Mission:  To increase the number of children (0-3 years old) entering school prepared for learning

Baby Institute Objectives:

  • To support parents’ understanding of the importance of early childhood literacy;

  • To increase parental skills that support early childhood literacy;

  • To increase the number of students entering pre-school and kindergarten ready and prepared to learn; and

  • To enhance “parent advocacy” skills and comfort with accessing available school and community resources.


Baby Institute (BI) is the first step in the “cradle to career pipeline”, the model adopted by the Albany Promise.  Launched in 2010 and modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone Baby College, Baby Institute is a parenting education program for parents of children ages 0-3 years that seeks to empower them to “become their child’s first teacher and primary advocate.”  In the targeted urban communities within the city of Albany, only 25% of pre-school aged children are enrolled in early learning programs; by kindergarten enrollment only 3% of these children are prepared for academic success.

BI focuses on promoting parent-child literacy by giving parents the tools and expertise to identify learning opportunities in the home as well as those in and around their community. 

Improving parents’ literacy and advocacy skills increases the likelihood that infants and toddlers will become lifelong learners.  BI topics include reading, brain development, discipline, anger management for parent and child, child/family nutrition, effective techniques for transforming a child’s natural curiosity into school readiness, home-school bond, support of student achievement, and support of parent efforts and achievements.  While parents are engaged in interactive learning exercises with qualified educators, the children, including older siblings attending with their parents, are given age appropriate learning experiences.  Volunteers work with each child to support his or her social, physical, and educational experiences.  Breakfast and lunch are also provided.  

The 9-week program provides door to door transportation and 3 hours of interactive parenting classes that help parents understand child development.  The monthly Parent Connection dinner program, based on the concept of "it takes a village to raise a child”, brings past and present BI parents together to build a supportive network of trusted relationships that helps the parents problem solve with each other. Topics discussed at the Parent Connection programs include: strengthening the home-school bond; understanding the value of being involved in school organizations; support of student achievement; and support of parent efforts and achievements.  Some parents also focus on learning how to build trusting relationships with others. 

Baby Institute participants are recruited through a variety of methods, including flyers, references from other agencies such as Trinity Alliance and the Albany County Health Department, word-of-mouth, and in-person outreach.  Once parents have been recruited they voluntarily attend the sessions.  This ensures that they are willing and ready to participate and to use some of the tools shared with them by the program’s educators.  BI programs are facilitated and taught by a highly qualified group of presenters with backgrounds in nutrition, child development and education.
Baby Institute operates at Giffen Elementary School during the academic school year and the BI Summer Institute Extension Camp (a five-week half-day program) operates at P.O Box 774, Albany, NY 12201.

Board Members
Melissa Mackey (President), Jessica Wayde Coles, Charles Day, Tanya Owens, Jacqueline Lake-Sample, Marva Richards, Pamela Sawchuck

Noelene Smith, MSW
Executive Director
Email: nsmith004@nycap.rr.com

The Baby Institute thanks the following for their support:
Albany City School District
Albany County District Attorney’s Office
Albany County Legislature
Albany Housing Authority
Albany Medical Center
Albany Promise
City of Albany
The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region
County of Albany
First Presbyterian Church
New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc.
Ronald McDonald House Charities
State University of New York (SUNY)
United Way of the Greater Capital Region