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July 8, 2010
By Noah McKay
The Early Head Start Program, administered through the University of Nevada, Reno’s Child and Family Research Center, will add 17 new staff members through a nearly $1.2 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funding allows the program to serve an additional 84 children, bringing the total number of children served at the center and through home-based programs to 180. The grant will also provide three newly renovated classrooms in the northern Nevada Early Intervention Services’ building at the north end of campus.
Early Head Start is a national program that uses community collaboration to promote school readiness for infants and toddlers up to three years old. The Center, through which the program operates, was nominated last year by Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons as a Center of Excellence by the federal Office of Head Start. The program provides numerous services free of charge for qualified families, including full-day child care, nutritional services, medical and dental care, home-based services and other family support assistance.
“Less than 3 percent of eligible children are served,” said Sherry Waugh, director of the Child and Family Research Center, part of the University’s College of Education. “The funding provides much needed services for very low income children and families in the Reno-Sparks area.”
According to the 2009 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines, an area family could qualify for the program if their annual gross income is less than $22,000 for a family of four. In addition, parents must be working full time, in school full time, or a combination of the two.
“Sixty-seven percent of all of our families have one or both the parents in school,” said Jane Hogue, program coordinator for Early Head Start. “We really work with families to improve their education so they can work to be better providers.”
Early Head Start promotes parent education so that parents will have more opportunities for higher-paying jobs and because increased educational level of parents equates to additional schooling for their children.
One target population for the program is teen parents. The program aims to keep these parents in school by providing free child care and encouraging them to finish their education.
“We have a partnership with the Washoe County School District,” Hogue said. “Three district schools have had programs to provide parenting teens with child care. At the end of 2009, their funding was being cut. But, we were able to step in and fund those programs as a part of Early Head Start, allowing us to serve an additional 32 children.”
The program also has a long-term collaboration with Step 2, a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program operated through Lighthouse of the Sierra. Early Head Start plans to develop three permanent classrooms at the Lighthouse’s location at Clear Acre and Crystal Lanes in Reno.
“For women with drug and alcohol recovery issues, one of the big barriers is the fear of losing their children if they seek recovery,” Hogue said. “Step 2 is unique in that families actually live on-site while a parent receives help in their treatment programs. Moms can still be with their children and their Early- Head-Start-eligible children can then get enrolled in the program.”
The 17 new staff positions include two graduate-student assistantships through the University’s College of Education.
To find out more or to volunteer, visit the the University’s Early Head Start program.