CFRC Worries About University Search for Private Partnership,”
by Rachel Spacek, The Sagebrush, February 14, 2017

“Urgent: Your help is needed,” reads the Friends of the Child and Family Research Center website. The University of Nevada, Reno’s Child and Family Research Center provides early childcare to children of faculty, staff, students and community members and is set to undergo changes, as university faculty are looking to find a private party to expand the child care facility.

“The Child and Family Research Center is located on campus. Most children are in the Fleischmann building and some are in the education building,” said Provost Kevin R. Carman. “We have been limited to serving 100 children for as long as anyone can remember and during that time the university has gotten bigger. In the years since I’ve been here, we have been looking at ways we can expand child care offerings to members of the UNR community. We’ve struggled with coming up with any good solutions, so that led us to consider the possibility of looking to see if a private party would be interested in expanding child care offerings.”

Eva Essa is a retired foundation professor of Human Development and Family Studies at UNR, where she taught for 41 years. Essa served 16 years as the director of the CFRC. She had her children in the CFRC on campus and found herself concerned with the future of the child care program when she read the university’s Request for Qualification that read the university was looking at, “Replacing and Expanding University Child Care Capacity.”

Essa wrote an article in the Reno Gazette-Journal to try and spread the word about the changes to the community. In addition to writing her article, Essa created a campaign called Friends of the CFRC and wrote a petition that has over 900 signatures.

“The university’s response to my article was ‘we have no intentions of getting rid of the CFRC,’ but I don’t know what they envision happening. They’re bringing someone else in to do it and the RFQ had a sentence that said, ‘existing child care facilities will be replaced by the new program and the physical facilities will be redesigned,’” Essa said.

Carman said despite the fact that the university’s RFQ says, “Existing Child Care Facilities will be replaced as a result of this project,” the university does not plan on eliminating the CFRC.

Essa said that for a number of years when she was a faculty member at the CFRC, and even more recently, the group has made numerous requests to be able to fundraise to build a bigger building on campus to fulfill the growing need for child care.

A committee was created made up of people from the HDFS department at UNR, members of the CFRC and community members. The committee came up with a report explaining that their primary recommendation to the university was to allow the CFRC to fundraise in order to build a bigger building.

“We knew there was a bigger need on campus, it wasn’t that we were unwilling to meet the need, but [our requests were] always denied,” Essa said.

Carman said the university has had to set priorities, and their priorities in the last few years have been academic buildings.

“Our priority emphasis over the past few years has been building facilities that have been expanding our educational and research capacity and serving the students broadly on our university,” Carman said. “That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t welcome a donor to support a child care facility. We have not had any donors come forward to express that interest. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t be willing to have a donor support a child care facility, but it does mean that when we go to foundations we do set priorities.”

The CFRC was the first child care program in Nevada to be nationally accredited and it has been continuously accredited since the 1980s. Three of the CFRC’s facilities have received five out of five stars from the state, while throughout Nevada only six programs have received a five-star rating.

“All of those indicate that it is a really high-quality program, but more so I’ve been so impressed with the comments on our website that speak of this program being more than any other early child program, more than what they’ve experienced on campus, this was a really nurturing place for children and for students,” Essa said. “It tells me that this is a well-loved program that is meaningful to a lot of people and if it is dismantled, no matter what they say, it will not ever come back and that is what I want to have not happen. I want to preserve something that should be preserved.”

In addition to the changes to the CFRC, the university recently sold their Nelson Building, a building in downtown Reno that housed several programs including the CFRC’s Early Head Start Program.

The university sold the Nelson Building as part of a development initiative in downtown Reno. However, the university has not yet found another building to house the Early Head Start Program or the other programs currently housed in the Nelson Building.

“What I am told is that they are very confident that they will be able to find a location for it,” Carman said. “We are not planning on a scenario where we do not have a location for them because we are very confident we will and we are totally committed to finding a place for it.”

The sale of the building will be final on May 15, and after that, the university has 120 days to vacate the building. They are hopeful they will find a place by then.

Essa is still not satisfied with the university’s response to her and other community member’s inquiries and concerns.

“We are not a priority,” Essa said. “It doesn’t feel good. It tells me that they’re interested only in what they’re interested in and they are not paying attention to this being an extraordinary program.”

‘Replacement,’ Century-old children’s program facing end,”
by Dennis Myers, Reno News and Review, February 9, 2017

In the 1950s, University of Nevada student Nancy Alberti instructed children in the Child Development Lab, now called the Child and Family Research Center. PHOTO/UNR SPECIAL COLLECTIONS

For more than a century in Reno, children have been going to college.

They haven’t been getting a college education, understand, but they have been getting an education. They go to a school called the Child and Family Research Center (CFRC). Until 1970, it was called the Child Development Lab.

Many former University of Nevada, Reno students have memories of the children playing at recess on campus. Although no one ever thought to form a CFRC alumni group, it would be pretty big. An exact year it began operating seems to have been lost, but “the early 1900s” is often given. The campus was then usually called Nevada State University.

Children from the community and the children of faculty members are students. As the economy evolved and households could no longer survive on a single income, CFRC also evolved into a child care facility. Demand for spots in the program normally exceed supply. “The kids are taught to socialize at the same time they are taught their letters and numbers,” said one faculty member who has observed class sessions. “Children help one another.”

UNR’s class catalog contains a capsule description: “The Child & Family Research Center provides a learning laboratory which supports the education and training of students in the department college and other units on campus. The center also serves as a research site for investigations that focus on particular aspects of infancy, toddlerhood, preschool or family development. The Child and Family Research Center was the first early childhood program in the state to be accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs and has long served as a model for best practices in northern Nevada.”

With that level of pride elevated to the catalog, why is UNR trying to get rid of the Center?

Or is it? There is conflicting information coming out, some by word of mouth, others in legal jargon. The Center’s former director, Eva Essa, is trying to save it. The campus says it’s in no danger. After Essa wrote an essay for the Reno Gazette-Journal objecting to the Center being replaced, UNR President Marc Johnson sent a message to Essa reading, “I just want to make clear that the university has not even considered closing the CFRC.”

However, in December, UNR invited commercial child care facilities to submit a statement of their qualifications to establish a new child care facility on the campus. That document read in part, “Existing Child Care Facilities … will be replaced as a result of this project.” The document was titled, “Replacing and Expanding University Child Care Capacity.”

In fact, the word replace appears in various forms nine times in that document. And CFRC is “excluded” from being a contender for the contract.

CFRC has more than once requested funding for expansion. In fact, at one point a feasibility study was being launched, and an architect was at work when there was a change of administrations that brought it to a halt.

In a Gazette-Journal essay responding to Essa, UNR Provost Kevin Carman and Education Dean Kenneth Coll wrote, “As a very tangible sign of our commitment to the CFRC, the College of Education provided much needed space and a playground in the William J. Raggio Building for about 35 four- to six-year-olds.”

On the other hand, the university also sold the current home of the program out from under it. This is the former Reno Gazette-Journal building at Second and Stevenson streets.

Carman was asked why the existing program is not simply being expanded instead of bringing a commercial player into the mix. He said, “We’re not going to get more than one building from the legislature each session,” and UNR has engineering in that slot this year. So a public/private partnership seemed like a good step, he said. A similar approach was taken to grad student housing.

One campus source said of Carman, “He’s one of these guys who thinks all programs should pay for themselves.“

He responded, “Interesting observation. I think that we have to look at economic realities, not completely self-supporting but some self support.”

However, given the language of the request for qualifications that a program is being “replaced,” some of the firms that look at it may be taken aback when they learn it is actually a public/private partnership.

Carman said one thing the Center has going for it is that “There are certainly a lot of loyal alumni.” That is always helpful because even with legislative support, a school needs private donors.

“There’s a lot that’s special about it,” Essa said of the school. “The comments that we’ve been getting [on petitions to keep the school going], people are grateful not just for the education, but the social/emotional preparedness their children got, the ability to communicate well, work with other people. It’s just a very positive and nurturing environment and results in kids that are amazingly well prepared to face life.”

UNR Explores Plans To Expand Child Care,”
by Carla O’Day, ThisisReno, February 3, 2017

UNR's Child and Family Research Center.

Seeking to keep pace with its need for additional family services for staff and students, University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) plans to replace and increase its child care offerings with the help of a private provider.

UNR’s Child & Family Research Center (CFRC) collectively has 101 slots for child care in the William J. Raggio and Sarah H. Fleischmann buildings but has more than 200 children on waiting lists, mostly infants and toddlers. Under an agreement with the Washoe County School District, 18 spots are reserved for 3- and 4-year-olds with special needs.

Plans call for expanding services to between 200 and 250 children from infancy to 6 years and to move child care facilities out of existing locations.

Pursuing a public-private partnership arrangement may consist of off-campus facilities near UNR, building and operating a facility on campus, or consulting with the university to build such a facility and eventually enter into a management contract.

UNR is asking that existing center staff be given preference for employment, according to a request for qualifications posted recently to potential bidders that’s due Feb. 9. There are currently 10 full-time staff members at the center, three school district employees, and numerous part-time paid student staff members. Also, children of existing university staff and students would be given enrollment preferences over the general public.

UNR's Child and Family Research Center.

Still not enough, the university studied several alternatives, concluding the most viable option is a private partnership that will preserve the CFRC and the excellent childcare it provides.

To begin the conversation with prospective private partners, the university issued an RFQ — a Request for Qualifications. This RFQ process opens the door to exploring various cost-effective options for expanding childcare services for our growing community on or near campus.

To ensure a rigorous and transparent process, the CFRC’s executive director and the associate dean in the College of Education were integrally involved in the development of the RFQ.

The university is fully committed to preserving, and hopefully expanding, the childcare services we provide. Our commitment to the Washoe County School District, and the programs serviced by the CFRC and Early Head Start programs also remain a priority, as stated explicitly in the RFQ.

Early Head Start program

 The university will be relocating the Early Head Start program due to the university’s sale of the Nelson Building, the current home of the program. Once the sale is complete — by the end of May — the university has 120 days to vacate the building. Closer to that time, we will announce the Early Head Start program’s new home.

While it is too soon to say exactly what future university childcare services will look like, we are not going to give up on expanding child care and hope to offer a solution soon that meets the needs of our growing community.

Kevin R. Carman is UNR’s executive vice president and provost;  Kenneth M. Coll is dean of UNR’s College of Education.

by Eva Essa, Reno Gazette-Journal, January 26, 2017

First, UNR administration recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to eliminate and replace the CFRC by partnering with a commercial childcare provider. The CFRC has long recognized the crucial need to expand as our campus community grows. However, multiple requests to fundraise to construct a larger facility have been denied by the UNR administration because such a project would “compete with other UNR priorities.” Instead, UNR administrators are offering an outside business land on which to build a larger facility.

The CFRC has always put into practice the mounting research which indicates that the earliest years are critical to all future development and that the positive experiences of very young children are crucial. It takes seriously its mission to provide the highest quality education and care for children and a supportive environment for the families of those children.

The CFRC also operates an Early Head Start (EHS) program, which leads us to the second issue faced by the CFRC. EHS, a federally-funded program that provides vital services to infants, toddlers, and pregnant women, serves 210 of Reno’s most vulnerable children and families. The CFRC’s EHS program is recognized as an “Early Head Start Center of Excellence,” one of only ten such programs named nation-wide (out of more than 1,700) for the high quality of its services and positive outcomes for its children and families. Unfortunately, EHS will soon lose its main facility, the Nelson Building on 2nd Street, because UNR has sold it. Although UNR administrators indicated in a recent RGJ article that they would find alternative space for displaced programs, no such space has been suggested.

At this time, the future of both the CFRC and EHS are in jeopardy. The CFRC needs commitment from UNR administrators to raise funds to build an expanded campus children’s center operated by the CFRC, a program that has a proven record of excellence. EHS needs appropriate space near the population served (downtown Reno).

Since its inception, thousands of people have been touched by the CFRC and its programs, including some of you reading this article. We would appreciate your help in encouraging UNR administrators to rethink their decision to “outsource” and instead to allow the CFRC to continue to flourish as an integral member of the UNR community, in a new, larger building that would meet the need for more child care on campus. Additionally, we want UNR to make support of EHS a priority.

The youngest and most vulnerable members of the UNR family need our voices.

Eva Essa, a retired Foundation Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, taught at UNR for 41 years, 16 of which included serving as director of the Child and Family Research Center. She can be contacted at

Thankful to be included in a preschool,”
by Siobhan McAndrew, Reno Gazette-Journal, November 28, 2016 


When Lennah Martinez comes home a little dirty from school, her mom is thankful.

Just like the other 18 kids in her preschool class at the Child and Family Research Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, it’s not unusual to have paint from an art project or sand from the playground on her clothes.

“It’s exactly as it should be,” said Ashleigh Martinez, who wants her daughter to be treated and educated like every other child.

Lennah, 4, was born with gastroschisis, a condition where intestines are outside the abdominal wall. She had six surgeries before she was a year old. At 6 months, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

But at school she is just another kid, thriving in an inclusive preschool program.

On a recent morning, student Diggory Mardock, 4, showed Lennah his penguin superhero made from pipe cleaners, cork and Q-tips. Both children smiled, oblivious that school could be any other way.

Reno disability advocate Diedre Hammon said the inclusive program at UNR is one of the best.

“It’s one that shows how it should be done everywhere,” she said. “It shows the benefit of including children instead of segregating.”

It’s why Martinez picked the program for her daughter after looking at another school.

“When they do circle time, she gets down on the floor with the other kids,” said Martinez. “Why should it be any different because she is in a wheelchair?”

The 30-year-old program is a collaboration between UNR and the Washoe County School District for children 3 to 5 years old with disabilities.  It has spots for 20 children with a range of disabilities, spread across different classrooms, who are enrolled in preschool classes with peers.

“There are benefits for children like Lennah in terms of language but also for all the children in the class,” said Yvonne Williams, who oversees the program and is a school district special education teacher.

“The children in the class learn compassion,” Williams said. She said one of the other children goes home and plays school, modifying her play time with her dolls to also work with children who may have a disability.

The program also benefits future teachers, said Williams. The center relies on student workers, many going on to work in education.

“Even if you aren’t a special education teacher, you are going to be a teacher who has students with an IEP,” she said of an individual education program, a federally mandated document that outlines how a child with disabilities will be educated and how that progress will be measured.

Williams said things have changed in special education in the last three decades.  She said more programs are identifying and helping students before they start kindergarten.

“Assistive technology has really opened doors for children,” Williams said. “Some children use technology devices to communicate, learn and better participate in curriculum.”

Lennah is recovering from surgery in September to reconstruct both her hips.  Using a saw to cut a wedge of bone out of her femurs, doctors used a metal rod to reset her long bones and close her hip sockets. Lennah had to stay reclined in a wheelchair for six weeks and returned to her classroom last week.

During her time out of school, Williams, therapists and her classroom aide visited her home, bringing a bit of preschool to the recovering little girl.

It’s not the first time the school has brought preschool home to a child.

“A child looks at you differently after going to their home,” Williams said. “They look at us as family.”

In & Out of the Box,”
by Jena Valenzuela, Reno Gazette-Journal, October 27, 2015

From cardboard to playground

The In and Out of the Box exhibition inspired children to use their creativity and explore new materials

What once were cardboard boxes containing assemble-yourself furniture, a mass supply of baby wipes and Christmas gifts from Amazon were transformed into tunnels, a sled, a tickets booth, a tent and a slide. Dozens of children explored these new cardboard creations Oct. 20 at the Child and Family Research Center’s exhibition of the In and Out of the Box project at the University of Nevada, Reno.

In and Out of the Box exhibition.

The children playing didn’t just show up to romp around the repurposed playground, they designed it.

Leah Sanders, mentor and coach for the Child and Family Research Center, said that the project allows the children to exercise their creativity.
“The kids make their own world using this repurposed material and it has expanded their imaginations,” she said. “They have been exploring the materials while experimenting with different kinds of play.”

Jenna Jakeway, a co-teacher in the two-year classroom said that the children did a lot of pretend play with the boxes in the classroom before the final products were displayed at the exhibition.

“They made an ice cream shop and then they turned them into cars,” she said. “They really got to exercise their creativity and got to explore different mediums.”

In and Out of the Box slideshow

The College of Education’s Child and Family Research Center provides early childhood care for children of University students, faculty and staff, and families who meet the annual federal poverty guidelines for the Early Head Start Program. The center uses a developmental approach in its eight classrooms on campus to include stimulating experiences that fit naturally into a child’s routine.

The center used the In and Out of the Box project as another way to implement STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning in the classrooms. The purpose of the project was to inspire the children to imagine, build, play and share.

To learn more about the Child and Family Research Center visit or if you want to view a video from the 2014 In and Out of the Box exhibition, visit