Maricopa County awarded $13M Head Start grant

(file photo)

(file photo)

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has accepted a five-year, $13 million federal Head Start grant secured through a competitive process.

The funding allows the County’s Human Services Department to continue more than 50 years of Head Start in the East Valley communities of Chandler, Gilbert, Guadalupe, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe, while increasing the amount of education time and length of the school year for many of the preschool children.

Early Head Start and Head Start provide comprehensive child development services such as education, health, nutrition, and family support for children from birth to 35 months of age, and from age 3 to age 5 respectively, according to a press release.

Head Start eligibility includes children in foster care, families receiving public assistance, and families with an income below 100 percent of the federal poverty guideline. For example, a family of three can earn no more than $20,160 annually. Children with disabilities receive priority enrollment.

“Head Start provides an educational and nurturing environment for children whose parents are out there trying to improve life for their families,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman, District 4, in the release. “The whole family benefits when parents can work or attend job training while the kids stay on track for school.”

In addition to supporting the child care and educational needs of the county’s most vulnerable families, Maricopa County Head Start has made important progress in closing the achievement gap that often exists in children from low-income families.

More than 80 percent of the enrolled children meet or exceed kindergarten readiness goals, demonstrating that Maricopa County Head Start is impacting the futures of hundreds of young children every year.

“Academic performance shouldn’t be determined by a family’s income,” said District 5 Supervisor Steve Gallardo, in the release. “Together, Head Start and parents create an environment where children learn and thrive and families can achieve their dreams.”

The grant funds a variety of service options to more than 1,000 children and their families, from home-based services for infants, toddlers and pregnant women, to full-day or part-day center-based care for the children of parents who work, are in school, or attend job training programs. Parents learn about children’s development and the importance of their role as their child’s first teacher. Partnerships with HSD’s Workforce Development Division support workforce training and other services to support parent employment.

“This new five-year grant is particularly exciting because we will be able to meet families’ needs for longer hours and more days of service,” said Alecia Jackson, HSD assistant director of Early Education, in the release. “Increasing the duration of services is consistent with the department’s vision to focus on opportunities for both children and parents.”

“Continuing the Head Start legacy in Maricopa County requires a shift to meet the needs of families,” said Bruce Liggett, HSD director in the release. “The newly awarded funds allow the Human Services Department to build a two generation approach that focuses on the educational and opportunity needs of the whole family.”

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