Westsider You Should Know
Ruth Kimble, CEO of the Austin Childcare Providers’ Network, has successfully managed to turn a need for information into a system that has become a “networking model.”

Kimball’s Austin Childcare Academy is a network that supports over 1000 children, over 100 in-home daycare and 10 daycare centers. The network is housed upstairs from the Kimble’s Channing’s Childcare Academy, 5701 W. Division.

“The network has grown pretty much from word of mouth,” said Kimble. “These providers are all business women that are working to develop their businesses.”

In a culture where networking is not often utilized, Kimble has managed to create an association where networking is a must. Members are required to be active by participating in committees and committing to on-going professional development by attending college classes.

The network, which initially began with five home daycares, has received both private and government funding from organizations such Good City, The Eleanor Foundation, Brinson Foundation and the Reading is Fundamental, a federal program.

“Everything we do in this building is funded by a different foundation,” Kimble pointed out as she opened the door to the association’s lending library stocked by the Reading is Fundamental program and the row of computer stations used for literary and job training.

Kimble started her daycare business in 1996 after being downsized from a position at Amoco Corporation. Currently, her Channing’s childcare business employs eight and provides services to 46 children ages 2 to 12. And while the day-to-day operations of her daycare business is impressive, it’s the citywide reach of the networking association that has had the greatest impact.

The network has branched out and now has members in various communities such as Lawndale, Oak Park, Maywood, Garfield Park and Forest Park. Its mission is to educate and train childcare providers and children in under-served communities, Kimball says.

Several of the network’s key services are providing state-regulated childcare worker’s training and provider educational cohort classes at local sites in partnership with Malcolm X and Wright Colleges.

Kimble has experienced a shift in her networking, where people now contact her. Recently, she was approached by Oak Park Wonder Works Museum to have academy members participate on an advisory panel to the museum.

“We want to know what their needs are,” said Mary Bodlak, Wonder Works membership and outreach coordinator. “We want to hear what they think the museum should be doing.”

The panel is part of a focus group effort that the museum is conducting with residents of its surrounding communities.

The academy continues to diversify and move into new communities. The association recently began working with two Hispanic groups to provide bilingual computer classes and financial literary training courses.

The organization’s annual Childcare Health Fair takes place June 6, at Brunson Math and Science School, at 932 N. Central. It’s the organization’s largest event where it partners with several health agencies and various community programs. Last year the event provided education for over 75 providers and conducted health screening and identification services for over 400 children.