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Stimulus Money Helps Gorge Children

Wishram and Stevenson to benefit

Mid-Columbia Children's Council, the Head Start/Early Head Start grantee for the Columbia Gorge area, will be receiving additional funding through Federal stimulus dollars that will allow the program to serve an additional 54 infants and toddlers and their families in 2010 and 2011 through a variety of service models.

Communities directly benefiting will be Stevenson and Wishram in Washington; Madras and The Dalles in Oregon.

A new teen parent program at the Wahtonka campus in partnership with the Discovery High School is part of the expansion. Twelve additional staff positions have been created to provide these expanded services. This grant also provides for enhanced training and staff development.

"I'm extremely pleased that Mid-Columbia Children's Council was selected to expand our services with this down payment on Early Learning as mentioned by President Obama," said Matthew Solomon, executive director. "The proposal process was very competitive. Our success is based on the exceptional work currently demonstrated in our long-running Early Head Start program."

In the home-based model, staff works one-on-one with children and families in their homes to develop individual goals for each child and his or her family.

Services include working with families to develop strategies to enhance child development, improve adult literacy, enhance employability, strengthen parenting skills, find help with substance abuse problems, and assess and assist with other aspects of home management and family wellness and safety.

Mid-Columbia Children's Council staff link families to community resources including medical, vision, mental health, and dental care, special education, and social services.

Staff also works with children and parents to prepare children for kindergarten, preschool or other childcare situations. “We work with the whole family to identify their strengths and help them to improve in areas that will make them stronger parents and more successful community members.

"We recognize parents as the child's first teacher," said Doreen Hotchkiss, education manager.

Two of the new community partnerships include Wishram School District and North Wasco School District.

In Wishram, a combination model will be offered with classes two days a week and weekly home visits for infants, toddlers, and their families.

A program for teen parents at the Discovery High School, housed at Wahtonka campus in The Dalles, will provide a full-day program four days per week throughout the school year.

"The need for affordable pre-school and childcare in our service area is huge," emphasized Solomon. "We cannot meet the needs of all of the families who qualify for services with many on waiting lists. We currently have a waiting list of 115 Early Head Start children."

Early Head Start is a full year comprehensive program for infants, toddlers and pregnant mothers. The program is designed to support parents through a holistic approach of family, health and educational services.

It assures that infants and toddlers receive age-appropriate medical, developmental, and sensory screenings vital to early detection of concerns or delays starting at birth and follow-up when risks are identified. Parents gain knowledge in nutrition, child development and parenting skills.

Early Head Start staff work with parents to support infants and toddlers in their physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language development.

The program provides quality educational services both in the home and at early childhood centers. Studies show that Early Head Start outcomes include positive impact on children's cognitive and language development, and higher sustained attention to objects and lower levels of aggressive behavior.

Marguerite Kelley of Goldendale said, "My grandson, Jessy, is the joy of my life. Since I work, I don't get to have hands-on involvement during most of the day. It's a relief and a joy to know that he is well cared for, gets tons of love and has all the development support he needs to meet his potential."

Head Start and Early Head Start programs are primarily funded through Federal grants. However, private donations are needed to meet the matching non-federal share requirement.

"We have grant funding that keeps the basic program running," said Judy Maule, board chair, "However, we are continually challenged to meet essential needs, like repairs and replacement of our aging buses, facilities and playgrounds. We are working hard to build our reserves so we can meet these needs."

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