Fort Valley State University’s Head Start program is in line for a huge grant to bolster child development efforts at an even earlier age.
The program is one of more than 200 selected for a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nationwide and one of just eight in Georgia. The preliminary award -- $5.6 million -- ranks seventh in the country, behind those from such metropolitan areas as Chicago and Brooklyn but ahead of others in Atlanta and Seattle.
“We applied based on the providers providing us the number of kids in their area,” Evelyn Byrd, the Fort Valley State program director, said of the 12 child care providers that FVSU has partnered with for Head Start. “It’s the income level of the area and the need of the area.”
The grant is meant to be used to start Early Head Start programs for children from birth to age 3. Traditional Head Start programs begin at age 3.
The rural surroundings of Fort Valley State’s partner providers in Dooly, Crawford, Pulaski, Telfair, Peach and Macon counties played a role in the amount of preliminary funding announced for the program, Byrd said.
Vivian Fluellen, the FVSU program’s executive director, cited the “early start” the funding would provide, but she wasn’t ready to celebrate just yet.
“It’s not to say we’re going to get all of that because it’s preliminary funding,” she said.
Byrd said the program is awaiting an official award letter, while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the full $500 million in funding could be distributed by March.
Once the final grant is delivered, the Early Head Start programs will provide a variety of services to low-income infants and toddlers and their families. Besides “age-appropriate” developmental learning opportunities for the children in the program, Early Head Start could also offer medical screenings and parenting skills seminars.
In addition, the funding could be used to help teachers gain certification for early childhood education.
Perhaps most importantly, it would all be free of charge for the families.
“Head Start is no charge to families that are income eligible,” Byrd said.
All the partner providers now have Head Start programs but would be adding Early Head Start.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.