About Us

A Step Ahead in Pierce County was founded by its Executive Director, Candy Watkins, in 2001. The name A Step Ahead was chosen to describe not only the progress of children who enroll in our program, but also the forward-thinking culture of the agency. In 2000, birth to three services in our community were provided predominantly in specialized classes for toddlers with developmental delays. Although they certainly had a role in helping to develop social skills in young children, many parents were losing out on the significant benefits of a home visiting program. Recognizing this as a need in our community, Candy opened up A Step Ahead with the desire to broaden the services delivered to children in their homes and childcares. We were the first organization to offer Speech Therapy in homes and were proud to help support the development of Language Preschools and Dr. Rick McKinnon’s Talking with Toddlers program.
A Step Ahead was the also first organization in Pierce County to hire graduates from University of Washington’s new Infant Mental Health program in 2005. Since that time, these specialists have been helping infants and toddlers in foster care recover from emotional trauma and adjust to their new placements through our Fostering Care Program and most recently BOOST.
We also have a reputation for our collaborative approach and have had successful partnerships with Early Head Start, Children’s Therapy Center, and most recently the Children’s Museum of Tacoma for our joint Inclusive Play to Learn classes.
Our organization is committed to advancing our community in the way it supports young children with special needs. We have represented our clients in Metro Parks Improvement Funding; City of Tacoma Mental Health Tax Committee; and First Five Fundamentals, our Regional Early Learning Coalition.


Our vision is a community that embraces and integrates children of all abilities and treasures the unique gifts each child possesses.


Supporting families of infants and toddlers with special needs by enhancing their development and relationships both at home and in their community.

Principles and Values

  • We will do our work in a way that treats the well-being of children as our highest priority.
  • We will provide family-centered services in a manner that promotes trust, respect, and confidence with the families we serve.
  • Our behaviors will be of the highest ethical standards. We will always conduct ourselves with compassion, sensitivity and honesty.
  • We will demonstrate integrity through the operation of a transparent organization in the form of board oversight and fiscal responsibility.
  • We will be both creative and collaborative in our approach to building a vital community.