Action for Children was founded as Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) in 1972 as the result of two national events. First, in the early 1960's, groups of parents, frustrated at not being able to find reliable care for their children while they worked, voluntarily started informal referral card files on child care providers in their communities.This community-based model was the basis of today's child care resource and referral.Second, the interagency Federal Panel on Early Childhood was formed by a mandate in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1967 for coordination of child care programs. In 1968, this Panel developed the concept and guidelines for a national Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) program and set up a permanent Standing Committee on 4-C, which coordinated early childhood programs that were being administered by nine federal departments. They also encouraged formation of similar 4-C organizations at state and local levels.
In 1968, the United Community Council in Columbus was addressing the coordination of local human services through its Metropolitan Social Services Committee and formed the Day Care Task Force. As a United Community Council Board member, social worker Cecilia "Cee" Cullman served on the task force. She conducted a survey, coordinated by Battelle Memorial Institute and the Volunteer Action Center, to determine the level of interest for a 4-C program locally.
Positive feedback from more than 100 child care organizations surveyed resulted in a fundraising campaign, led by Cee and fellow task force member Rosa Hightower, then executive director of the newly-opened Central Community House Day Care Center. One of their early fundraising letters cited reasons as relevant today as they were then - "growing concern for the health, welfare and safety of children who must be cared for outside their homes while their parents work or retrain for job experiences."
By February 1972, they had raised funds totaling almost $28,000 from sources that included the Clarence T. Reinberger Fund at the Columbus Foundation, Junior League of Columbus, The Borden Company Foundation, Nationwide Insurance, The Rosenthal Foundation, F&R Lazarus Company, Battelle Memorial Institute, The Leo Yassenoff Foundation, Church Women United, and Mrs. Sheldon Ackerman. In September 1972, the City of Columbus, which has supported the agency's work on behalf of children and families for over forty years, provided primary funding from General Revenue Sharing to help launch the agency.
4-C was initially organized into five task forces that were charged with coordinating services for young children in the areas of staff training, research, purchasing, health, and parent involvement. One of the first services was training programs for child care professionals. "We started with the idea to bring child care centers together to lower their food costs and take a look at training," said Rosa Hightower. "We knew day care couldn't improve without training." Four decades later, training remains a high priority because of its direct impact on quality.
In 1979, 4-C's name was changed to Action for Children in order to convey a clearer message about the agency's active advocacy role on behalf of young children. In 2013, Eric Karolak was hired as the agency's sixth CEO, following Diane Bennett, (1983-2013), Ray McFarland (1972-1973); Dorothy Reynolds (1973 -1976); Hannah Dillard (1976-1980) and Margaret Hamilton (1980 - 1983). Action for Children has grown regionally to serve seven central Ohio counties and achieved major recognition at the state and national level.
Cee Cullman served as the first Board President and maintained her commitment to the agency as an active voice and presence until her death in 2006, at age 92. Today, Action for Children's main office at 78 Jefferson Avenue in Columbus is named in her honor, "The Cee Cullman Center for Children."