Early Head Start expands

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Photo illustration by
Bob Johnson

An infusion of federal money will double home-based Early Head Start participation and help the “neediest of the needy” in Allen County, Joanie Burke said. A $623,560 grant from the department of Health and Human Services/Office of Head Start will fund the program for 50 more families in the service area, she said.
Early Head Start offers a variety of home-based services for pregnant women and families of children ages 0-3. Once enrolled, a facilitator spends 90 minutes one day a week in the participant’s home.
Expectant mothers are given a better understanding of how a child develops in the womb, Burke, assistant Early Childhood Services director with Southeast Kansas Community Action Program, said. Instruction is given on diet, exercise, avoiding alcohol and tobacco and overall maternal health, including mental health.
For families with young children, medical care is funded by Early Head Start and provided by the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department. Also, educational readiness is addressed with home visits.
“We also work with parents to develop self-sufficiency and encourage them to set goals and (achieve) those goals,” Burke said. “An example is if a new mother wants to be in school in five years, we help her prepare to meet that goal.”
Twice-monthly socialization programs are hosted for all participants during which parents are encouraged to interact with their children and each other.
Money is also available through Early Head Start for day care, Burke said. Children in day care receive hearing and vision screenings, services which may also be offered to their classmates, Burke said.
“We have 10 (families enrolled) in Allen County now, through money from the second year of a two-year Kansas Early Learning Collaborative Grant,” Burke said.
The new federal money will fund participation for 20 Allen County families this year and at least 10 in 2011 through the creation of seven jobs, including five new home-based family educators, Burke said.
“We anticipate getting $560,412 in 2011” from federal funding, she added.
Currently 202 families in Bourbon, Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Montgomery and Neosho counties receive home-based services. Those counties will not be affected by the latest grant.

APPLICATIONS for Early Head Start are being accepted in Allen, Chautauqua, Elk, Woodson, Wilson and Linn counties. Families with incomes of up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible, with focus on teen mothers and families with incomes of 100 percent or less of federal poverty level. If all available slots are filled, those meeting guidelines will be put on a waiting list.
For a family of one, which an unwed pregnant woman would be, the poverty level is $10,830. For a family of four, the threshold is $22,050. Figures for all family sizes are available at aspe.hhs.gov/poverty.
Prospective participants may obtain an application at the Head Start Center in Iola, 223 S. Sycamore, or call the SEK-CAP office in Girard, 620-724-8204, extension 1061.

HEAD START will celebrate its 45th anniversary this year.
The program has grown from a brief, eight-week summer program for preschoolers in 1965 to a year-round program.
Head Start was expanded in 1995 to serve infants and toddlers.
Today, Early Head Start is available to families in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.