Sallie Westheimer to retire from 4C for Children

February 4, 2015

Sallie Westheimer

After 44 years of passionate service to local children and 35 years of committed leadership as the chief executive officer of 4C for Children, Sallie Westheimer will retire June 30. The 4C Board of Trustees has selected a search firm to conduct the search for a new president/CEO.

Link to job posting

Under Sallie's leadership, 4C has grown from a small agency that provided training and planning services to local child care centers to become the region's leader in educating and supporting the adults who care for children at home and in child care centers, preschools and family child care homes in 40 counties in Ohio and Kentucky. Through its services to child care professionals and parents, 4C makes a difference annually for over 180,000 children:

  • Offering over 1,500 workshops/courses which attract over 24,600 attendees each year.
  • Making over 5,600 coaching/technical assistance visits each year to more than 900 child care programs to help them improve quality.
  • Helping over 6,700 families through free child care referrals and parent education.

"Sallie has been in the forefront of every critical advance in the education and care of young children in our community for the past 35 years," says 4C Board Chair Diane Jordan-Grizzard. "Our Board of Trustees salutes her many years of committed service and thanks her for her visionary and principled leadership. She has well positioned 4C for Children for a bright future."   

Sallie's email to staff sounds a similar theme: "Never has 4C been in better shape. We have the best team of devoted people who are shaping the future for children and families in our communities. We are on very solid financial footing with a strong Board. And," she emphasizes, "our strategic plan lays out a clear vision for the future."

Sallie began her career working for local children in 1971 at the Citizens Committee on Youth and moved on in 1977 to serve as a juvenile justice planner for the Criminal Justice Regional Planning Unit. She began her long association with 4C in 1972 when she helped found the agency and served as a founding 4C board member from 1972 to 1975. She was hired as executive director of the agency in 1980.

"Since 1980, Sallie has been a strong and unwavering voice speaking on behalf of young children, their parents and child care workers." says Elaine Ward, 4C senior vice president/COO, who has worked with Sallie at 4C for 27 years. "Long before researchers discovered the connection between a child's life-long success and the first three years of brain development," she points out, "Sallie preached about the positive effect that loving and stimulating learning environments could have on the future of this community's children." 

A lot has changed over these 35 years, Sallie reports. "In 1980, the focus of concern of the community and of 4C was still on ensuring a safe place for children while their parents worked or went to school," she says. "But with brain research in the 1990s, the emphasis increasingly shifted to early learning, child development and school readiness—in addition to safety."

Given the now widely recognized importance of these early years, Sallie hopes that: "4C and the community will continue to work together to make sure all children have access to high quality early learning and care beginning at birth so they can thrive."

Specific inititatives of Sallie's tenure at 4C:

  • Established the first child care center in the area for teen parents in the early 1980s. Locating the Cincinnati Center for Young Families near Woodward High School enabled teens to finish their own educations while preparing their children for school.
  • Promoted employer-provided assistance to help employees find and select quality child care through special contracts with 4C's parent referral service. Some of the area's largest employers (e.g., Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, GE, Ford) have taken advantage of this service to enhance employee benefit packages.
  • Enlisted major financial support from area corporations and foundations in the mid 1990s to create the Institute for Early Childhood Excellence and enhance the quality of professional training available to child care providers.
  • Advocated passionately for children at the local, state and national level. One of her longstanding goals has been Ohio licensing of small family child care homes. A small first step toward this goal was taken in January 2014, but Ohio remains one of only five states that fail to require basic health and safety licensing for all providers who care for children in the provider's home.

Sallie Westheimer's long-term commitment to early childhood has not only improved access to high quality care for young children, but it has also expanded opportunities for women:

  • Expanding the availability of quality child care and early education programs for young children has enabled countless women to pursue their own goals in academic and/or work settings.
  • Professional development programs designed to improve care for children have also improved the skills and confidence of thousands of previously untrained child care workers and provided a new career ladder. Sallie's leadership at 4C has helped transform "babysitters" into "early childhood professionals," encouraging many women to change their self-image and set educational/career goals, often for the first time in their lives.
  • In addition to helping many women start their own family child care businesses, 4C provides these women needed support (individualized coaching, financial training, computer skills, leadership development, etc.) to make sure these businesses survive and thrive.
  • 4C's parent services department, always adept at helping working mothers find needed child care, has recently developed new strategies to help parents—again, mostly women—access a wide variety of parenting resources and build networks of support with other parents to ensure both their children's optimal development as well as their own.
  • In an organization with 95% female employees, nine of the 10 senior managers are women. A significant number of the current staff started at 4C in entry-level positions and were encouraged by Sallie to continue learning and growing via additional training, increasing levels of responsibility and regular promotions.

Other memberships, achievements, awards

Under Sallie's leadership, 4C for Children was awarded the Better Business Bureau's Torch Award for Market Place Ethics in 2010 and the Overall ONE Award in 2012. In 2014, 4C was listed among Enquirer Media's Top Work Places.

Sallie has been recognized as a YWCA Career Woman of Achievement, received the Child Advocate Long Distance Runner Award from the Council of Christian Communions and was named Citizen of the Year by the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children. Nationally she was appointed to the select Leadership Council for the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. 

She has also served on the following nonprofit boards:

  • YWCA of Greater Cincinnati (president 1983-1985)
  • United Way Success By 6® (from inception to present)
  • Every Child Succeeds
  • Charter Committee (chair city division)
  • Mayor's Commission on Children
  • American Jewish Committee
  • Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Foundation
  • Leadership Cincinnati Alumni Association (Class VI)
  • Sponsors Committee of the Children's Defense Fund
  • Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association (president three times of this  organization she cofounded in 1992)
  • National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (now known as Child Care Aware of America)
  • Leadership Council of Human Service Executives (formerly the Council of Agency Executives; chair)
  • Consortium for Resilient Young Children

Sallie’s retirement is part of Greater Cincinnati’s generational shift in leadership in the not-for-profit community. Watch Dan Hurley’s interview with Sallie on the Feb. 22 edition of Local 12 Newsmakers.