HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (2/25/13) – I was recently contacted by Jessica “Jessi” Davis, a concerned Family Advocate and Program Assistant for the Audubon Area Community Services Head Start program, regarding a situation currently facing the education-based department.
The Head Start program is a federally funded department that services 16 counties and over 3,000 children from low-income families in our area. The program’s primary mission is to provide comprehensive early childhood services for children that are eligible. Through the program, children are given an opportunity to learn and experience success in a classroom setting. Students are also provided on-site medical and dental examinations, as well as daily nutritious meals.
The Audubon Area Head Start program is one of only twenty-five programs in the United States that has achieved recognition as a national Program of Excellence by the National Head Start Association.
In Hopkins County, the 4-year-old Head Start program serves children who are enrolled with local elementary schools that have partnered with the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) pre-school program. Eligible 3-year-old children are served at both the Audubon Area Head Start-Madisonville location and at the South Middle Annex in Nortonville, KY.
Jessi expressed her concerns with me in a message imploring me to make the community aware of a situation that is currently taking place that might affect the Head Start program.
“We have some slots available for our 4-year-old program that we want to make the community aware of,” says Jessi. “Since we are a federally funded program, if we don't get these slots filled soon, we could possibly lose funding for the next school year. Head Start is already expecting some huge budget cuts by congress. This could affect the jobs of some local teachers and Family Advocates. These budget cuts could even result in us losing some Head Start slots.”
And the Head Start program isn't the only one facing this reality. Currently, a number of similar, federally supported programs are facing a cumulative reduction of approximately $110 billion in funding over the next ten years if congress moves forward with budget cuts on March 1, 2013. This potential budgeting process is called “sequestration.” If Congress does not find a way to avoid this situation, $1.1 trillion will be slashed over a period of time from the federal budget.
Programs that will be affected include the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Head Start; Fuel Assistance; Child Care; Housing and Urban Development (HUD); Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA); and several others.
Yet, community action and non-profit programs won’t be the only groups that will take a hit. Medical research, air traffic control, food inspection, environmental protection, and the national infrastructure of highways and bridges will also experience huge losses.
Jessi informed me that the number of slots available in the Head Start program can change from day to day.
“Sometimes circumstances arise that unfortunately result in dropping a child from the Head Start program. If unfortunate circumstances arise, we will work with the family in any possible way to avoid having to drop the child from enrollment,” says Jessi. “The Head Start Program serves the whole family, not just the child. As a Family Advocate and Program Assistant, I work with families to provide them with resources that promote healthy living and overall well being.”
Additionally, Head Start is not a first come, first serve program.
“During the application process, an applicant is asked a series of questions that help us determine eligibility,” explains Jessi. “You have to meet certain requirements such as income eligibility. When we are fully enrolled, we maintain a total of 45 slots for Head Start 3-year-olds and a total of 50 slots for Head Start 4-year-olds. Since we are blended with the KERA pre-school program, we share another 64 slots in partnership with them.”
The Head Start program is trying to fill available spots as soon as possible to avoid budget cuts within the program.
“Ideally, it is best to have a wait list to work from so that when we have an instance where we have to replace someone that has dropped from the program, we can contact the next person on the wait list,” explains Jessi. “Right now, our wait list has been depleted. We need anyone and everyone who is interested in putting their child into the program to come and fill out an application. We don’t know for sure how the budget cuts will affect our program, but the possibility of job cuts and/or the reduction of funded slots would be devastating to our community.”
If you are interested in enrolling a child in the Head Start program you can call 270-821-1455 for more information. If you would like, you can stop by their offices and fill out an application at 552 East Center Street, Suite C, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m..
If you live in the Nortonville, White Plains, Mortons Gap area, you can contact Jessi directly at 270-676-9125 to schedule an appointment.
To complete the application process, you will need to bring the following documents with you: your child's birth certificate, their social security card, a medical insurance card, and proof of your household income.
If you do not have a child that is eligible to enroll in the Head Start program, you can help in other ways. You can sign the online Petition to Stop Sequestration. You can also share the link and invite others you know to sign as well.
For more information, check out the National Head Start Association website and the Audobon Area Community Services website.
Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey