Early Education is Important

Now Enrolling: No Cost Educational Opportunities for Children & Families


Diane Erickson-Uphoff - Director of Child and Family Services at EOCF

Enroll Now!

Children from households meeting qualifying income guidelines or who have a documented disability are encouraged to apply. Contact EOCF at 360-567-2720 to see if you qualify or visit eocfwa.org/programs/apply/ online for one of our many spots.

For the first few years of life, we have a lot to learn. Luckily, young brains are up for the challenge. Learning starts before we take our first breath.

“We encourage parents to read a book and sing songs during their third trimester,” said Diane Erickson-Uphoff, Director of Child and Family Services at Educational Opportunities for Children & Families.

Serving the community for 50 years, EOCF provides school readiness and early learning programs serving over 2,000 low income children and families at no cost annually throughout Clark County, Pacific County, and the Woodland portion of Cowlitz County in Southwest Washington.

Every young mind deserves the opportunity to start kindergarten with a “head start,” regardless of social status or family income. In one local elementary school, 80 percent of kindergartners are on the free and reduced lunch program but only 30% had a preschool experience. Those children could have benefited from the programs EOCF offers.

There are currently openings in all programs throughout the county. As the designated Head Start grantee in our service areas, EOCF provides over 60 classroom opportunities for children from birth to five years old. All programs are accessible to residents who qualify. EOCF meets with each potential family one-on-one to determine qualifications. Once qualified there are many services available both in home and in classrooms.

According to PeaceHealth’s community needs assessment in 2016 approximately 33% of Clark County residents are either “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” or live below the poverty line. Clark County has about 440,000 residents where 28,925 (6.6%) are preschoolers age 5 or younger who need help.

EOCF will focus on connecting, empowering, and transforming children and families through education, engagement, and sustained support and encouragement so that parents strengthen their skills and utilize “tools” to achieve their goals to achieve self-sufficiency.

“I’ve been in early learning for three decades,” Erickson-Uphoff said. “It’s amazing that research has caught up with what we’ve always known – children are born ready to learn. We need to make sure all adults are ready to be their first and most important teacher.”

For low income families, however, access to early learning opportunities can be limited. Unable to afford quality childcare, or not having transportation to those centers, children in low income households often have less access to these educational experiences.

“Families who have less access have more barriers,” Erickson-Uphoff said. “With our programs, they are able to tackle those barriers and increase opportunities.”

EOCF offers several different areas of early childhood education, each designed to provide children a whole-body early learning experience. The programs curriculum has a strong focus on children learning through emergent play experiences and developmentally appropriate. EOCF curriculum addresses all areas of development with children: social-emotional; cognition/math; physical and motor; language; literacy; and approaches to learning.

EARLY HEAD START: Providing full-day classrooms, home-base education services, and family support services for infants and toddlers (birth to three), pregnant women and families including children who have a diagnosed disability.

HEAD START: Providing full-day and part-day preschool education, home-based education services, and family support services for children 3-5 and their families including children who have a diagnosed disability.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Providing part-day and full-day preschool education and family support services for children ages 3-5 including children who have a diagnosed disability.

HOTSHOTS YOUTH SPORTS: Part of the Educational Opportunities for Children and Families (EOCF) program in Vancouver, Washington. HotShots caters to boys and girls in grades 1-6 who are interested in playing basketball on a recreational level. If you need more info, the program is listed on our website.

Early learning describes that magical time period from birth to kindergarten, a time when immense brain development happens. The brain is a sponge soaking up love, family culture, word development, creativity, and many other simple important life skills that will create a giant canvas and impact these bundles of joy for their entire lives. That’s a lot to wrap your mind around. That means that those first five years need to offer learning in everything.

For a mighty small army of early learning professionals, none of this is new information. EOCF makes sure that their teachers have all the needed training and the state of the art tools to teach these young minds. These well trained and highly motivated teachers are spread throughout Clark County in 64 classrooms spread out over 27 centers with programs that start at 6:45 AM to 6 PM, making it very convenient to take full advantage of the opportunities now available.

In addition to the classroom learning, EOCF has many family resources to offer. They support a foundation for parents to be their children’s first and best teachers. Many opportunities exist for parents to build on their strengths, improve their parenting and leadership skills, connect with their community, and advocate for themselves and their families. These skills include:

  • Family well-being
  • Positive parent-child relationships
  • Families as lifelong learners and educators
  • Family engagement and lifestyle transitions
  • Family connections to peers and community
  • Families as advocates and leaders

They also help families with basic skills such as:

  • Resume writing assistance
  • Family budget assistance
  • Navigating the health care system
  • Immunizations

A mother who is currently supported by EOCF states, “as a mother, I’ve seen the benefits that Early Head Start and Head Start have had on my three children. These programs changed my life; please allow it to help others.”

“There are different expectations now,” Erickson-Uphoff said. “Children are expected to know more coming into kindergarten now than in the past.”

Early learning is the building blocks to prepare children for full-day kindergarten, now fully implemented throughout Clark County public schools. Not only does it help parents plan the day, the full-day approach is good for children according to Erickson-Uphoff. With a solid foundation, children are able to transition into kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and beyond.

Since 1967, EOCF has been serving the community as one of the largest social services and education non-profits in Clark County, employing over 250 people. “We need to make sure the community knows what we offer so that they can utilize our programs.” said Brad Lebowsky, Director of Operations.

The programs have a variety of delivery models including full-day, full-year, part-day, part-year and home-based programs. Contact EOCF at 360-567-2720 to see if you qualify or visit eocfwa.org/programs/apply/ online for one of our many spots.

For 50 years Educational Opportunities for Children & Families has strived to achieve its mission: Strengthening children and families through early learning, child development education, and community partnerships…connect, empower, transform. They look forward to the next 50 years continuing to be the leading provider of comprehensive early childhood education and family support programs in Southwest Washington.

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