11:01 AM

Early Head Start program awarded $18 million grant

Funding will help continue work assisting babies, toddlers and their families

The Ohio State University’s work serving at-risk infants and toddlers and their families has been extended by an $18 million federal grant recently awarded to the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership Program

With this second cycle of grant funding, Ohio State will continue to provide high-quality early childhood education and services to Columbus families in low-income households through 2024.

In 2014, Congress appropriated $500 million to fund Early Head Start Child Care Partnership grants nationwide, including $16.5 million to Ohio State, with a goal of partnering with existing child care centers and family child care home providers to raise the quality of early childhood education in the most vulnerable neighborhoods with the highest rates of poverty.

Housed in the Schoenbaum Family Center, Ohio State’s partnership program, known as OSU-EHS, has gained national attention for its unique model, and was featured in January by the Bipartisan Policy Center as one of the top 12 programs in the nation.

“Our staff is passionate about this work and believe that all children, regardless of their zip code or life circumstances, deserve high-quality early education and supportive services to create a successful start in life,” said OSU-EHS director Sherrie Sutton.

The program serves 160 children in 11 child care centers and eight family child care homes. In addition, families of the children also receive comprehensive support through OSU-EHS’ network of 19 university and community agency partners.

By leveraging experts within the community, OSU-EHS is able to provide comprehensive services to address the holistic needs of families, an important two-generation approach proven to improve outcomes for young children. With 80% of the enrolled families earning $800 or less per month, social workers assist with connecting families to critical resources as well as educational and workforce development opportunities while also providing counseling and crisis intervention services.

OSU-EHS also provides significant support to the child care and home partners. In addition to enhanced funding, OSU-EHS has purchased classroom furniture and materials, curriculum and playgrounds for each center. With a focus on quality, the program offers professional development alongside practice-based coaches who work with classroom teachers. For the last three years, the home providers were sent to the National Association for Family Child Care Conference, where one attendee said, “I finally feel like I am part of something and am respected as a professional.” As the program enters the next five-year cycle, 84% of the program’s child care centers and home providers are rated in Ohio’s Step Up to Quality rating system at three stars or higher, and 55 of the teachers have advanced their education.

Reflecting on her time in Ohio State’s Early Head Start program, one mother said that she came into the program during a time when her family was facing many challenges, including homelessness.

“I am a single mother with two children, a toddler and a preschool-aged child. (My family) faced many challenges in 2017. I know that there are many other single parents facing similar challenges to those I experienced. Unfortunately, many times we slip between the cracks and don’t receive the assistance we need.

“I felt empowered because I knew that despite all of my struggles, I was able to keep (my children) in a stable learning environment. I had the peace of mind of knowing that they were receiving high-quality child care. I feel truly blessed to have been a recipient of this program and I look forward to continue watching my children flourish under their care.”

In addition to numerous community partners, Ohio State units involved in the collaborative program include the College of Education and Human Ecology, College of Nursing, College of Optometry, Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic and Nisonger Center.