A Look Back on the Founding of CFNC

June 7, 2017 Lisa Carter

Today, CFNC’s students see developmental gains that are two to three times the national average, and they consistently perform at the top of their classes throughout elementary school. All of this is possible because of a group of brave women who wanted better opportunities for their preschoolers.

In 1982, 17 children living in Alexandria’s Cameron Valley public housing development failed kindergarten. It was a 100% failure rate. A group of the kindergartners’ mothers came together – they wanted more for their children. They decided they themselves would prepare their kids for kindergarten; they would do whatever it took.

In 1983, Immanuel Church on the Hill parishioner Helena Pratt decided to help these mothers to found the Family Helpers Network in the Cameron Valley public housing project. This new network would act as the first preschool that would later become known as The Child and Family Network Centers. Two years later, in the fall of 1985, the doors for the first school year successfully opened. It consisted of six children who met two hours a day in the morning, four days a week. Immanuel Church on the Hill provided funding for books, supplies, and for the Network’s very first teacher (and CFNC’s founder): Barbara Mason.

In the 90’s CFNC secured some significant funding from community organizations such as Carpenters Shelter and United Way, which provided a long-term grant for a new class to be held in the shelter. This classroom eventually opened in 1995. In 1990, CFNC was also able to bring on a part-time grant writer, thanks to special start-up funding provided by Immanuel Churches. CFNC began fulfilling other important needs outside of education by implementing a lunch program in the spring of 1992 as well as a program dedicated to assisting parents. In 1993, CFNC continued to grow by adding two new classes in the Presidential Greens apartment complex in Arlandria. Thanks to these additional classrooms, CFNC was able to serve 110 children in 1993.

In the decade between 1985 and 1995, the Network significantly grew from one to eight classrooms and 6 to 135 children. In 1988, through a grant of the City to the Mental Health Association, afternoon classes were added. The morning classes were administered by the Immanuel Church and the afternoon classes by the Mental Health Association.

Today, CFNC consists of a network of 8 free preschools that serve 136 underserved children from low-income families throughout the greater Alexandria area. The community at CFNC is a strong one that consists of a wide array of supporters who not only sponsor children, adopt classrooms, and provide support through financial gifts, but also volunteer their time and resources. Without our amazing supporters, the children at CFNC would be at-risk of not attending preschool at all, and as a result would begin kindergarten almost 2 years behind their peers.

To read more about the history of CFNC, look through our 1983-1995 timeline or this article outlining the beginnings and the major milestones of CFNC!

To learn more about how you can support CFNC, click here or contact Maggie Klefstad, Development Manager, at mklefstad@cfnc-online.org or by phone at (703) 836-0214 ext. 238