schools every year.

Our After-School Programs

Strengthening academics and the exploration of new skills and passions

  • The typical program is four days per week, three hours per day.
  • One hour of academic enrichment, agreed upon by principal recommendations, feedback and school expertise
  • One hour of cultural enrichment, active recreation, snack, and supper daily
  • Community artists teaching skills in instrumental music, drama, painting, ceramics, photography and more
  • Sports and recreation including karate, yoga, flag football, basketball, tennis and track and field
  • Four field trips per year

Our Summer Programs 

Providing safe, academic, and cultural experiences during the summer 

  • The typical program operates five days a week for four weeks.
  • Focus on literacy and numeracy
  • Morning snack and lunch daily
  • Fitness, technology, outdoor recreation, arts and crafts
  • Weekly field trips

Donate Today!

Give a gift and watch it make a difference. Here are a few things even a modest gift can do for our students:
1995/1996
1995/1996
Voter accountability session with the Mayoral candidates; Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development organized listening campaign with citizens that identified afterschool programming as key need in the city; City Ordinance granted that created Baltimore Child First Authority.
1996
1996
Kermit "KC" Burton named first Executive Director of Child First Authority.
1997
1997
Carol Dunston Reckling named Executive Director.
1997
1997
Governor Parris Glendening earmarked $500,000 in dedicated state funding to Child First Authority; earmark still exist in state budget today.
2000
2000
Grant from Abell Foundation to develop our own curriculum to boost academics in Out of School Time Program.
2000
2000
Received initial funding from
Family League of Baltimore.
2002
2002
“We are not leaving without a meeting.” Action against Department of Human Resources to maintain state earmark.
2004
2004
CFA held the first Show What You Know student showcase.
2008
2008
High Expectations - In partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools Office of Partnerships, Communications & Community Engagement, CFA worked with William H. Lemmel and Garrison Middle School students to create a school climate and culture that supports relationships of trust with students and their parents and facilitates intervention strategies.
2009
2009
CFA began CFA Art Core, an initiative that placed visual and performing community artists at each afterschool site to facilitate high-quality arts instruction.
2009
2009
Baltimore Education Coalition created and Child First serves as a lead organizing member
2012
2012
Family League launches Community School Strategy and CFA becomes lead agency for community schools and OST sites
2015
2015
CFA plays pivotal role in 21st Century Building Design process at Dorothy I. Height Elementary School (then John Eager Howard)
2016
2016
Carol Reckling retires after 19 years at the helm
2016
2016
Danista E. Hunte named 3rd Executive Director
2020
COVID-19
RESPONSE
2020
CFA Family and Community Engagement Team established during the global COVID-19 pandemic to share community resources and to provide family engagement workshops and events for parents and community
2020
2020
14 Community School Sites and OST sites
2020-21
2020-21
Provided virtual programming to children and families all while living through a global pandemic
2021
2021
Celebrating 25 Years!
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1995/1996
The Beginning
1996
CFA's First Executive Director Appointed
1997
Carol Dunston take charge
1997
$500,000 in State funding
2000
Support From the Abell Foundation
2000
Support From the Family League
2002
Funding In Jeopardy
2004
Spotlight on the kids
2008
High Expectations
2009
Art Core
2009
CFA Leads
2012
Community Schools
2015
21st Century Schools
2016
Carol Reckling retires
2016
Danista Hunte
2020
Covid-19 Response
2020
14
2020-21
Virtual Programming
2021
25 Years!
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