All children deserve opportunities |

All children deserve opportunities

Nonprofit SpotlightKay VasilakisGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Head Start was developed by the federal government in the 1970s to give preschool-aged children from disadvantaged families and communities an opportunity to participate in an educational program focused on preparing them to enter the public school systems. In Garfield County, Head Start offices are located in Carbondale, Rifle and Parachute. Head Start includes components that are concerned with a child’s physical and mental health, nutrition and socialization. The Head Start sessions operate four days per week, from Mondays through Thursdays, in two half-day sessions.Head Start also provides family services, assisting families to become self-sufficient, such as helping them fill out medical forms, helping to find child care, and perhaps helping a family member with GED requirements. The program is free to qualifying families. There are two criteria to qualify, age and income. Children become eligible when they turn 3 before Aug. 15. A family must meet the income criterion as well. Qualifying parents are required to volunteer their time to help out and to participate in parent education meetings.Family service workers recruit during the summer. Flyers are sent out and workers recruit and make contact in grocery stores and other community buildings. The health department, school districts, day-care centers and various organizations refer children to Head Start. Or a family may contact any of the centers to start the application process.The Carbondale branch currently serves 32 children and their families. Children are screened for vision and hearing problems, and assistance for dental needs is provided. Each child is given a developmental assessment, and other community agencies are referred when needed.In Carbondale, many of the children are Spanish speaking, and a majority are from the immigrant community. Teaching these children to use English and preparing them to take standardized tests is the biggest challenge. There are also many cultural and situational issues to consider when referring immigrant families to service providers in the area, including language barriers and the impact of increasing needs for services. The community is doing a good job of responding to this issue, and many members and agencies are working together to improve the quality of life for all.Kay Vasilakis’ “Nonprofit Spotlight” column appears every other Wednesday. She is the media coordinator for the Garfield County Human Services Commission. To contact her, please call 384-9118 or e-mail Springs, CO Colorado

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