Shaping the future of child care and development.

FirstSpark is a nonprofit organization serving Virginia’s Greater Peninsula and Northern Neck that works alongside parents and educators by providing training, support programs and resources to ensure every child ages zero to five has access to the cognitive and social-emotional experiences that prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. We are here to help make connections, engage with community leaders and advocate for the future of early childhood education.

Our Vision

All children will start school prepared and healthy.

Our Mission

To provide leadership that champions a collaborative system to provide high-quality care, education, and health services for children in our region so they are ready for kindergarten and for life.

Our Mantra

Before they take their first breath, a child is learning.

Every person and environment they experience is imprinting on their inquisitive and developing minds.

The first years are magical.
And the gravity of them is monumental.

Families and early childhood educators fight, day in, day out, to ensure each child gets what they need in these critical first years. Often, their task is impossible.

The responsibility falls on too few, and many lack access to the critical resources, connections and support they need to succeed. Despite their best efforts, kids are falling through the cracks.

That’s where we come in.

We stand beside those shouldering the responsibility of early childhood education, championing their efforts, providing education, training and resources, ensuring access for those who need it most, and shaping the policy that impacts us all.

We are FirstSpark, standing with the people of our community for our future: our children.

We support families and educators in Virginia’s Greater Peninsula and Northern Neck as:

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An Expert

providing educators and families with the on-the-ground support and training they need to foster social-emotional and cognitive growth in every child.

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A Convener

bringing together policymakers, community leaders, caregivers, parents, and educators to shape the future of care and access.

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A Navigator

facilitating access to quality early child care and education for the region’s children under the age of five.

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A Champion

making sure all parties that shoulder the tremendous responsibility of tomorrow get the emotional support they need to succeed.

More About Ready Region Chesapeake Bay

We are proud to have been selected as the lead organization for Ready Region Chesapeake Bay, serving the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg; and the counties of Essex, Gloucester, James City, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northumberland, Richmond, Westmoreland, and York. As a Ready Region lead organization, we are part of a statewide network bringing strategic leadership and coordination of early childhood care and education (ECCE) services and resources to prepare all children and famlies for success. Ready Regions focus on:

We will ensure all components are in place to coordinate quality measurement and guide improvement in publicly funded classrooms as part of VQB5.

To prepare all children for kindergarten and in response to state law, Virginia has developed the Unified Virginia Quality Birth to Five System (VQB5) to measure and help improve the quality of all publicly-funded birth-to-five classrooms and support families to choose quality programming across program types.

All publicly-funded birth-to-five early childhood programs are required to participate in VQB5 on an annual basis. Programs that do not receive public funding have the option to participate. Details available on the VQB5 Participation Requirements webpage.

VQB5 Quality Profiles (with information about early childhood program performance on quality measures and other topics of interest to families, policy makers, and the public) will be publicly available in Fall 2024. More information to come!

Ready Regions coordinate and support participation in VQB5 for early childhood care and education (ECCE) programs in the region.

To enroll in VQB5:

The Virginia Department of Education administers VQB5 as established by the Virginia Board of Education. To learn more, visit the VDOE Quality Measurement and Improvement (VQB5) website or send an e-mail.

We will engage with leaders across the region to facilitate buy-in for shared accountability and benefit.

Ready Region Chesapeake Bay is committed to partnering with other organizations and stakeholders to implement this work. Our partners include:

We will administer Mixed Delivery programming in the region, and coordinate enrollment to help parents learn about and access ECCE services that meet their needs and preferences, while helping ECCE providers connect with and serve more families.

Ready Region Chesapeake Bay identifies high quality child care centers and family day homes to provide publicly funded services in private settings that meet the needs and preferences of families.

Quality early learning experiences are essential for preparing children to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. This impact is life-long – research has shown that children who participate in high-quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) programs are more likely to finish college, be gainfully employed, and be healthier later in life. The Mixed Delivery program provides publicly funded ECCE services in licensed (non-faith-based), private ECCE settings for eligible children. It funds full-day, year-round ECCE services for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, meeting growing demand for publicly funded ECCE at private sites that meet the varied needs and preferences of families.

Ready Regions is working to coordinate enrollment across publicly funded ECCE programs in the region, such as childcare centers and family childcare homes (including those participating in VECF’s Mixed Delivery program) Head Start, Virginia Preschool Initiative, and others) to:

  • Help parents easily learn where there are available spots for their children, what they qualify for, and information such as cost, hours, and location.
  • Help ECCE providers keep enrollment numbers steady, communicate when they have slots available, and grow in ability to secure the resources for delivery of quality services.

To learn more:

We will support a Family Council, made up of families from across our region who reflect the diversity of our region, to ensure the early childhood system is designed to work for families.

Our Family Council provides input on early childhood design and decisions, and helps our Ready Region understand and better meet families’ needs.

To learn more:

Access To Resources

From low-cost and free prenatal services to tips on finding child care and resources for early childhood development, we can help.

View Resources