Pre-K Expansion, Judy Centers, and Patty Centers — Oh My!

One of the pillars of the Blueprint is to expand Maryland’s universal pre-K offerings and better support early childhood education. Here, we discuss the differences between Patty Centers and Judy Centers and their role in early education.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (“The Blueprint”) prioritizes early childhood education as its first pillar, including the gradual but eventual universal access to prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-old children. Doing so is a monumental undertaking, offering both challenges and opportunities. As counties plan for expansion, it is essential to know about existing Maryland infrastructure that supports early childhood education, like Judy Centers and Patty Centers.

Judy Center and Patty Center provide multi-generational support for Maryland families and their young children. As such, they are facets of the Blueprint, and the law mandates increased State funding to support their expansion.

Judy Centers

Judy Center Early Learning Hubs, or “Judy Centers,” prepare children for success in school and life. By connecting families with high-quality, comprehensive, full-day, full-year early education services, the Judy Centers promote school readiness for children ages birth through five. Utilizing a multigenerational approach for families and children and providing professional development for early childhood educators, Judy Centers help support all adults in a child’s early years.

Judy Centers are uniquely positioned to support Maryland’s youngest learners by empowering a child’s first teacher— their families. Through various family engagement activities, such as playgroups and other family education events, Judy Centers help families learn new ways to engage with their children. Years of research support the importance of positive early experiences as a foundation for future academic success. Judy Centers are critical in offering these experiences directly to children and instructing families to conduct similar experiences independently.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) website states:

The Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs, also known as “Judy Centers,” benefit everyone in Maryland by improving the quality of life for families. Through a dedicated staff of early learning professionals, they help prepare children age birth through kindergarten for school readiness. Located at Title I schools in every Maryland county, Judy Centers play an important role in the communities they serve.

Each Judy Center is unique in meeting the needs of its communities. Still, all have common requirements and standards to coordinate the work and assist the staff in meeting their goals for families. Judy Centers provide services or connect families with local service providers for some of the following options:

  • Adult Education
  • Case Management
  • Developmental and Health Screenings
  • Family Engagement Activities
  • Parenting Classes
  • Playgroups
  • Early Intervention Identification

There was a “deep dive” into Judy and Patty Centers at the October 24 meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE). There are 86 Judy Center sites for FY 2024. In FY 2023 and FY 2024, a combined total of 18 sites were added. Judy Centers served 16,288 children from birth to age 5 in FY 2023. Overall, schools with a Judy Center demonstrated a five-percentage point (28 percent to 33 percent) increase on Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRAs) from their 2021-2022 scores.

Patty Centers

Maryland Patty Centers (formerly Family Support Centers) provide comprehensive services to support families and promote healthy child development, aiming to enhance family stability and self-sufficiency. The program’s primary focus is children from birth to age three and their families. Maryland has a network of 24 Patty Centers (formerly named Family Support Centers) in 14 counties that offer free educational and health-related services to parents and their children ages birth through three.

The Patty Centers provide services designed to:

  • Promote the optimal development of young children;
  • Help adults develop more effective parenting skills and fulfill their aims related to school, employment, and family life;
  • Provide supportive networks among parents in local communities; and
  • Connect parents and children to the agencies and community resources that can help them.

The Patty Centers offer a range of services, including:

  • Quality infant/toddler care and assessment while parents are on-site
  • Parent education
  • Adult education, family literacy, and job readiness training programs
  • Health education and referral for services
  • Home visits for some services
  • Peer support
  • Service coordination between agencies

Network funding is provided by the Maryland State Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, private foundations, corporations, and individuals. The Maryland Family Network (MFN) serves as MSDE’s intermediary and provides management of the State’s network of community-based Patty Centers.

According to the October 24 SBE deep dive, there are 35 Patty Center sites for FY 2024. In FY 2023, Patty Centers served 725 families, eighty-six parents participating in General Education Development (GED)/Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes, and fifty-eight parents enrolled in alternate high school/teen parent programs.

Patty Centers are located in the following jurisdictions:

At the MACo Winter Conference general session, “Education Reform: The Blueprint for the Blueprint,” county and state leaders in education will examine Blueprint implementation, challenges that remain, and where Maryland is landing as it tries to reach the landmark law’s goals for public education. Speakers include representatives of key partnerships, county officials working closely “on the ground” to implement the education reform law and other leaders.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference: