The Carole Robertson Center operates three sites in the North Lawndale, Little Village, and Near West Side communities of urban Chicago.
Programs operate 12 hours each day. The Center serves more than 700 children, ranging in age from infancy through teenagers, and their families daily. Programs serve multicultural populations and are bilingual in English and Spanish. Current programs at the Carole Robertson Center include:
Early Childhood (Birth – 5 Years)
Infant Toddler Development Program
This program provides full-day, center-based care for children, ages 6 weeks to 3 years. The developmentally appropriate program provides safe and stimulating environments for young children to foster their social emotional, cognitive, language, and physical development. An emphasis is placed on responding to children’s natural cues, providing continuity of care, and building strong and consistent relationships between children, parents, and staff. The Creative Curriculum is utilized with The Learning Basket Approach as an enhancement. The program aligns with Early Head Start and Illinois Preschool For All standards.
Hard-to-Reach Families Initiative
The Carole Robertson Center offers services with alternate models to ensure program delivery to high need families with young children. Parents and Teachers and Home-Based Early Head Start provide regular home visits with center-based socialization activities for families with infants and toddlers. Home-Based Head Start offers the same services for preschool age children. These programs target families with multiple access barriers to daily, center-based programs. Model selection for each family is based on child’s age and family needs. Half Day Head Start serves preschool children half a day during the school year following the Center’s early childhood program model. All programming includes extensive social service support for families, screenings, assessment, and linkages to medical, dental, mental health, and special needs services. Nearly every child in a home-based program option transitions to a center-based preschool program for at least 1 year before Kindergarten.
Early Childhood Education Program
Created for children from 3 through 5 years old, the program promotes positive development and prepares children for future success in school. A mixture of creative programming helps children develop skills, confidence, and an enthusiasm for learning. Experiences in language, literacy, computers, math, science, music and art, nutrition and cooking, and outdoor play are provided. On-site special events and field trips occur regularly. The Creative Curriculum is utilized with a Project Approach and individualization for all children, including support for children with special needs. Nearly 90% of programming is full-day and year-long, with a traditional Half-Day Head Start model also offered. The program aligns with Head Start and Illinois Preschool For All standards.
Family Child Care Home Network
This program provides quality home-based care for children, ages 6 weeks through 5 years. Licensed providers offer infant, toddler, and early childhood care in small group, home settings following Early Head Start and Head Start standards. Activities are developmentally appropriate and allow infants and young children to explore their environment in a stimulating, nurturing, and safe setting. Providers and parents receive ongoing support, resources, networking, and guidance through the Carole Robertson Center’s network.
After School (6 – 18 years)
After School Enrichment Program
This program serves children, from kindergarten through age 18. After school programming includes a framework of daily academic support and personal development activities for children, ages 6 – 12. Children engage in a wide array of age-appropriate activities, including literacy, STEM, fine arts, and physical activity. Music instruction, an on-site art studio, and individual tutoring are available. Project IMANI provides an intensive service learning project for 13 – 15 year olds. Time is split each day between service roles in early childhood classrooms under the guidance of certified teachers and participation in project curricula. Long-term projects, cultural exploration, personal exploration, and full-day programming when school is closed, are included for all children. Youth, ages 13 – 18, participate in evening programming two nights per week, include two mentoring/personal development projects, academic support, leadership development, and social service support. The After School Enrichment Program promotes engagement and success in school, social emotional growth, positive peer relations, leadership development, violence prevention, and community service.
Music education is designed to grow along with children and families. Through a partnership with the Old Town School of Folk Music, children, teachers, and parents have access to high quality music instruction. WiggleWorms, a music education program that serves children from birth to 3 years old, uses music as a means of exploring new sounds and promoting motor and pre-language skills. Preschool children enjoy longer sessions with an increased focus on literacy building and creative expression. Through the John Slater III Music and Arts Education Fund, school age children focus on basic musical elements such as rhythm and scales and have hands on experimentation with various musical instruments. School age children can also participate in the Center’s Brass and Percussion Ensemble, a very popular program addition. Parent workshops and staff training also support children's daily use of music. Workshops led by teachers from the Old Town School teach parents the songs that their children are learning in the classroom and inform parents about how best to use these songs in the home. Children's performances, on-site family concerts, and field trips to local performances are included. By providing children and families with access to music education, we lay the foundation for a lifetime of music appreciation.
Family Literacy Development Program
Spanning all child and youth development programs, this program provides literacy-building resources. It supports language development in infants, prepares young children for future success by nurturing them within a print-rich environment, and supports school age children and youth with tutoring and a variety of enriched learning experiences. The program links home and center with take-home and center-based family activities that encourage parents to be their children’s first and primary partners in learning. The Family Literacy Development Program is fully bilingual; computers and family lending libraries are available at all facilities.
Family Support and Social Services
Spanning all programs to provide concrete assistance, education, and recreation for families, the goal is to alleviate stress and provide support for parents. Parenting classes, advocacy education, and family activities are included. Social service staff provide classroom observation, short term intervention/counseling, social service support, and special needs support. Special needs support includes classroom modifications, staff training, and coordination of on-site therapies. Staff link families to collaborating agencies when needed, helping families make connections to community resources and services. All programs incorporate the Strengthening Families model of family support.
The Community Partners Program provides training and technical assistance to child care providers in efforts to enhance the quality of child development services in Chicago. A range of trainings offered in both English and Spanish are provided for home- and center-based providers. As an Illinois Action for Children Community Partner, the Carole Robertson Center serves targeted communities on the west and southwest sides of Chicago, as well as designated suburban communities in Cook County.
Volunteers are welcomed in all facets of program and agency operations. Volunteers range from age 8 to 85, and contribute thousands of hours of service each year. In addition to their friendship and support, volunteers fulfill essential functions in direct service to the community and provide valuable resources at little to no cost. The Foster Grandparents Initiative seeks to build community by establishing relationships among neighborhood senior citizens and young children, replacing age segregation and individual isolation with opportunities for friendship across the generations.