Winston Prouty Child with Pinwheet

The Winston Prouty Center – Past, Present and Future

The Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development provides inclusive education and family support to promote the success of children and families. For more than 50 years, the Center has served the communities of Southern Vermont.

Why does early childhood matter?

Research shows 80% of the human brain develops during the first three years of life, and a solid foundation established in the first 5 years of a child’s life makes a significant difference in positive outcomes including improved educational success, physical and mental health and future financial stability.

Comprehensive child and family development has been the work of The Winston Prouty Center for almost a half-century and will continue to be our focus as we strive to ensure that every child has the chance to grow and learn to the best of their ability – to live their full promise.

Our History

Since 1969 the Prouty Center has provided leadership through direct services as well as collaborative work with other providers and partners. Named after Senator Winston Prouty of Vermont who co-sponsored the Handicapped Children’s Early Education Assistance Act of 1968, the Center started as First Chance, one of the first programs in the country aimed exclusively for preschool children with special needs. Incorporated in 1972 as The Winston Prouty Center a number of programs have been developed over the years to support the mission of the Center. Some highlights include: research during the 1970s when Dr. Robert DeVoid, the first executive director, invented and patented a diagnostic test for pre-reading skills; a respite care program in the 1980s for children who were severely handicapped, The Children’s Country Inn; NAEYC accreditation for the Early Learning Center in the 1990s, and state designation as the regional host agency for special education services for birth to age 3.

What we are doing today

Our efforts on behalf of children are all focused on building capacity and resiliency in families. Parents are their children’s first teachers, and we cannot successfully support a young child’s wellbeing without understanding and working with their family whatever that looks like.  In our experience, most parents/caregivers are motivated to do their best for their children and will parent in the best ways they can despite the difficulties they may be having.  We believe in families’ ability to learn, change and grow, and we are willing to join them and support them on their journey.

We foster child and family development through two primary programs: our NAEYC accredited 5 STAR Early Learning Center and Community Based Services for families and early care and learning programs.

Our Early Learning Center serves 45 families and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round. Both full-day and half-day placements are offered, most children attend full time. We offer an inclusive environment with both typically developing children and children with special needs. Over 75% of families receive financial assistance for tuition through the state subsidy system and/or Prouty scholarship. Children in protective custody through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) participate regularly in the program. ELC staff work closely with community providers to support this diversity of children successfully.

Prouty is the local lead agency for Children’s Integrated Services, Vermont’s approach to providing seamless social and education services to at-risk families with young children. CIS includes Early Intervention, Early Childhood Family Mental Health, Nursing, and Specialized Child Care.  We supply resources to over 40 early education programs and community partners via CIS Consultation & Education, the Early Learning Express bookmobile and the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program. We are also the host agency for the local court-ordered supervised visitation program.

The Prouty Center is the only local source of help and information for accessing high-quality early care and education programs in Windham County. Our Child Care Referral Program provides personalized counseling, consumer education and referral support for families in need of childcare. The Child Care Financial Assistance Program assists families, including those whose childcare options are limited due to financial constraints, mental health issues or other family challenges, in accessing state-sponsored child care tuition assistance.

Family Supportive Housing provides support for up to 2 years to families who are homeless and have children up to age 6, with the goal being finding and maintaining stable housing through skill development around parenting, tenancy and financial stability. The program can serve 24 to 30 families at a time, and staff work closely with Groundworks, Brattleboro Housing Authority, Windham and Windsor Housing Trust, Department of Children and Families Economic Services and Family Services (child protection), and Southeastern Vermont Community Action, among others.

The Future

Our most recent Strategic plan developed in 2018 is a solid foundation and guide for our efforts in the coming years.  The plan focuses on both internal and external issues.  It is flexible and should allow us to stay track and adapt to our always changing environment so that we can continue meet community needs.  The major goals of our plan are:

  • Honor the central role of families in child development and reflect that centrality in the work of our organization.
  • Sharpen our identity as a leader in inclusive early care and education and social supports for families.
  • Sustain a vibrant organizational culture that nourishes curiosity and continuous learning.
  • Maintain and enhance the long-term financial health of the organization.
  • Manage our 184-acre campus as a vibrant community resource that enhances our mission success.