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For almost 50 years, the Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center has been a leader in providing supportive, nurturing experiences for families with young children in the Philadelphia region.

About the Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center

The Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center offers experiential learning for parents and children 3 years old and younger. The program, based at Pennsylvania Hospital, uses the latest research in child development and parenting education to support and inform parents and enrich parent-child relationships. Our goal is to promote healthy development in infants, toddlers and their families.

The Center’s play and discussion groups are run by expert instructors who will get to know you and your child. We will help you to understand your child's personality, tailor your parenting to your child's temperament, and meet the unique challenges of each phase in your child's life.

At this time, all groups are being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn about upcoming Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center sessions.

What to Expect at the Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center

Our classes are carefully designed for babies and toddlers from infant to 3 years old.

We provide long class sessions that allow children to explore freely, sustain attention, learn class routines, and strengthen relationships with instructors and their peers.

Parents often also build lasting friendships and to learn from each other as they find a sense of community for their new families.

Here’s what you can expect at the Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center:

  • Information and support so that you can feel confident in your role as a parent.
  • An understanding of typical child development so you can anticipate your child’s behavior and direct it with confidence before problems arise.
  • Discussions with child development professionals about your specific questions and concerns.
  • Facilitated play and discussion groups that include families with children close in age.
  • Quality time to interact with your child in a child-safe and developmentally stimulating play environment.

Read class descriptions and register for an upcoming session.

Meet the Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center Staff

Child and Parent Center staff are master’s level clinicians with extensive training in early childhood development and parent education.

Shannon Aksel has been leading infant groups at the Child and Parent Center since June 2018. She is a licensed professional counselor and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Ohio State University and a master’s degree in counseling from Denver Seminary. Aksel specializes in maternal mental health at her private practice in South Philadelphia where she sees clients for individual therapy as a member of Circle Counseling. She and her husband, Keith, moved to Philadelphia in 2017. Her favorite part of working at the Child and Parent Center is meeting and supporting new moms and dads as they navigate the transition into their identity as parents.

Hani C. Dressler, MA, CCC-SLP, CLC, has been a facilitator at The Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center since 2018. She earned a bachelor of science degree in communication, sciences and disorders from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in speech and hearing sciences from George Washington University. Since 2010, Dressler has been a speech pathologist within the University of Pennsylvania Health System, working with adults and newborns, specifically in the Intensive Care Nursery. She has a special interest in feeding and swallowing and recently obtained certification in lactation counseling. She and her husband are raising their young children in Philadelphia. Dressler attended The Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center when her children were born. The support, guidance and friendships she made encouraged her to join the center staff. She hopes to provide this experience to other new parents.

Gemina Gianino, EdM, earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Duke University and her master’s degree in education from Harvard University. Over the course of her career she has been a teacher, literacy coach, curriculum developer, and new teacher mentor. She has two children and serves on The Philadelphia School, Team First Book Philadelphia, and Fitler Square association boards.

Gail B. Loeb earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her master's degree in social work from the Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. She has been with the Child and Parent Center since its inception and was Director of the Center for 15 years. She has been involved in the creation of many of its programs including Exploring Parenthood, Time out for Teens and Tots, Your Younger Child, and programs for single parents, adoptive parents, working parents, and parents of twins. Loeb has provided training and consultation to professionals and paraprofessionals on the needs of parents and young children. She is a mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and stepmother and was a single parent for almost 15 years – all roles she brings to her current work with new parents at the Child and Parent center.

Alison Nalle has been a facilitator at the Child and Parent Center since 2005. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree from the Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. Nalle worked with adolescents at The Crefeld School and with pregnant and parenting teens at Martin Luther King High School. She is a parent of three children. Nalle is interested in supporting families as they undertake the important job of raising children in a complex world. Through discussions designed to provide a better understanding of child development, she hopes to encourage parents to develop their road map for effective parenting.

Child and Parent Center Policies

At this time, all groups are being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cancellation/Make-Up Policy

Group members will be notified by email or phone if it is necessary to cancel a group.

We regret that we cannot pro-rate or reimburse you for groups you are unable to attend for personal reasons. We will make every attempt to schedule a make-up session for any groups that we cancel.

Child and Parent Center's Health Policy

The Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center believes that all infants and children should receive the recommended vaccines according to the schedule published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Once we resume in-person sessions, all families who register for our program will be asked to verify that their child has been immunized according to CDC and AAP recommendations. To ensure the well-being of the children participating in our program, we also ask that all group participants carefully review and follow our Guidelines for Reducing the Incidence of Contagious Illness, which will be distributed in group. We are happy to address any questions or concerns parents may have about these policies.

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