CRITICAL NEED ALERT Our Kids: Early Childhood Education & Youth Homelessness GET INVOLVED
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Critical Need Alert

Our Kids

Education and Housing


When kids in our neighborhoods are in need, it is our collective responsibility to step forward and invest in their future—our future. This Critical Need Alert was developed as an efficient, effective, immediate opportunity to join together and address needs of two groups of kids who need our help.

RAISED TO DATE $624,126.48
GOAL $1,500,000.00
Thanks to a grant approved by The Columbus Foundation's Governing Committee, we're kicking off Our Kids with $350,000 in place.

"This is not the first time in our national history that widening socio-economic gaps have threatened our economy, our democracy, and our values. The specific responses we have pursued to successfully overcome these challenges and restore opportunity have varied in detail, but underlying them all was a commitment to invest in other people’s children. And underlying that commitment was a deeper sense that those kids, too, were our kids.”

— Robert Putnam, Author of Our Kids


Our community is facing two urgent issues related to some of our youngest and most vulnerable residents:


  • Supporting quality early childhood education 
  • Bolstering collaborative efforts to effectively end youth homelessness



Ohio offers publicly funded childcare to children of working parents living at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. This care, typically from ages 0–5, takes place during a critical time in a child’s growth and learning. 


In 2005, Ohio established Step Up To Quality, a statewide quality rating and improvement system for childcare centers. The state set goals that mandated 100 percent of licensed childcare providers be rated (on a 1 to 5-star accreditation system) by 2020.


According to a recent Groundwork Ohio report, in 2017, 75.2 percent of all children eligible for public funding in Franklin County were in unrated centers. If these centers are not able to receive the professional development training and accreditation necessary to increase to at least a one-star rating before the deadline, they will lose their ability to accept public funding. Parents who rely on these unaccredited childcare centers will be forced to find alternative childcare providers. The ripple effect of this could be detrimental to working parents, threatening sustainability of the family.



Youth homelessness is a public health crisis in our community. Homeless youth are 12 times more likely to die due to untreated illness, suicide, or assault, and nationally, 41 percent of homeless youth have attempted suicide.


In 2017, more than 1,300 youth ages 14–24 were served in Columbus and Franklin County shelters. Further compounding the challenge in sheltering homeless youth is that, due to trauma, youth do not trust adult caregivers and often choose to live on the street rather than seek shelter at an adult facility. This puts them at additional risk for exploitation and violence.


With limited rights and privacy, homeless youth have little access to the services and support needed to survive independently. Without intervention, the cycle of trauma, poverty, and poor youth health outcomes is often perpetuated: 25 percent of unaccompanied youth are parents or pregnant.

We can’t lose another generation to the ravages of homelessness. Broad support through the Critical Need Alert will help create a path forward to a coordinated, comprehensive solution to assure that the most vulnerable young people in our community have the opportunity not just to survive—but to thrive.”
Michelle Heritage
Executive Director, Community Shelter Board


The Columbus Foundation’s Community Research and Grants Management team has been working closely with nonprofit organizations addressing both of these issues, and collaborating with partners throughout our community to identify needs and possible solutions. Early Childhood Education organizations include Action for Children, Columbus State Community College, and FutureReady Columbus. Youth Homelessness organizations include Community Shelter Board, Huckleberry House, and Star House. This Critical Need Alert enables us to take action and work collectively with donors to respond to this growing need. 

“The early years of a child’s life are the most consequential periods of human development during which a foundation is set for ‘lifelong health, intellectual ability, emotional well-being, and social functioning.’ Investing in The Columbus Foundation Critical Need Alert on behalf of our community’s youngest citizens is a winning choice for a healthier today and tomorrow.”


Jane Leach, Executive Director, FutureReady Columbus


Funds raised during this effort will help nonprofits serving early childhood education by supporting technical assistance and professional development training needs related to achieving Step Up To Quality ratings, as well as funds to help childcare providers complete their Child Development Associate credentials.


For nonprofits serving homeless youth, this support will help connect youth to stabilizing resources, expand outreach efforts, services, and educational programs in the shelter system, and help with the implementation of a framework for a community-wide response to prevent and end youth homelessness in central Ohio.


Action for Children


Transform childcare into quality, early learning experiences for every child in central Ohio and provideg leadership and access to comprehensive information for community decision making.

Columbus State Community College Development Foundation, Inc.


Identify, cultivate, and secure resources while serving as responsible financial stewards to advance educational opportunities, programs, and services at Columbus State Community College.

Community Shelter Board


Lead our community’s response to homelessness by creating collaborations, developing innovative solutions, and investing in quality programs in Columbus and Franklin County.

Huckleberry House, Inc.


Reach young people and their families to build stronger lives.

FutureReady Columbus


Focus on early childhood education, birth to age five, so that every child will be ready for school success.  

Star House


Provide transitional youth experiencing homelessness a safe respite from the streets and a chance for a productive life through integrated research.

Critical Need Alerts (CNAs) were created for donors and community members who want to participate in a shared investment opportunity and partner with the Foundation to support our community’s greatest needs.

To date, CNAs have leveraged more than $7 million for a wide range of initiatives including childcare, food for families, basic needs, workforce development, fresh food, and the arts. CNA’s are identified by our Community Research and Grants Management team, which strategically verify local nonprofits to ensure the most effective philanthropy possible.