The Campagna Center recently announced that it will begin serving 60 infants, toddlers and pregnant women through Early Head Start, a federally-funded program designed to promote healthy development in low-income children. The program expects to begin providing services in October 2003 through center-based, home-based and family day care programs. Center-based services will be located at George Washington Middle School.
Two years ago, The Campagna Center voted to expand its existing Head Start preschool program to include services for infants and toddlers. This year, they received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the initiation of the program. "After more than 30 years of working with at-risk children, we know that one of the keys to success is an early start. Young children who attend quality preschool invariably perform better in school and life than those who don't," said Katherine Morrison, executive director of The Campagna Center.
Early Head Start was created in 1994 and now serves 61,500 children in 708 communities across the country. The program offers comprehensive programming including quality early education; parenting education; comprehensive health services; nutrition education; and family support services.
Francine Williams, director of Alexandria Head Start, will direct the new Early Head Start program. At a time when the needs among Alexandria's low-income families are growing, this program will be a welcome service among struggling families.
"There is a tremendous need in Alexandria especially for quality infant and toddler care," said Williams. "Early Head Start will help those families who otherwise couldn't afford safe care for their children."
Census data indicate that while the overall number of children in Alexandria grew for the first time in 40 years, the percentage of children living in poverty also increased, from 11 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2000. Since the economy began faltering two years ago, families have experienced even greater needs in the areas of housing, employment and basic needs.