Program prepares children for school

May 17th, 2007    Author: Michael Bradley    Filed Under: News

The Child Focus Inc. initiative known as Head Start is a comprehensive nationally recognized government school-readiness program for all income eligible children who live in Clermont County and in its surrounding areas.

Head Start, which maintains a visible presence in every one of the county’s school districts, currently has 600 kids enrolled in the program. Each enrolled child, aged 0-5, gets individual attention with a focus on critical language development and literacy skills, reading and letter recognition, comprehension, math and sciences, and creative arts projects.

“We want all of our children to be ready for kindergarten,” said Berta Velilla, Director of the Child Focus Early Childhood Division. “There are others, but the primary goal of Head Start is to, from the very beginning, create a wonderful and stimulating foundation which assures a successful future for the bright young children that we work with.”

Enjoying a typical day, examining worms in a classroom on May 3, are only a few of the hundreds of children enrolled in the Child Focus Inc. Head Start program. From left are Thanh Liem, 4, Austin Florence, 5, Rachel Jones, 5, Logan Kirschner, 5, Nick Deck, 4, Kyle Manwaring, 4, Like Reichardt, 5, Kierra Wilson, 4, Allison Collett, 5, Madison Downs, 5, and Madison Lytle, 5.
One of those children is 5-year-old Rachel Jones, who said that the best thing about Head Start was making new friends and learning about new things.

"We get to play and learn at the same time," she said. "We all love it here."

Not only a childcare and school readiness program, Head Start also concentrates on the physical health and well-being of each child.

Velilla said that Head Start pays a lot of attention to the health of all the children because they realize that most children are not going to be mentally equipped to learn unless they are physically healthy.

"We know this to be true," she said. "We ensure that the children are nourished, have healthy vision and hearing, and we focus on dental needs as well."

A lesser known fact about the Head Start program is that it provides an important role in the daily lives of working families and is an essential component of efforts to promote adequate employment to help reduce dependence on welfare use among low income families.

"Our family advocates provide support, develop family and individual goals, and help connect parents to available resources in the community," said Family and Community Involvement Manager for Child Focus, Inc. Pat Pack.

This parental involvement in Head Start is critically important, Velilla said.

"In addition to preparing kids for school by looking out for their physical, mental, and nutritional health needs, we also strive and want to help families get out of poverty," she said. "We want our influence to carry on within the family unit as the children leave us and embark upon their formative school years."

According to Director of Marketing and Development Tara Dawson, Child Focus, Inc. sincerely believes that the key to successfully preparing kids for school is engaging families in the entire educational process, starting at a very early age.

"Parents are truly the most important teacher that a child will now or ever have," she said.

All of the many Child Focus, Inc. Early Childhood Programs reach more than 900 children in Clermont, Warren, Brown, Butler, and even Franklin counties. In addition to Head Start, there are many other initiatives geared towards children such as full or partial day care centers, home-visitation options, and center-based programs.

Child Focus is even expanding its services in their mission to design early care and education programs to meet the diverse needs of children and their families.

For example, The Therapeutic Interagency Program, started this year, has been designed to support the most vulnerable, at-risk children, usually in neglected or abused foster-care homes.

Examining the goals and hurdles that families with at-risk young children face before enrolling in Head Start shows how important and how far families have come in acquiring self-sufficiency.

"So, the program has been proven successful," said Velilla. 'It works."

Child Focus Head Start is now enrolling 3 and 4-year-old children for the 2007-2008 year. For more information, contact enrollment/recruitment manager Suzanne Schrolucke at (513) 685-5270.
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