Transforming the lives of children in Central Ohio for 45 years


It was the 1970s; a time when webs were produced by spiders, windows were for sunlight, texts were manuscripts, and the hand-held calculator was introduced at a cost of $395. It was also a time when the Women’s Movement was gaining strength and more mothers were joining the workforce—nearly 50 percent when their children entered school and about 30 percent when their children were babies. A critical issue facing cities was what to do about the children of these working mothers—who would care for the children while their parents worked and how would parents find safe and healthy child care?

In Columbus, two women—Cecilia “Cee” Cullman, a philanthropist and social worker, and Rosa Hightower, executive director of the newly-opened Central Community House Day Care Center—took the challenge in hand. Through their determination and advocacy, funds were raised from the City of Columbus, local foundations, and private philanthropists to found Action for Children in 1972, known as Community Coordinated Child Care (4C), to coordinate services and build child care quality and capacity.

  • Provided training and technical assistance for child care centers and maintained card files on available child care in Franklin County to provide reliable child care referrals for parents.
  • Changed name to Action for Children in 1979 to convey a clearer message about the agency’s active advocacy role on behalf of children.


  • Started PhoneFriend, with trained volunteers providing a reassuring voice on the phone, along with activities and homework help, for thousands of children who called Monday through Friday from 3:30 until 5:30 pm; when they were home alone after school until parents returned from work.
  • Designated by the State as lead child care resource and referral agency for the seven-county Central Ohio region, as part of new statewide network of child care resource and referral agencies.


  • Published “Right From the Start” issue papers that looked into the status, quality and cost-effectiveness of child care and issued two major reports for funders and policymakers: “African-American Child Care in Columbus” and “Child Care in Greater Columbus, Issues for the 1990s.”
  • Merged The Art of Positive Parenting (TAPP) into the agency in 2001 to extend parenting education classes and workshops in the region.


  • Released “The Strategic Framework: Building an Early Learning System for Ohio’s Children from Birth through Five,” in 2002; a 10-year plan founded on the research that shows early experiences, including child care relationships, strongly influence school children’s readiness.
  • Piloted Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) and continues to provide SUTQ training, coaching, and technical assistance for centers and family child care providers throughout Central Ohio.
  • Published “Progress Made. Ground Lost.” The first of its kind comprehensive analysis of child care supply and demand in Franklin County that includes fine-grained data on child care providers and the population potentially in need of child care, now and in the future.
  • Developed Father Factor, a program to enhance the role of fathers in the lives of their young children, and Mothers Matter, a complimentary curriculum for at-risk mothers, and delivers both programs throughout Central Ohio.


Rosa and Cee Cullman