New Directions Early Head Start receives grant to expand services
Family and child specialist Paula Chacon (center, in the yellow shirt) and one of the families she visits attend a New Directions Early Head Start picnic.

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1:45 p.m., Dec. 21, 2009----New Directions Early Head Start (NDEHS), a project of the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware, has received a grant to expand its services to pregnant women and young children in New Castle and Kent counties.

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Funding was awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the economic stimulus package enacted by the 111th United States Congress in February 2009. The two-year grant for $1,011,281 is part of $1.1 billion included in the package for Early Head Start infant and toddler programs throughout the country.

NDEHS currently provides approximately 135 pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families with quality care and services that support families in providing the best for themselves and their very young children. The home visitor program guides women through pregnancy, supports parents with parenting skill training and monitors the development of the young children in the family.

NDEHS also provides technical assistance, training and resource supports to its four community partners for their programs for children from birth through age 3. Partners are the Early Learning Center (ELC) at Neighborhood House in Wilmington's Southbridge neighborhood and the ELC in Newark, both part of the University of Delaware; Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center in Wilmington; and the Kent County Community School site, part of the Delaware Early Childhood Center (DECC), in Dover.

With the ARRA funding, NDEHS will be able to expand its program to serve 48 additional children, including 20 pregnant women and families with infants and toddlers in New Castle County. Spanish-speaking families, families in the Claymont and Wilmington area and children in foster care comprise the primary recruitment target. They will receive home-based services through the NDEHS office at UD.

The Wilmington ELC will add a classroom with two full-time teachers to serve eight additional children, and NDEHS will place a family advocate at the site part-time to serve the additional families. In Kent County, DECC will hire two home visitors to provide home-based services for 20 additional pregnant women and families with infants and toddlers in the southern portion of Kent County.

NDEHS Project Leader Heidi Beck expects to be serving new families by March 2010. “I'm very pleased to be able to expand our work with our community partners and serve more Delaware families,” she said. Families in need of Early Head Start services are recruited through community organizations and the Division of Family Services, Beck noted.

Earlier in the year, NDEHS received Head Start ARRA Cost of Living Adjustment and Quality Improvement Funds. The project is using these funds for a literacy program and improvements to the centers.

For further information about New Directions Early Head Start, call (302) 831-0584 or send e-mail to [earlyheadstart@udel.edu].

Article by Michele Sands

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