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$16.5 Million Early Head Start Partnership Grant will support Columbus babies, toddlers

Babies throughout Columbus are going to get a step up, even before they can walk.

The Ohio State University was today named the recipient of a $16.5 million grant to establish an Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership to ensure that children in Columbus, from infancy to age 3, receive a healthy and enriching start in life. Awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the funding marks an effort to expand the reach of Head Start programming by 25 percent nationwide. Ohio State will receive $2.7 million in each of the next five years. Matching dollars from grant partners will elevate funding to $3.3 million annually.

One of the only university-led partnerships in the country, the education, health and community programming will support children and families living in Franklinton; the Hilltop; South Linden; the Near East, Near South and Far South neighborhoods; and the Near North/University District.

Ohio State’s Schoenbaum Family Center at Weinland Park, 175 E. Seventh Ave., will lead the partnership that will add 160 families to the program each year. Guided by the College of Education and Human Ecology, the family center will utilize research-based practices, identify resources and collaborate with select organizations to improve the education and well being of the approximately 2,500 infants and 2,300 toddlers in the targeted neighborhoods where the child poverty rate is above the norm. Many of the families are led by young women with an average income of less than $800 a month.

“The Early Head Start Partnership is a great example of the incredible work that can be done when we work together,” said Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. “We are bringing together a team of the leading minds from higher education, government, community programming and child care agencies to ensure the most vulnerable children in our community have every opportunity to succeed in life.”

The partnership network is extensive and will include support from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Moms2B support program for pregnant women, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Community Properties of Ohio.

The model is especially cost-effective because staff and infrastructure are already in place, said U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, who announced the grant award.

“I am honored to be part an initiative that is bringing dollars to our community to help fund early childhood learning in priority areas. The partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Early Learning Initiative will efficiently and effectively leverage existing programing and services to aid Columbus children during their early years,” Beatty said.

Cheryl Achterberg, dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology, added that in addition to providing high-quality child care, the partnership would move families toward the important role of self-sufficiency. “We will work intensely with parents to best meet their needs, whether it’s job training, medical care, nutrition education or other services,” Achterberg said.

Another component of the Early Head Start grant is professional development and coaching to improve caregivers’ ability to provide early learning experiences that will promote the children’s readiness to enter kindergarten.

Professional training will not only involve 12 licensed child care centers, but also 13 licensed home-based child care providers.

“We know that most of these families have limited access to reliable and flexible transportation. Quality child care must be close to home,” said Jane Wiechel, who is the principal investigator for the grant and the director of community services and programs for the Schoenbaum Family Center.

“Parents will be fully involved,” Wiechel said. “Parents are a child’s first and most important relationship. To aid them, each family will work with an advocate.”

Comprehensive services will also include mental health counseling, medical exams and screening, nutrition education, early diagnosis of developmental delays or disabilities, adult education and job training, affordable and safe housing, and efforts to support family stability.

Community partners that will provide those services include Action for Children; Caring Communities; Children’s Hunger Alliance; Columbus Public Health; Community Properties of Ohio; Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities; Franklin County Families and Children First; St. Vincent Family Center; and Ohio State’s CETE Center for Education, Training and Employment.

About The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University is a dynamic community of diverse resources, where opportunity thrives and where individuals transform themselves and the world. Founded in 1870, Ohio State is a world-class public research university and the leading comprehensive teaching and research institution in the state of Ohio. With more than 64,000 students (including 58,000 in Columbus), the Wexner Medical Center, 14 colleges, 80 centers and 175 majors, the university offers its students tremendous breadth and depth of opportunity in the liberal arts, the sciences and the professions.

About the Schoenbaum Family Center

TheSchoenbaum Family Center at Weinland Park, directed by Laura Justice, Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning, offers educational early childhood learning experiences for children 6 weeks to 5 years old, as well as training and support for parents. Research conducted in the center guides teaching and learning, family support and contributions to community development in Weinland Park. In addition, Ohio State University students observe and practice effective guidance of child learning. They also may be involved in research.