Jack & Jill Center was originally established in 1942 by the Junior League of Greater Fort Lauderdale to provide childcare for women entering the workforce as their husbands were called to fight in World War II. Today we are a community-based organization serving young children of high-need parents who work or attend school in order to strengthen themselves and their families. We are the oldest nonprofit provider of early childhood education in Broward County, and at our core our critical work has remained the same – we continue to serve women-led households, educate young children and support and advocate for families and our community.
Located in a small home that had been converted to a school house in the historic Sailboat Bend neighborhood, and originally called “Jack & Jill Nursery” between 1942 and 2003, our program initially served 40 children. As the need for early childhood education grew in our neighborhood, so did Jack & Jill. We were serving 90 children by 2003 and our building was at maximum capacity – it was time to move. In that same year, Jack & Jill Children’s Center (new name!) relocated to our current 17,000 square foot facility located on West Broward Boulevard. The new building allowed us to double the number of children we were able to serve and expand our programming to include an Infant and Toddler program that, to this day, serves children between the ages of 6-weeks and 2-years.
As the needs of our community have evolved, so have we. Today we are a school for children of high-need working families; our service model has expanded to address long-term and systemic inequality by supporting families as they overcome barriers to build a better life for themselves and their children. This expanded purpose is a response to changes in our community’s needs: hundreds of hard-working families are on our waiting list of subsidized childcare because of entrenched poverty and a lack of high-quality, affordable education options in our immediate area. We strive to achieve our mission of breaking the cycle of poverty in our community by focusing on both the child and the family unit as a whole, offering family strengthening programs so that the entire household, children and parents alike, have the tools they need to succeed.
With support from the Family Program, our families increase their financial stability, maintain employment, achieve job advancement, decrease their risk for incidences of abuse and neglect, and foster their child’s healthy growth and development. As a result, parents gain confidence, children perform and behave better at home and in the classroom, and families function at higher levels of stability. Since our founding, Jack & Jill has served more than 20,000 children and families in our community.
Our Next Chapter
The creation of our elementary school, Madelaine Halmos Academy is a direct result of the desires of our parents to keep their children in the Jack & Jill Center family for a longer period of time. Since 2016 when we opened the first kindergarten classroom, we have expanded to include a new grade level each year. When Madelaine Halmos Academy opens our state-of-the-art school building in 2021, the program will enroll 220 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, totaling the impact of Jack & Jill’s education programs to 352 students. The new school will feature 12 classrooms, an arts and science lab, a music and media lab, a rooftop play area and outdoor learning space, a wellness room, a dining hall with a restaurant-grade kitchen, and top notch security and technology.
So much has changed at Jack & Jill Center since 1942, yet we remain steadfast in our mission to break the cycle of poverty for children of high-need working families through quality early childhood and elementary education and family strengthening programs—and we are proud to serve not only children, but their parents, guardians, families, and individuals in our community.