Judith Van Ginkel: Champion for Children for 21 Years

Judith Van Ginkel: Champion for Children for 21 Years

“I appreciate the chance, on behalf of all of us at Cincinnati Children's and a really grateful community, just to say, Judy--well done. You have been a champion for children and families for more than two decades. Your legacy will be enduring."
Michael Fisher, President and CEO, Cincinnati Children’s

As a child, Judith Van Ginkel often tagged along on house calls with her father, a pediatrician in Charleston, West Virginia. Little did she know, the house call, the home visit would be a very large part of her life’s work. As we close out 2020, Van Ginkel is retiring as president of Every Child Succeeds, the nationally recognized home-visiting program that promotes positive parenting and healthy child development.

Every Child Succeeds was created in response to brain research showing the first three years as crucial to a child’s success in life. Then President and CEO of Procter & Gamble John Pepper, Van Ginkel and others sprang into action, connecting with partners like Cincinnati Children’s, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati and the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency. In March of 1999, Every Child Succeeds started serving its first families.

Pepper shared his gratitude for Van Ginkel’s leadership. “I can think of virtually no organization which I have ever been part of to which an individual has contributed as much as Judy has to Every Child Succeeds over the past 20 years. She brought to this vital mission a deep caring for children, the ability to unite others around the opportunity and challenge, and a never-stilled ability and quest to keep improving what we are doing today.”

With evidence-based research as a guide, Every Child Succeeds continues to provide an effective way to promote healthy child development. “What we know is that the first three years are more important than any three that follow. Also, what we understood was that contact in the home mattered, using home visitors to meet with the moms, beginning prenatally and until the child is 3 years old, really did make a difference,” said Van Ginkel.

With the help of community engagement and partnerships with early childhood education providers, Every Child Succeeds has made nearly 700,000 home visits with an estimated 27,000 families in Southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky. In addition, 95 percent of children are on track developmentally by 1 year of age. Van Ginkel shares, “We knew then, as we know now, that our partnerships make us better. It’s that combination of collaboration, service delivery and science that makes Every Child Succeeds so unique.”

As Van Ginkel retires, she is recognized by many for her leadership and vision. “Judy is a trailblazer in teaching Cincinnati the importance of early child brain development; we are a much stronger community because of her efforts over the years. When you lift a child, you lift a community,” said Moira Weir, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

"I am so grateful for Judy’s tireless efforts and advocacy on behalf of children. When you lift a child, you life a community. Judy has truly made a difference.”
Moira Weir, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Cincinnati
“Judy’s leadership has been the key ingredient to ECS’s success over these 21 years. Her drive, intelligence, caring and good humor have allowed 55,000 vulnerable mothers and babies to achieve their full potential.”
Margaret Clark, director of operations, Every Child Succeeds

At a time when community leaders are reflecting on what Van Ginkel has given to Cincinnati, she looks back on what she has, in turn, received. “It’s been a gift to me to play a role in how this has all happened. The impact is multi-generational. It’s the power of prevention. What it means to families over the long term is priceless. We are changing lives.”

Latia Houston was first introduced to Every Child Succeeds as a new mom and eventually was hired as a home visitor. She says it was Van Ginkel who encouraged her. "She makes you feel like you are a part of her family. She pulls you in with a warm hug. She makes you feel welcome, like you're important. Judy does that with everyone. I was a new home visitor and a little intimidated. She made me feel that my story could make an impact. Even when I doubted myself, she made me feel that my voice really mattered."

Van Ginkel leaves at a time when she says home visiting, reaching out to new moms and babies is critical. “We have found through the pandemic that we have continued to operate really well. I was concerned, and yet one of the outcomes has been that, if anything, these families have come to value their home visitor even more than they did before the pandemic. Our families are often isolated and challenged in so many ways, and their only lifeline was the home visitor. So we’ve continued with the visits in a variety of ways including video visits, phone calls and dropping off those items that families need.”

As any good leader, Van Ginkel credits those around her. “I’ve been absolutely blessed with a wonderful team, everyone from the home visitors to those I work with everyday, including our board and the leadership of Cincinnati Children’s. They have been committed and stalwart and supported what we’ve done.”

The support comes easy when the leader is Judith Van Ginkel. Says Michael Fisher, president and CEO of Cincinnati Children’s, “Judy is innovative, resourceful, tenacious and a force of nature. She is a good friend, and very much in the spirit of Cincinnati Children's, She has been a great partner. With the ECS community, we've been changing the outcome together, and I think the last 20+ years is really evidence of that.”

As Van Ginkel begins the next chapter of her life, Every Child Succeeds begins a new chapter too. “We’ve laid a good foundation for others to build, enhance and expand,” she said. “When you come to retirement age and you look back at what it’s all meant, what resonates with me is knowing that we had a hand in improving the lives of families in our region. I’ve just been fortunate enough to be the leader of a remarkable program that has changed lives.”

“Judy, is a servant leader in every sense of the word. I have been privileged to work with her. For me, it has been a joy, and it has been inspiring. Judy's legacy will live on, not just for one generation, but multiple generations.”
John Pepper, former president and CEO, Procter & Gamble

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