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July 15, 2012

Head Start offers year-round services

DUNCAN — When you’re a young family or single parent, all you need is a helping hand to get back on your feet with some extra care for your child.

Several people who haven’t been directly involved with Delta Community Action’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs believe it to be just a daycare.

That simply isn’t the case.

Not only do they have a curriculum for the children that is taught by qualified personnel, but they also work with the parents and the family as a whole. Among the programs are Early Head Start for ages 0-3 years, Head Start for ages 3-5 years and a program for pregnant women to get them ready.

“We have home-based and center programs and they don’t just serve the children, but the families,” said Judy Tidwell, home visitor for the program. “It is a needs based program where the most in need get in first.”

Needs are based on income, age and whether the child has disabilities. The staff encourages parents who have children with special needs to apply for entry and they also seek them out in order to make sure that child and family are getting everything they need.

“All of our teachers have degrees and some are certified teachers,” said Sue Evans, Early Head Start manager. “They also have a lot of training beyond that specific to ages.”

Home-based programs are offered, in which children receive visits by Head Start staff. They work with them on their research based curriculum. Parents have a lot of input on what the specific curriculum is for their child.

Center-based programs can be found at both Irving and Will Rogers Elementary schools and are good for parents who have jobs or are going to school. Even if it is night school, having their children watched during the day gives them time to get school work done.

For children enrolled in the home-based program, the staff picks a day every week that offers socialization with children at the centers. This gives parents an idea of how their children interact with others and of how the center program works.

In the pregnant women program, the participants vary in age and number of pregnancies, so any one is eligible for help. Many times, teenagers who are pregnant feel that the staff are their only go-to.

“They go to us to get their life on track, to move out from their parents, to finish school or get a job,” Tidwell said. “We encourage them as much as possible.”

Additionally, Delta has a Fatherhood Initiative to encourage fathers to stay in their children’s lives and make a positive impact on them.

The Early Head Start program is year round with a couple of short breaks in the summer and holiday seasons, while the other programs follow Duncan Public School schedules.

Working throughout the year and with families in difficult situations is not just a job to the Head Start staff, but a joy. When their kids recognize them out and about, they said it means the world to them.

“It’s rewarding to see a child who you knew when they were 3-years-old grow up to be successful member in the community,” said Sheresa Patrick, disabilities and mental health staff member. “It’s nice to know you made a difference in their life.”

“The young (pregnant) teens who kept going and didn’t drop out, but graduated because of our encouragement are also rewarding,” said Denise Harris. “We had two from last year and they’re both now trying to get into college.”

Delta Community Action, whose executive director is Karen Nichols, takes applications for its Head Start program, which is run by executive director Sharon Horton, throughout the year. There is no set time to apply as spots open up all the time.

 

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