Mission & History
The mission of the Parent-Infant Center is to support parenting by enabling young children to grow and learn in a safe, stimulating, loving environment.
We believe building a strong community of families and staff encourages the healthy development of children. We work closely with families by exchanging information, sharing decision-making, and by providing mutual support for parenting. PIC’s uniquely participatory approach to learning includes involving families in many phases of center life — from participating in the classroom to serving on the Board of Directors.
The University of Pennsylvania opened the Parent-Infant Center (PIC) in 1978 to serve infants and toddlers who were too young for its campus preschool program. A year later, when the University decided to close PIC, parents incorporated the center as an independent, nonprofit organization. Housed on the grounds of the former Episcopal Divinity School of Philadelphia, we have been at our present location since 1986.
In 1983 we began serving children in publicly financed care, and in 1986 we established a scholarship fund to assist families whose income is too high for public funding, but who cannot manage the full cost of child care.
Responding to the need for school-age child care, we opened the After School Center in 1992 for grades K-6.
Throughout its history, PIC has worked on community-based programs to meet the current needs of families in the neighborhood. We have collaborated with other organizations to supervise a play program in area health clinic waiting rooms. We have provided technical assistance and training for area family day care providers. We piloted a program to provide child care for women in job training programs at a nearby homeless shelter and we have hosted parenting education programs.
In June 2007 longtime Executive Director Marni Sweet retired due to illness. During her tenure (1982-2007), the Center quadrupled in size and raised more than $1 million for child care and special programs working with families. When Marni lost her battle with brain cancer in September 2007, the Center launched “Sweet Dreams,” an ambitious campaign to raise another $1 million to meet the rapidly growing demand for child care in University City.
In April 2010, following the success of "Sweet Dreams," we opened the Marni Sweet Building, which expanded PIC’s capacity by 30 percent to serve 50 additional families. The addition of 9,000 square feet of newly-renovated space resulted in six classrooms, administrative offices, and indoor and outdoor play areas. The Sweet Dreams campaign also provided for center-wide improvements including renovation of the infant playground, a state-of-the-art resource room for teachers, a parent lounge, and a children’s library.
In June of 2012 we launched the Magic Circle outdoor classroom initiative. This innovative project is inspired by a growing body of research that confirms the value of nature-based learning in healthy child development. With seed money from the Sweet Dreams expansion campaign, an entry arbor was designed and built to welcome families into a wonderful world of learning and exploration.
In September 2012 the arbor was dedicated to outgoing Executive Director Cindy Roberts whose vision and commitment has driven this project forward from its inception. In spring 2013 PIC parent volunteers expanded the children's garden, followed by the creation of a dirt digging area and mud kitchen.
In July of 2013, Debbie Green joined PIC as Executive Director. Debbie is a seasoned early childhood professional with over 30 years in the field and is excited to join an organization who she has maintained close ties with over the course of her career. Learn more about Debbie Green.
In the summer of 2014, construction of the Magic Circle Nature Playground was completed. Shortly after its completion, the playground earned national certification as a Nature Explore Classroom from the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation. This new play space is seen as a transformation in outdoor learning at the Parent-Infant Center and serves as a model for other educators of young children. Let us tell you more about the Magic Circle.