Early in July Andrea Densham began her new position as executive director of Childcare Network of Evanston. Six weeks later she applauds her board, her staff and her fiscal supporters for their collaboration.
While Ms. Densham transitions to her new job, CNE is at a pinnacle point in reestablishing its vision and implementing a five-year plan.
“Among the community members and leaders, there is this energy and passion for new things just erupting right now. I’m so excited to be arriving at a time like this,” Ms. Densham said. “I’ve got a new cohort of people excited to expand our work.”
CNE is moving forward into its 45th year, providing an abundance of services to Evanston families and children. As Ms. Densham pointed out, CNE does much more than childcare – it has created a network for childcare and family services that has impacted a number of generations. Children are nurtured from birth and provided with developmental education and support while parents are also provided with age-appropriate education and help with legal, housing, health and economical stability.
“We see it over and over again,” Ms. Densham said. “When you give children or their families the resources to empower themselves, they become leaders to transform their neighborhoods, their communities, their cities and towns. It just takes patient advocacy.”
One aspect in particular Ms. Densham wishes to improve is the implementation of seamless services so that the “hand-off” to kindergarten is successful. “It’s our role as leaders,” she said, “to make sure local families and children are ready to be put in the public school system.”
CNE says they are also looking to expand their services beyond Evanston to nearby communities that do not have as many dedicated childcare resources, such as Skokie and Lincolnwood.
As new executive director, her name may be most in the foreground, Ms. Densham said, but it is the people she works with who should be recognized. In particular, she said, Board Chair Deborah Danson who worked strategically with the board to help make Ms. Densham’s transition run as smoothly as possible.
“Our City is full of leaders like Deborah. We need to take advantage of people like her to transform our City into a world-class City,” Ms. Densham said.
Although she does not have much experience in childcare services, what Ms. Densham does bring is a background in non-profit management and community expansion through public policy. Most recently, Ms. Densham was the principal of her own consulting company, Densham Consulting. Prior to that she was the Vice President of Public Health and Government Affairs for Prevent Blindness America. Ms. Densham worked with many government organizations involving children and youth health, women’s and LGBT health and HIV/AIDS.
“I got to go from being an activist in these areas to running the government programs,” Ms. Densham said. Seeing both the challenges and the opportunities, it became clear that the government does work for us, she said.
It is through that work, Ms. Densham said, she is able to see what work can be done with collaboration. When one organization bridges to another, they both enter each other’s circle of relationships, she said.
“We have great community leaders, corporation partners and large non-profit resources willing to work with us and mobilize us,” Ms. Densham said. “Let’s now expand those relationships to maximize our resources and provide the services our families and children deserve.”