History and Partners


The Southwest Advocacy Group (SWAG) is a grassroots non-profit that began 2010 when a group of nine citizens came together to discuss their concerns for a cluster of low-income neighborhoods in SW Gainesville, now known as the SWAG neighborhoods. The members of the group had been working in their own ways for years to raise awareness about the lack of services and supports available to families living in these neighborhoods.

Because of the advocacy efforts of community members, community organizations, and with support from the Alachua County Board of Commissioners, the SWAG Family Resource Center, operated by Partnership for Strong Families, opened its’ doors in June of 2012. The resource center has made a substantial impact in the community by increasing family access to needed supports, such as assistance finding a job, a food bank and clothing closet, after school enrichment for children, parent-child activities and other basic needs.

In 2015, SWAG, together with Alachua County and the Alachua County Health Department opened a neighborhood health and dental clinic located right in the heart of the neighborhoods. Bolstered by a $1.85 million grant from the United Health Foundation, the clinic is bringing critical medical and dental care to the community.

With an estimated 860 children who are younger than five in the SWAG neighborhoods, and virtually no access to affordable early learning services in the area, the final part of SWAG’s vision was to create a quality early learning center to serve low income children and their families. SWAG helped guide the vision, build the building, and piece together the relationships that resulted in the creation of the CHILD Center.

The CHILD Center opened its doors in August of 2018, and provides early learning services, as well as a model demonstration center that will improve the lives of children and their families, and the standard of early childhood education across the entire county.

For more information about SWAG, the SWAG Family Resource Center, and the SW Health Clinic, please visit SWAG’s website at www.swadvocacygroup.org.

O2B Kids

O2B Kids is the operating partner at the CHILD Center. They help the CHILD Center oversee the day to day staffing needs and their team provides a wealth of resources and experience in early childhood education and care. O2B Kids’ staff work with the CHILD Center to develop activities and curriculum that opens minds, improves self-confidence, develops social skills, and strengthens bodies. O2B Kids’ staff helps our children discover hidden talents and promote a passion for discovery in and out of the classroom setting. They also work daily to help kids to try new things, and build a healthy respect for the people, property, and ideas around them.

For more information about O2B Kids, visit their website at http://www.o2bkids.com/.

UF’s Anita Zucker Center

The Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Florida. Their work is dedicated to advancing knowledge, practices, and policy in early childhood studies. Early childhood studies is an interdisciplinary field focused on young children birth to age 5, their families, and the contexts that support their health, development, learning, and well-being.
To accomplish its mission, the Zucker Center partners with, and draws upon the expertise of faculty from colleges throughout UF. Their research and practice collaborators, also dedicated to addressing the needs of vulnerable young children and their families, are from the Colleges of Education, Medicine, Public Health, Law, and Health Professions and other related institutes and centers.

The Zucker Center members engage with local, state, national and global partners to address the needs of communities, young children who are vulnerable, and their families. Forging a commitment among diverse stakeholders, the Center is implementing and sharing practical applications that spur change through improved practices and policies to create impactful trajectories that can transform young children’s development and learning in the context of their families and communities.

At the CHILD Center, members of the Zucker Center contribute their expertise to the support the operation of the Model Demonstration Center. The Zucker Center is instrumental in ensuring that the teachers at the CHILD Center receive the necessary professional development to support development and learning of our children. Further, together with Early Learning Coalition (ELC) of Alachua county, the Zucker Center is working diligently to ensure knowledge dissemination and diffusion of practices that are evidence-based and practically applied in the field of early childhood education and care throughout the entire county.

For more information about the Anita Zucker Center, visit their website at https://ceecs.education.ufl.edu/about-us/.

Head Start

Head Start is an early childhood development program, started in 1965 to provide comprehensive developmental services for America’s low-income, preschool children ages 3 to 5. Giving a boost to children’s education and helping strengthen the skills of parents to better nurture and provide for their children, Head Start is making a significant difference in the lives of children and families in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories.
A variety of federal and state-funded programs (Head Start, Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) are available to address the ever-changing needs of this community’s youngest and most impressionable residents.
As members of the Professional Early Intervention team, Head Start focuses on:
recognizing and supporting parents as their child’s first and most important educator;
developing a program that focuses on ensuring readiness for school supporting the empowerment and improved quality of life of each program participant.
Services are specifically designed to address the needs of young children from economically disadvantaged families, children with disabilities, and children and families who are experiencing hardships that may affect the child’s development.
The shared goals of the Early Intervention Services Program are to enhance readiness for school, increase parent involvement, identify special needs prior to kindergarten enrollment, facilitate the transition to kindergarten, and to promote family empowerment.
Early Childhood and Family Support Services are offered to families in the Alachua County area.
Children between the ages of three and five and their families are provided comprehensive family support and developmentally-appropriate services in a variety of early childhood settings.
For more information about Head Start, visit the Head Start page on the School Board of Alachua County’s website, https://www.sbac.edu/domain/6227.

ELC of Alachua County

The Early Learning Coalition of Alachua County (ELCAC) serves as a resource to families and child care providers. Their mission is to ensure that all children in our community have the chance to participate in enriching opportunities that allow them to explore, create, play, and grow. They work hard to maintain a quality early learning system with programs that respect families’ individual needs.
ELC’s School Readiness programs offer qualified parents the opportunity to access affordable, quality child care, allowing them to work and contribute to the community while being assured their children are safe and well cared for. Direct child care services are delivered through a comprehensive network of more than 100 contracted child care providers, including licensed centers, family child care homes, school-based programs, and faith-based programs throughout Alachua County.
As part of the School Readiness program, regular screenings and assessments help identify children who may have special needs and help parents address these needs early, giving children the best chance of success. Nearly 2,200 children and their families are served by School Readiness Programs in Alachua County each year.
Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) (or preschool) is available free to all Florida 4-year-old children. VPK programs emphasize learning through play, using developmentally appropriate instruction and activities. Approved VPK providers prepare children to be ready for kindergarten. Approximately 1,500 children participate in Alachua County VPK programs each year.
Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) services are offered to everyone regardless of income and offer up-to-date child-care provider information based on individual needs, as well as listings for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, employment opportunities, training, and professional development.
Support to Childcare Providers is offered in a variety of ways including coaching, training, stipends, and classroom materials.
At the CHILD Center, ELC, together with UF’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, are working to apply the Zucker Center’s Practice Based Coaching Model at many of the ELC provider sites, and to transform the access and quality of professional development available to early childhood education and care providers across the state.
For more information about the Early Learning Coalition of Alachua County, visit their website at http://elcalachua.org.

Alachua County Children’s Services Advisory Board

The Children’s Services Advisory Board (CSAB) was established by the Board of County Commissioners to make recommendations to the Board regarding programs impacting children prenatal to five years old. The mission of the CSAB is to “[e]valuate the needs of the community and propose initiatives to benefit Alachua County’s families and children, prenatal to age five, to ensure their health, safety, well-being, and preparedness for future success in school and life; and will also advise the Board of County Commissioners regarding the creation of a dependent or independent Children’s Services Council.”
As part of that mission, Alachua County, at the recommendation of the CSAB, has provided funding to support the CHILD Center and its’ model demonstration center. The CHILD Center is very grateful to the county for its ongoing support of innovative programs designed to improve access and quality of early childhood education and care programs throughout the county.
For more information about the Children’s Services Advisory Board of Alachua County, visit their page on the county website at http://advisoryboards.alachuacounty.us/boards/info.aspx.