The history of Child Care Partners of Wichita Falls goes back to two organizations that were established during the oil boom days, after World War I. There was a demand for childcare for the young children of low-income, working parents. The Wichita Falls Day Nursery was established to serve poor white children, and the Colored Day Nursery was started by a black principal’s wife to serve black children, as this was still during segregation. They later combined to form what we know as Child Care Partners, today.
Meeting a need
The Wichita Falls Day Nursery was established in 1918 when a group of prominent women in Wichita Falls identified the need for childcare. They discovered children living on the banks of the Wichita River, left to care for themselves when their parents went into town to work. The women took leftover food to these families, and became more and more familiar with the plight of the children. They described the children as “pitiful and dirty, and running wild.” Mr. J.W. Culbertson offered Mrs. Kemp a three-room house at 704 Lamar for the first nursery, which opened with nine children on June 7, 1918. A second location was opened at 502 Lamar. In 1925, a modern ten room brick building was completed at 403 Lamar through the efforts of the Kiwanis Club, the Federated Mission Society, and other community fundraising efforts.
On the other side of town, in 1918, after hearing about the nursery for white children, Mrs. Ella Duckenfield asked Mrs. Kemp for her assistance in starting a similar project for black children. Mrs. Kemp and the members of the Wichita Falls Federated Missionary Society helped Mrs. Duckenfield start the Colored Day Nursery at a small four room house at 422 Welch Street. The nursery opened with fifteen children and was operated seven days a week. In 1924, a lot next door at 420 Welch was donated and a small house that had been on the property of the new Wichita Falls Day Nursery was donated and moved to the site. After a new roof and continued efforts from Mrs. Duckenfield, the Colored Day Nursery was established in the community as “a very nice place.”
Making steady progress
In the late 1920s and again in the late 1930s, the Optimist Club spearheaded several community fundraisers to build frame additions onto the Colored Day Nursery to serve more children. During the 1930s, the Colored Day Nursery also served as a social services center where men could sign up for a day’s work and families could get a sack of groceries- a true partner to local families. The Wichita Falls Day Nursery continued to operate on Lamar Street, with a new wing added in 1935.
In 1961, a $10,000 brick addition was made to the Colored Day Nursery and the organization’s name was changed to the McCutchen Memorial Nursery, in honor of Mrs. C.E. McCutchen. She was a longtime supporter and volunteer of the organization. In 1968, Miss Charlye O. Farris, the first black female attorney in Texas and the first black person to serve on the board of the McCutchen Memorial Nursery, was elected president of the organization.
Since the first community giving campaign in the mid-1920s, the operating budgets of the two day nurseries, one for black children and one for white children, were funded almost entirely by what is now the United Way. In 1973, under guidance of the United Way board of directors, and to enhance integration of community organizations, the Wichita Falls Day Nursery ceased operations and its former center at 403 Lamar was taken over by the McCutchen Memorial Nursery. In the next decade, Child Care, Inc. opened two more childcare centers to meet a growing community need for safe and affordable care for young children of low-income working parents.
After more than 50 years of serving children and changing names a couple of times, these two organizations became one and renamed themselves to Child Care, Inc. in 1973.
Disaster and recovery
In 1975, the old Colored Day Nursery center on Welch Street was badly burned and closed. The children who were served at that center were moved to other Child Care, Inc. centers including the newly absorbed center at 403 Lamar Street. That Lamar center was renovated and renamed the Herschel Zale Child Care Center and continues to meet a vital community need by serving an average of 60 children a day.
Modern day Child Care Partners
In 2018, a group of board members decided a name change was due. The principle of partnership was important in the name change, as the organization has always strived to partner with working parents in providing safe and effective solutions. With this in mind, they renamed the non-profit to Child Care Partners, and this is name it operates under to today.
As we celebrate 100 years of service, Child Care, Inc. continues to provide safe and reliable child care to those that need it most. We are proud of our heritage and look forward to meeting the needs of our community for another 100 years.