Academics First | Childcare Initiative

Creating Our Region's First Extended-Day Childcare Center:
Academics First

In July 2020, United Way MV and Deliverance First launched Academics First, a new childcare center offering childcare during extended hours. This initiative was designed to meet the needs of our community to enable job advancement, higher education attainment, and the growth of strong families. The childcare center hopes to be a model for change in our community, as the modern family's work hours vary beyond generalized business hours.

Academics First aims to provide safe, affordable childcare with education at the forefront. The center operates Monday through Friday, 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, and offers year-round care for children from 6 weeks to 5 years of age. During the summer months, childcare is also available for ages up to 12.


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled a proposal to combat poverty and reduce rampant inequality through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative in 2016. The $25 million program will bring together state and local government, non-profit, and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in sixteen communities across New York State, with Utica as one of the chosen cities.

United Way of the Mohawk Valley was the designated lead agency on this project, with partners at the time including Mayor Robert Palmieri, now Congressman Anthony Brindisi, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, and the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties. Utica ESPRI brings together human service agencies, community leaders, and people living in poverty to turn our story around - creating mobility for residents and advancing the common good for all.

Why Utica?

The 2017 Kids Count Data ranks NYS 41st for economic well-being. Based on the 2017 NYS Community Action Agency’s Poverty Report, Oneida County has approximately 233,558 residents, with 17.1% living in poverty.

Utica, however, has approximately 62,235 residents with:

  • 30% of the individuals living in poverty
  • 47% of the children below 18 years old living in poverty
  • 72% of the African American children living in poverty

Based upon the A.L.I.C.E. Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) done by Rutgers University, Utica also has 23,828 working poor households. When considering housing affordability, job opportunities, and community resources, in addition to the 30% poverty rate, another 32% of families struggle to afford basic needs. Utica rises to 62% of the residents financially unstable.

In addition, the City of Utica conducted a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) in 2014 – 2015.  This four-step process included the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and other Federal, State, and local partners. The CNA helped Utica identify its priority needs, providing a framework for a 2-year Action Plan. The goals and report can be found by clicking here.

When Governor Cuomo’s new ESPRI was launched, the Utica ESPRI CORE Team and Steering Committee Leaders decided that additional data needed to be collected from the voices of poverty. The CNA data would be built upon. The end project identified for Phase II of ESPRI would include the community voices that struggle daily to overcome the barriers of poverty.

ESPRI Partners