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Head Start helps build healthy families

Group focuses on early childhood development with families

September 19, 2010
By EMILIE NELSON, Messenger staff writer

Families are getting more than just a quality experience out of the Your Own United Resources (Y.O.U.R.) Inc., Head Start early childhood education programs.

While the four-and-five-year-old children from Head Start Families have the opportunity to attend preschool classes every morning Monday through Friday, the programs also help strengthen and educate parents on health, nutrition and child development.

Y.O.U.R. Inc., has 194 children in its classroom-based program and serves families in Webster, Hamilton, Humboldt and Wright Counties. It has served the area since Head Start was founded in 1965.

Article Photos

Y.O.U.R. Inc. Head Start teacher Ashley Pugh, center, discusses a book about apples with a group of students at the Head Start Classroom located in the Former Sacred Heart School building. Y.O.U.R. Inc., serves 194 families in four counties through its programs.

Each county has at least one classroom site where children in the Head Start program attend school from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

An additional 50 families in the four counties have been enrolled in the Early Head Start program since it began in 1999. The program serves expecting mothers and families with children ages 0 to 3 years old, and with an expansion grant of $110,981 received last November, the program can now serve 74 families.

"We have eligibility requirements," said Bonnie Calvert, director of Y.O.U.R Inc. "We serve certain economic groups, mainly families with limited resources., but acceptance isn't just based on income. We can take up to 10 percent of children whose families are over the income guidelines, but then we look at other factors and risk factors."

When applying for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, families must provide proof of all forms of income, present a Title 19 card or birth certificate, social security numbers and an immunization record. Once accepted, each child must complete a physical and dental exam. When classrooms fill, children are placed on a waiting list.

"We're required to keep a full classroom," Calvert said. "There's a points system for filling vacancies when we have them, and it usually takes less than a month to fill them."

The classroom-based services of Head Start focus on early childhood education and developing motor skills, but also educates students and their parents on making healthy food choices and good nutrition, physical education and each child's individual skills.

"Head Start and Early Head Start encompasses the whole picture to make sure each child gets off on the right foot in life," said Kim Caldwell, Early Head Start family services manager. "We always include the parents from the very beginning."

The families in the Early Head Start Program receive weekly in-home visits from one of Y.O.U.R. Inc.'s five home visitor staff. During visits, staff work with parents and children to assess their needs and assist families in meeting medical, dental and mental health needs, and each individual child's social and emotional, fine motor and language skills.

Families also receive vision and hearing, hemoglobin, height and weight and head circumference checks within their child's first 45 days in the program. Once a child is assessed, staff and parents work on filling the children's needs.

"We're teaching parents to be good advocates for their children, and hope that by the time they transition out of the program that they are more able to advocate for the needs of their children," Calvert said.

"Not everyone knows that our services are out there," said Cybil Smith, Early Head Start assistant family services coordinator. "But it can do so much for families. We were glad to get the expansion grant to be able to help more families. Some of them had been waiting for more than a year."

Y.O.U.R Inc., operates on an annual budget of around $1.9 million in federal funds and grants.

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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