Highland County Community Action Health Services Manager Sarah Fizer spoke during a Wednesday meeting of the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition about the services available through the local Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
The program supports learning through play, creative expression, and guided activities promoting language and literacy development, early math and science concepts, and positive attitudes toward learning for children from birth to age 5.
“Early Head Start is from birth to age three, and we also have a prenatal mother program, so if a woman is pregnant she can be in our Early Head Start program as a prenatal mom, and then once the child is born the child gets put into the Early Head Start program,” said Fizer.
Fizer said the program provides both home-based and center-based programs for Early Head Start families. “In the home-based program you have a home visitor, a home educator, come to the home once a week for an hour and a half, and they work with the parent to work with the child to make sure that the child is meeting all their milestones,” she said.
She said the center-based program is for children from 6 weeks old to 3 years, and it is a mixed age group classroom with eight children and two teachers in each classroom.
She said the program’s administrators our working on expanding the infant/toddler classrooms during the summer. “We are offering a second classroom at both of our centers because we really noticed that is where our biggest waiting list is,” she said. The classes will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and every other Friday with breakfast, lunch and a snack provided.
Typically the program is for lower income families, but it can serve families who are over the income guidelines for 10 percent of the available slots.
People who receive SSI or SNAP benefits are automatically eligible for Early Head Start and Head Start programs.
Children may qualify for additional benefits if the home visitor or Early Head Start teacher notices they need assistance in motor skills or speech.
The Head Start program serves children from years 3-5 in classrooms in Hillsboro and Greenfield. “We try to offer bussing as much as possible for our Head Start children who are three and older,” said Fizer.
“When it comes to social services, we have family service workers assigned to each classroom because Head Start and Early Head Start are very all-around programs,” she said. “They don’t just focus on education, and they can help families if they need heating assistance, electricity, or help with food pantries, or they can refer them to other social services.”
Fizer said she works with families to ensure the children are seen by a doctor and they are updated on shots. “We also have a mobile dental unit that we work with from Columbus that will come here, and they will work with children to do dental cleanings and X-rays,” she said. “It is definitely a need in this area.”
“Right now we are offering summer daycare at our Hillsboro center for infant, toddler, preschool age and school age from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday except for holidays,” said Fizer. “We try to see what the needs of the community are, and one of the biggest needs we saw was childcare.”
Parents can apply for the program by calling 937-393-3458.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.