A Community Effort

Emerging Strategies to Improve Early Childhood Outcomes in Elkhart County

More than 50 percent of Elkhart County’s children arrive at kindergarten without the necessary tools for success. This initiative is focused on building a comprehensive, systems-based approach to helping children succeed.

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Our Organizational Sponsors

With effort and collaboration, we can build a system supporting children under age 6 and the families who raise them so that every child is prepared when they enter elementary school.

A group of organizational sponsors has come together to work collaboratively:

Organizational Sponsors

Latest News

Celebrating National Library Week

Libraries are pillars in our community that serve the public good as places where we can see knowledge and connection. Libraries play a huge role in community literacy. They help all of us learn and grow. They work for the public good. We are excited that our local...

Implementing community supports for young children and families in Elkhart County

Dolly Parton’s Imagination LibraryCrossroads United Way, Elkhart County’s Imagination Library affiliate, is leading the continued outreach and enrollment of young children in Elkhart County. Elkhart County has already enrolled 1,445 children to receive a free book...

Inspiring and educating communities

Libraries are one of the bedrocks of American life and experience. They are community treasures that play huge roles in inspiring and educating our communities. Thank you to our Elkhart County libraries for the amazing and important work they do in Elkhart County!...

Convening and connecting across the network

Building Strong Brains continues to lead, facilitate, and support convenings across the network with a focus on the three focus areas of Maternal and Child Health, Quality Child Care and Early Learning Environments, and Community Supports for Children and Families....

Evolving Building Strong Brains Structure

Building Strong Brains continues to evolve with the needs of the collective work of the coalition and the identified opportunities to leverage and align resources, dialogue, and efforts. As a result of this necessary evolving structure, Building Strong Brains now...

Convening cross-sector action teams

Building Strong Brains includes three action teams focused on the pillars of work that comprehensively span the full early childhood system. They are: Maternal and Child Health; Quality Child Care and Early Learning Environments; and Community and Family Supports. On...

Overcoming Challenges

Over the coming decade or more, community partners will help parents overcome challenges as they raise their children.

In September 2021, those leading the initiative started meeting with Tamarack Institute, which leads systems-level work in Canada to fight poverty. The tools and processes from that work can be applied to this area in Elkhart County. Children need security, enrichment and time, and families need the ability to provide these for their children. Over the coming decade or more, Elkhart County will create systems that help all children who enter kindergarten be prepared for success.

Since May 2022, more than 50 parents have come to listening sessions to help leaders better understand the challenges they face in raising children. Three focus groups have been working to study Elkhart County’s approach to Maternal & Child Health, Support for Young Families, and High-Quality Childcare & Learning Environments.

To learn more about these action teams, download this PDF.

Our Mission

With effort and collaboration, we can build a system supporting children under age 6 and the families who raise them so that every child is prepared when they enter elementary school.

The “Theory of Change”

The “theory of change” that undergirds this work is that if children and mothers have  positive health outcomes, if children have  access to safe and stimulating environments, and if families have the resources they need to support children’s positive development then the community’s children will enter kindergarten poised for success. The effort is being called “Building Strong Brains: Elkhart County’s Early Childhood Initiative.”

Research tells us:


Brains are built rapidly in the earliest stages of life.


This construction process is shaped by resources available to kids, families, and communities.


Early brain architecture sets a lasting foundation for children’s physical health and overall wellbeing.


Back-and-forth, “serve-and-return” interactions and responsive relationships build young brains and bodies.


When our policies channel severe stress into the lives of adults, “serve-and-return” interactions can break down.

We invite you to join us in this work

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Career Opportunities

Building Strong Brains is looking for an Assistant Director - Early Childhood Coalition.